Basic Concepts of Drum Miking

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Drums can be a challenge to mic and record, learn some techniques that can help you get a better result. (rewritten 5-2-2006)

Drums are usually the first to be recorded, and, use the most mics. Often times this is done in the context of also recording bass guitar and rhythm guitar. The drums are generally the focus of that session, if the drums are off, the take is redone, if the drums are good, everything else can be fixed later.

In a home studio environment, a common, economical and effective way to get a decent sound is by using what is called the "triangle" miking style that was mentioned in the introduction to the miking section. This style requires three mics (hence, "triangle"). One in the kick drum, and one on either side of the kit. Using this method will allow you to catch a bit of the stereo image of the drum kit, while still only needing three mics and three open channels on your board. If you are happy with the take, this can also be mixed down to two tracks, or, if you don't mind mono drums, even mix it down to one. This, of course, works best with the average five or six piece kit, with bigger kits or double kicks require a little more work. Drum mics can also be bought in a set to cover your whole drum kit without having to buy a bunch of individual mics and you get them all a little cheaper too! There are some very reasonably priced kits out there if you look.

if you have more than three mics at your disposal, better results can generally be achieved. It's always nice to be able to get one microphone right up over the snare to be sure to get a good solid sound from the snare. When tracking, it's always good to at least have the snare and kick isolated to their own tracks for further processing during mixdown, they are often the two focal points of the drum track that drive the beat. They sometimes will require additional compression or EQing that you may not want to do on the drum track as a whole.

In placing the mics around the drums you must be diligent and try a few practice takes to get the sound just rights. Cymbals can really take over a track, they are loud and their sound lasts a long time. Sometimes this problem can be EQ'd out, but it's better to move the mics around until you can get the best possible mix to tape without requiring processing to do so.

If you are recording a double bass kit, stick one mic in each drum for the best sound, or if you don't have two to spare, put one between the two drums. A common double kick problem is the issue of separation. Sometimes they just simply don't do it and they just get muddy. If this is a problem, try putting a quarter taped in the inside of the drum right where the hammer hits the head, it sounds weird, but, it works great for giving the drum a sharp sound that will seperate it from the other in the mix. That little trick kicks butt for speed metal recordings that really need the solid, sharp and constant pedalling of a double kick drum set.

A problem that usually arises with people recording in our less-than-professional environments is sound bleeding through the drum mics from other instruments if you record more than one at a time, like what is done when recording the main rhythm track. The best, and only real way around this, is to put a sound barrier around your drum kit, some people use the office cubicle wall pieces, which work pretty well, but then, while recording, you can't see you drummer, also you can purchase drum shields which are clear, and provide great sound-bleeding protection, and actually keep more drum sound in to get a better signal through the mics, and therefore, into the recording. Such shields are common in some of the more progressive churches and similar venues that they use drums, but want to have some control over their volume and presence.

No matter which techniques you use to record, drums can be hard, and time consuming...especially on larger kits. Take the time, it's worth it. Getting the best sound recorded in the first place will trump getting an "OK" sound and then spending lots of time in the mixing trying to get it better.

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User-submitted comments

Feb 15, 2005 02:11 pm
4 mic method
I use a similar method. I have only four mics that I can dedicate to my drumset, if recording live. I am using an SM57 about 2.5" above the rim, aimed slightly off the center of the head. The mic is angled slightly away from the high-hat, which (i think) kinda keeps the harshness from the high-hats from bleeding in, but also focuses more on the snare. I have an old kick mic from a CAD 4-pack drum mic set. It's placed about flush with the head, aiming at where the mallot strikes the head. I have two overhead condenser mics (MXL 2001, Samson C01) angled in from "even with the stands", for lack of a better phrase, on the two crashes. If sitting on the drum stool, the left (respectively on the mixer) overhead is pointed at the high tom. The right overhead is then pointed in between but slightly down more at the low tom. (On a 2-tom, 2-crash, ride setup.) The overheads are not very high at all, slightly above head level when sitting on the stool. This way is rather challenging because though it really gets a good sound out of the toms, it really makes the cymbals a little harsh. But I've found a rather nice medium in the low-to-no-boost levels. The only thing I could use a bit more for is the toms. If anyone may know a better position for the overhead mics (keep in mind, they are condensers), please send me some tips. Hope the article helped.

Dave House
Aug 05, 2015 12:34 am
The Noisefloor
I love music and I love this forum.

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