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Close mic techniques on drums

Discussion in 'Drums' started by fontenel, Apr 28, 2004.

  1. fontenel

    fontenel Guest

    Hey guys and gals. I just wanted some opinions on close mic techniques for drums. Most people I talk to that run little project studios generally mic their drums with a snare mic, kick mic, couple over heads, maybe some tom mics, maybe a room mic, etc. However, I've seen a lot of recording session pictures from big studios that look like they are miking EVERYTHING close, including the crash, hihat, ride, etc. without overheads. I was just curious to know the advantages and disadvantages of this. It seems like a good idea in a lot of ways, but I've never personally seen anyone do it...

  2. Barkingdogstudios

    Barkingdogstudios Active Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    I'm no expert but my first guess would be that the professional recording studios a) have the means hardware-wise to track that much information and b) the talent to mix it down properly. The more tracks you have to deal with, the more difficult it becomes to make the drums sound "cohesive" unless you really know what you're doing (plus dealing with phase and leakage etc).

    Close-miking everything was very much a seventies/eighties type of thing. Very controlled, "produced" sound. Now there seems to be more of a drive to treat the drums as a single instrument which is easier to do if you have fewer mics; and tons easier to do if you're a hobbyist. It really depends on what you're looking for in the way of "a sound". If you listen to Steely Dan's "Two Against Nature", the drum sounds are so distinct and separated that they must have been close-miked. Almost too dry to my way of thinking but then that's probably what they wanted. If you want a "bigger" sound with some involvement by the room, you start using fewer mics, further away from the individual drums; plus the use of "room" mics. My drum instructor also produces albums professionally, he says he has recorded with as few as two mics.

    I tend to go with two on the snare (sm57s), one in the kick plus a "sub mic" (EV RE20 and a small speaker attached to a mic cord), two overheads (AKG 451b's or SHURE KSM44s) and a Sennheiser 421 on each tom. I don't mic hi-hat or cymbals because I get too much of them typically anyway. The one major advantage that I find with close micing is the ability to "place" the drums in the stereo spectrum without having to do it with the placement of the overheads.

    I guess the bottom line is that you gain more control with close micing but at the same time more complexity and unless you're equipped hardware and ability-wise, you're better off with fewer mics than more mics.
  3. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    In big "pro" rooms you usually have the tools to use many mics on drums. It takes more tools/time/experiance to do this, but it gives the biggest, fullest/dimensional and controllable configuration. I always, when I can, use top and bottom mic all drums, as least two on the kick, (one usually a speaker), OH's, hat, ride, various ambient and room mics, I also usually commit many of these, i.e. I'll build a stereo tom pair, etc.

    [I'm tired of mixers other than I panning toms across the whole L-R plane..I like them tight...so I limit that option]

    You can do it with one mic, but then have closer to the zero limit at that point. In small studio's I'll typically get along fine with just OH's, kick, snare (top & bottom), toms and hat.

    If it's a loop or old school part, then maybe just one behind/over the right shoulder and one out in front of the kick.

    Know where to need to arrive at for the final mix and let that dictate how you capture it.
  4. svart

    svart Active Member

    Jan 30, 2004
    It depends on what you are looking for i guess. Generally i think the engineers are micing everything from a sheer time point of view. how many times do you record a track and wish that you had used a different mic or moved it somewhere else? i think they just try to cut down the time and work it would require to record multiple takes. i would bet that having that many combinations of good microphones would surely allow them to find something cool/good. personally i like to move the mics back and get more realism than highly processed instruments, but that's a rant for later!

  5. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    re-read my post...that's why. Multiple mics can and do give you control and abillity to really make things big and demensional, and have control @ the mix. The more mics you use, the more time it takes to set-up...if you ever really paln on using all of them. I nor anyone I know simply puts up a loy of mics for experimantation...although some can serve that purpose. Mostly it's very on purpose. So it deosn't cut down on time.
  6. EricK

    EricK Guest

    I have worked many sessions as an assistant, in many different studios, with many different engineers. I have never seen anyone mic every cymbal. Generally, I saw a pair of overheads, either "xy" or spaced, usually a hi-hat mic, and sometimes a spot mic on the ride. The ride mic was quite rare, only used if the song called for an articulate ride, and the ride wasn't coming through well enough in the overheads. Now that I am doing sessions on my own, I tend to work that way as well. For crash cymbals, I think they require a certain amount of distance for the sound to develop. Close micing a crash does not sound good to my ears. Hi-Hats and rides are usually not hit near as hard crashes, and are usually playing rhythmic patterns.

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