Video: Recreating Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" Drums

It hardly needs to be said, but still bears repeating: Phil Collins' drumming in "In the Air Tonight" is iconic. Released back in 1981, it's a song most everyone has heard with a drum entrance that most everyone has imitated. But today, we're not going to show you how to imitate it, we're going to show you how to absolutely nail it.

Engineer Noam Wallenberg and drummer Jessica Burdeaux have teamed up over the last few weeks for a series of videos that demonstrate how to replicate the sound of an artist, from gear choices to mic placements and mixing techniques. So far, we've seen them recreate The Smiths' effects-laden beats, Prince's famous LinnDrum sound with an acoustic kit, and '80s stadium rock stalwarts, like Heart and Kate Bush.

Today, tackling Phil Collins starts with a Gretsch Square Badge Drum Set with extra toms—a 10-inch, 12-inch, 13-inch, and two 16-inches—and all of their resonant heads removed. Paired with the kit is a Ludwig Supraphonic Snare, with a heavily dampened head.

Get Used in This Video

As Noam illuminates, "In the Air Tonight" sounds like it does because of gated room mics. "This was done as an accident when they were making the [Peter Gabriel] song 'Intruder' and had a talk-back mic which was heavily, heavily compressed (so that you could hear what people were saying) and gated, so that it wasn't blasting the entire time. And when Phil Collins started playing the drums, it sounded like nothing they had ever heard."

Putting a gate on room mics made it easier to isolate and effect certain parts of the drum kit without doing so to the others, and it became widely and heavily used (and abused) in the '80s. For "In the Air Tonight," Collins used a gate on every single one of the mics on the kit and heavily compressed each one.

The resulting sound is something that a lot of engineers and builders have tried to replicate with various hardware reverb effects. Be sure to check out the full video above to watch Noam and Jessica reconstruct this classic sound, and click any of the gear above to browse for your own right here on Reverb.

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