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A million and one ways to mic a drum kit
Old 11th February 2014
Gear Maniac
🎧 10 years
A million and one ways to mic a drum kit

A million and one ways to mic a drum kit.....
Wondering if you have a preferred microphone and signal path starting point for overheads,kick and snare?
Old 21st February 2014
Radiant Being
SylviaMassy's Avatar
🎧 5 years
Oh yes, there are a million ways to mic a drum kit. I'll generally use the same, simple, tried-and-true system as a good place to start. Within this system are very, very important things to pay attention to.

My mic choices are generally as follows:

Kick inside - Sennheiser 421
Kick outside - NS-10 speaker wired reverse to use as a sub mic, through a countryman DI
Snare top - Shure SM57
Snare bottom - Sennheiser 441 (reverse phase)
Hat - Shure SM81
Ride - Shure SM81
Tom tops - Shure SM98
Tom bottoms - Sennheiser 421 (reverse phase)
Overheads - Mojave MA200
Rooms - AKG 414
Mono rooms - whatever looks like fun!

When setting up the mics I try to have them all pointed in the same general direction to reduce phase cancellation, usually all drum mics are angled somewhat in the direction of the back wall. The overheads mics are set in a way to target the cymbal groups. I'm less concerned about where the snare is in the overhead image. I especially check for phase issues between snare and overheads to make sure the drums sound big and punchy all the way around.

All mics get routed into the Neve 8038 console with 1073 mic pre/EQs (lucky me!).

I suggest to NOT recording each mic to it's own track. I will sum several mics on the console using the bussing, checking phase carefully then committing to a blend in advance of recording. I commit top and bottom snare mics to ONE track. I commit all tom mics, tops and bottoms and the whole array to TWO tracks, carefully adjusting levels and phase. I find the toms and the snare will sound better if you blend and record the mics together at the time they are played. I keep the kick "inside" and the kick "sub" mics on separate tracks, as well as the overheads, rooms, hat and ride.

I use compression during tracking only on the rooms, and maybe on the overheads, depending on the type of music.

If you want your drum recordings to sound good, learn how to tune drums! Have fresh heads available during tracking and change often if you want crisp attack on the snare and toms. During the Tool sessions we changed tom and snare heads between each TAKE!!!! Hydraulic heads sound good live, but often sound thuddy and lifeless in the studio. I usually use Remo Ambassador single-ply coated on the snare top, and clear on the tom tops.

I suggest having a favorite go-to snare on hand, tuned and ready at all times. That way if you are struggling with the client's crappy snare, you have an instant winner within reach. I use a '70s Ludwig Black Beauty. It is consistent, clear and loud, always sounds great.

Kick drum is easily adjusted by adding or removing damping material on the inside of the drum. I'll have a selection of towels, t-shirts, blankets and pillows on hand for whatever is needed.

A loud hi-hat is not always your friend in the studio. I have darker, quieter hats on hand in case the client's hat overwhelms the drum recordings. Nothing worse than trying to get rid of an obnoxious open hat later on in the mix!

Finally, and most importantly, the drums always sound great when you have a good drummer. Drummers who consistently play hard make the drums sound better!
Old 22nd February 2014
Deleted User
I have to say...
I have been very impressed with the amount and depth of information that you have so selflessly shared with GS. It is also kind of strange in that, I, as an engineer/producer back in the 80s used pretty much the same mics and techniques as you have described above.
No more 2" MCI, no more smell of burning ozone from the motors and brakes, no more fzzzzzzt from the Ursa Major, but...it's all a big circle with the end result being music with feeling.
Thanks for sharing!
Old 22nd February 2014
Gear Maniac
🎧 10 years
Thank you very much for the in depth reply!
Old 23rd February 2014
Lives for gear
everybody's x's Avatar
🎧 15 years
WOW! that commitment scares the hell out of me. I wish I had the courage to commit to stuff like that. I'll have to get a lot of practice ruining my own stuff before I can try that with a client

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