Video: Recreating James Brown's "Funky Drummer" Drum Sound | What's That Sound?

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

Drums in the style of James Browns'
Drums in the style of James Browns' "Funky Drummer"
By Reverb
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Today, Noam and Jessica are back in the studio tackling a highly requested drum sound—James' Brown's "Funky Drummer," with drums played by the iconic Clyde Stubblefield.

This is one of the most popular drum sounds in history, so the key to recreating the sound accurately was picking the right drums and tuning them very specifically. The kit for today's video consists of a Ludwig Vistalite bass drum with a closed Fiberskyn head that was covered with blankets, a Ludwig Acrolite snare, and 14-inch Zildjian K-Sweet hi-hats.

As Noam explains in the video, this deceptively simply sound has to be nailed specifically to sound correct. Drums around this time were recorded simply and without a lot of tricks, so it was also important to follow suit there as well.

These drums are in mono, and were likely recorded with a single overhead and without panning things out. Today, Noam used a single mic on each of the drums and a single overhead mic to tie things together.

Snare Kick Overhead

Because there aren't any gates or compression or other production tools to control the length of the kick, everything was done the analog way, which means using blankets. However, the team tried several different blankets to get the right sound in the end, and mic'd the drum with a trusty AKG D12.

The snare was kept similarly simple, with just a Beyerdynamic M 201 placed a bit off of the snare to limit the proximity effect and make it less likely to need EQing.

Finally, for the most important mic, Noam settled on the dynamic Electro-Voice 674 for the overhead after initially using a condenser and finding it to be too clear. According to Noam, it has a baked-in vintage vibe—not a ton of highs or lows but a super vibey sound. The team moved the mic around a bunch to figure out exactly where it should be placed—hear Noam explain that in the full video above.

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