What Up everybody! It’s time to talk a little bit about a much debated topic: HOW TO EFFECTIVELY MIC YOUR DRUMS.
A lot of folks are using pre-made drum samples in their productions these days. They provide a great way to get a slammin’ drum tracks and they almost make having a live drummer seem unnecessary. But if you are looking to get some of that “live feel” into your sessions and you have some drums, mic’s, and a drummer; you can really add a new dynamic to your music!
There are a LOT of techniques out there that you can utilize to properly mic your drum kit. I’m gonna try to hit some of the basic points and illustrate with some really helpful youtube videos that I have rounded up. Now some of these points may be a little generalized, so it’s important that you adjust to your situation. For example, you may only have one or two microphones, Or you may not have a full drum kit, or you may be working in a live situation with TON’S of mic’s and channels and a Front of House system to go buck wild. As you can see there can be many different situations in which you would be recording or micing the drums, so we’ll try to synthesize as much information as we can.
KICK DRUM TECHNIQUE
Some people like to use multiple kick drum microphones, so if you have a bunch of mic’s and some extra channels go ahead and try micing the resonant head AND the batter head. This allows you to get some of the roundness and fullness of the drum as well as getting a good transient attack sound off of the beater.
Check out this quick video. Russ Long shows you how to correctly put a kick drum mic on the resonant head.
If you don’t have a kick drum mic, don’t worry. You can use just a regular dynamic microphone (like an SM57) to capture the sound. Judicious use of EQ when mixing will help to fatten up the kick.
Some guys like to use these Beta 91 mic’s that lay flat INSIDE the kick drum. Check out this video to see how the Beta 91 is used with another kick drum mic on the Resonant head:
Check it out:
If you don’t want to shell out for a Beta 91 just yet, you can try getting the same sound by laying another dynamic microphone inside the drum as you would a Beta 91. This usually works better for a live application and requires A LOT more tweaking if you try it in the studio.
SNARE DRUM TECHNIQUE
Getting a great snare sound is one of those things that engineers spend years developing. Generally, you can get a clear sound using two microphones, but it takes a little knowledge to make sure your signals are not out of phase. If it’s your first attempt at recording drums, try one mic and then try using two mic’s and see how different your sounds are. The best advice is to start with the basics and experiment until you find your sound! Check out this quick video where Russ Long shows you standard snare microphone placement. He does a great job of hitting the most important points in just a couple of minutes:
Check it Here:
OVERHEADS / TOMS
Of course, there’s a bunch of ways you can use Overhead mic’s to capture the sound of your drums. In General, place your microphones 18 inches or so above your cymbal line. You may need to raise or lower the microphones depending on the sound you want (and height of your ceiling!). Experiment with the width of your mic’s (how far apart they are from each other) and also with the depth placement (are they closer to the drummer or more out in front of the kit?). Most folks say to angle your mic’s at your snare, but definitely experiment with this as well.
One classic overhead technique that every engineer MUST know is the “XY” technique. With this technique you can get an astonishingly accurate stereo representation of your drum kit with just two small diaphragm condenser mics. It’s a great technique that works in a LOT of situations, especially for those of you that ONLY have two mic’s. The video below will quickly show it to you!
Check it out:
Another important technique when placing overheads is to place them equidistant from the snare drum, and preferably the kick drum as well. This is a very important point as it greatly reduces your chance of encountering phase issues during recording and mixing. I always use a string to make sure that the microphone’s are equidistant from the center of the snare drum. I just recently found this video where the infamous “Recorderman” from San Francisco shows how he uses string to make sure both the snare AND the kick are equidistant from the overheads.
Check it out:
This video rules! so glad I found it. You can change it up and place both of your mics up above your cymbal line (rather than placing one mic over the drummer’s shoulder) and use the string method to make sure both mic’s are equidistant. Again, experiment with your placement since the string method will help guarantee that your recordings with stay in phase!
You can capture the rack and floor toms using your overheads, and if you have a 4 track interface or recording device you probably won’t have room for individual tom mic’s. If you DO have the channels for them, you can pretty much mic them as you would a snare drum. Aim the mic towards the center of the drum and keep it about an inch or 1.5 inches off the drum. Tom mic clips are VERY helpful if you can get your hands on some. It’s much easier to position microphones with them, not to mention the fact that you won’t have boom stands jutting out in every direction in your studio. Try using dynamic microphones, some condensers will sound good on the floor tom as well.
Well that about covers the basics. Holla at us and leave a comment if you have more questions!