Sound studio

Video: How to get the “Instant Karma” drum sound |

Our What is this sound? The series returns with a new episode that sees Noam and Jessica in the studio trying to recreate the delayed room mic drum sound of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.”

As Noam describes, the sound of these drums (played by Alan White) is very unique and unlike most drum sounds that were used on other tracks around the same time. “They’re gooey, they’re thick and big — they look like anything in a chocolate chip cookie.”

The goal with the drum sound is to get a big 70s style sound with very little resonance. Jessica’s kit consists of a Ludwig Supralite 14×6.5 snare drum, a Gretsch 13 inch rack tom, a Gretsch 16 inch floor tom and a Ludwig Vistalite bass drum without a front head.

Most of the drums have been draped in towels, pillowcases and sheets, while the headless kick is stuffed with a cushioning sleeping bag. The track isn’t cymbal-heavy, so Jessica only uses a single 18-inch K-Series Sweet Crash.

The drum mic is super simple, with an AKG D12 on the kick drum and a Shure SM57 on the snare drum. Instead of the typical overhead setups, there is a Coles 4038 placed a few feet in front of the battery and a second 4038 in the cabin towards the ceiling which has been set to a 20ms delay. This last mic is what helps you achieve the ambient/delayed slapback type sound that you can hear in the original recording.

A third room mic, a Shoeps V4 U, was placed deep in the room, compressed with a TG-1 limiter, and was used only sparingly. How close did we get to the original? Watch the full video above.


Learn more about how your favorite artists created their signature sounds in our What is this sound? series.