Early Motown music, bebop, classic rock, and more recent productions by the Black Keys and the White Stripes all feature a sonic landscape containing the raw power of the drumset considered as a single instrument existing in a real space. So take the following information as a good starting point and adapt from there. The key is to experiment. Large condensers, small condensers, dynamics, and ribbons are all capable of capturing musical, organic drum tones.
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Early Motown music, bebop, classic rock, and more recent productions by the Black Keys and the White Stripes all feature a sonic landscape containing the raw power of the drumset considered as a single instrument existing in a real space.
So take the following information as a good starting point and adapt from there. The key is to experiment.
Large condensers, small condensers, dynamics, and ribbons are all capable of capturing musical, organic drum tones. Of course, it would take a book to describe every available microphone, so we limited ourselves to using three similar large-diaphragm condensers during our demos samples are posted at moderndrummer. Switching from a directional cardioid to a degree omni pattern, for example, will obviously allow a lot more of the room—as well as other instruments, if applicable—to enter into the equation.
The space your drums are in will make a bigger difference in a minimal-miking session than in a typical close miking situation. Bigger is usually better, especially concerning ceiling height. Higher ceilings give the drums some room to breathe before the sound reflects back down. Ceiling reflections can create a boxy sound. Reflective floors and absorbent ceilings are usually better than the other way around carpet below and drywall above, for instance.
You also want the drums to be at different distances from major reflective surfaces. That will usually work better than being in the middle of a cube when it comes to getting smooth, natural sounding reverberation.
Think of the kit as one instrument. You tune and prep each drum for its optimum tone instead of for volume , and then you simply bring up the quieter parts in the mix until a proper balance is achieved. Tune your kit so that everything sounds in balance when you play in the room. How you strike the drums is more important than which drums you use. Listen to your kit while you play, either in the room or on playback.
Are you bashing your cymbals to the point where the toms are too low by comparison? Are your dark-sounding vintage hi-hats getting lost next to the slamming rimshots on your wide-open metal snare? You can move the mics around to compensate slightly for some balance issues. Another decision is whether to favor the bass drum or some other part of the kit. Snares, toms, and cymbals tend to radiate upward, while the kick radiates outward.
Therefore, the best kick sound is typically captured in front of the bass drum, while the best overall sound is usually gotten from above the kit.
But you can still achieve both with some compromise. For capturing the entire kit with a single mic, we chose a fairly neutral, full-range condenser because it can pick up the extremely wide frequency range of the drumset.
If all you have is a basic dynamic vocal mic, go with it and make it work. Many records have been made with cheaper mics. You can usually get a good overall one-mic balance if you go for a symmetrical placement where the microphone is the same distance in front of the bass drum as it is off the ground.
Carving out the lower mids with EQ will help you keep your kit from sounding boxy. Experiment here, as varying this distance will raise or lower the ambience of the final drum sound. The resulting sound was a little tighter than the one-mic track, due to the closer proximity of the mics to the kit. The downside is that a coincident pair has a limited stereo spread. The two capsules are typically pointed toward the left and right sides of the kit. We left the kick mic as it was in the two-mic setup.
This technique works especially well for jazz and acoustic music where you want a realistic but not hyped representation of the drumset. The microphones are spread evenly above the drumset at equal heights, pointing straight down. The spaced-pair arrangement has been used on most studio drum tracks from the past thirty to forty years.
The big difference with our setup is that the overheads are responsible for capturing the entire kit minus the bass drum , as opposed to augmenting close mics. This difference is what helps your ears locate specific instruments within the sound field. Note: Johns frequently ran a snare mic as well. The secret to the configuration is in the location of the two isosceles mics. One mic is located directly above the snare. The second microphone is located a little above, beyond, and behind the floor tom.
Using a tape measure, place this mic the same distance from the center of the snare as the overhead mic. The mic should point across the top of the floor tom toward the snare and smaller toms, which ensures that the snare sound will reach both mics at the exact same time, resulting in a strong, well-defined, and in-phase snare tone. This configuration allows the mics to capture the toms better than in other typical overhead arrangements, and you end up with one mic near the ride and the other near the hi-hats, which provides good cymbal separation.
Minimalist Drum Miking Techniques
The drum kit can be one of the most time-consuming and frustrating of instruments to record, so it's worth taking a structured approach. Photo: Richard Ecclestone The phenomenal advances in integrated drum machines and sample-based drum sources controlled by sequencers mean that few of us bother recording real drum kits any more. However, there are still a large number of drummers out there they haven't all been caught yet! So this article has been written to try to provide some useful pointers and guidance on how to record drums effectively with the resources available. The typical drum kit consists of a kick drum, snare, a couple of tom-toms mounted on stalks from the kick drum, a floor tom, a hi-hat, and a couple of cymbals — maybe a crash and a ride.
Minimal Miking Techniques
I was fading fast, isolating my loved ones, all to stop the bleed. Every quarter-inch went to more microphones, and I was one Neumann away from becoming homeless, hanging by an XLR. While standard professional drum-recording scenarios involve at least eight or nine microphones, history has colorfully proven that quite the contrary can also be just as kosher. With the four-track recorder as the standard medium of the time, it limited engineers to very few microphones on the drums.
Five Techniques for Stereo Miking Drums
The good folk at AKG recently sent us some really handy diagrams and suggestions for drum miking that correspond with their off-the-shelf drum microphone bundles. But that got us to thinking — what about thinking laterally and employing some unconventional drum miking techniques using some of the same mics? This technique is not so much unconventional as it is time-worn and slightly unfashionable, at least in rock circles. Remember — there is no law to say the overheads have to be in front of the kit — try them behind the drummer or anywhere else that works. This is how a lot of jazz is recorded, and produces a really natural sound.