Drum Microphone Recording Tips. Instrument miking:

Quite often in my career. I have noticed that so many engineers will lapse into what I call the laziness factor. Yes, I have done this myself from time to time! Today I'm going to focus on some simple things to try when mic'ing drums, but you could apply this to any instrument that you are mixing with microphones. By the way: Mic'ing, miking, mikeing, micing, how to say it correctly is a highly debated issue, but really... however you say it it fine!

So you are working on a new song or have a band booked for a session. You of course remember the last session you did and the way you mic'ed the drum kit, It sounded great didn't it? So why not just try that again! Is that not the easy way out? And even though this drum mix which you've done many other times may sound good with this new band or your new song, It just might sound a lot better messing around with the mic arrangements a bit not to mention the EQ and other factors.

One thing I always stress to people who want to record is this: "Work on getting your instruments sounding great before EQ!" Very important this is as it's much easier to adjust the sound of something that sounds good already! If it's sounding good then you'll naturally need to EQ a lot less, or none at all, other than perhaps some bass roll-off!

Snare:

Do you close-mic your snare most of the time? Try backing that mic off a bit! Start your recorder, move your mic away a half inch and hit that drum a few times! Now another half inch, hit it a few times, and so on! You may want to use a vocal cue like: "Snare mic 1 inch, snare mic 3 inches." This will help you on playback remembering where that cool sound was regarding the mic!

Rather than aiming the mic down at center head at a 45 degree angle, adjust the stand where the mic is parallel to the head and about 1-1/2 inch above. Line the mic element up where it is just above the rim aiming at the other side of rim. This gives some really nice sounds as well.

Two mics? Out of the many sessions I have done, only once did I use an extra mic on bottom of the snare! The producer "insisted", as he had seen this done a lot! Ok then, he still does not know I turned it off in the final mix! I've never needed a bottom MIC, I tune and EQ my snares well, they simple don't need it! That goes for High-hat as well, plenty enough hat gets into the snare mic, who needs the extra bleed?

Kick:

I like a big boomy kick, but that can be hard to mix with some songs. So add a click to it! To do this put a mic inside the drum about 1-2 inches from the head where the beater makes contact. Also try a large diaphragm mic aimed at the front head, about 6 inches to a foot away. I like ribbons for this! Another good tip, never overlook your room mics or overheads! Sometimes you will get a great thick kick drum sound out of them. Many engineers including myself will start with the overheads, then add snare, toms, kick, and room mics as needed to fill in any gaps. Experiment!

Overhead Mics:

First of all make sure you are not getting any cancelation from the mics! It will make it all thin sounding! go around hitting all the drums one at a time, each cymbal, the kick drum, cowbells, etc. Listen closely to playback for cancelation problems. Hear them? Adjust your mics until none are left! I prefer large diaphragm mic or ribbons, but there are many good small condenser mics out there too!

Always use your overheads as the first mic tool! Turn all tracks off but overheads, cut or boost frequencies to taste, keeping in mind how they will blend with other instruments! Once you have a good drum sound, now you can bring the snare, toms, and kick mics up if needed. Do this one at a time if possible! Now bring up room mics if you have them for a bit more liveliness!

Toms:

I mic them much like a snare, but most times I like them a bit farther away from the head. Big diaphragm mics are the way to go! A great inexpensive mic I love is the CAD M179! Wonderful on toms! Pretty awesome for overheads too! If you don't have them them your overheads may help out. Use two heads, top, bottom on toms! You get a better sound, and they are easier to tune this way in my opinion!

So...

There you have it, some fast and easy tips that will make your recording sound better! Don't be lazy! All too often we get set in our lazy ways and stick to what we know works. And our mixes can suffer because of it. - Experiment!

- Dave Williams

My articles are copyrighted by myself and may not be used in any form whatsoever without my written permission.

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