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Help with drum recording techniques

Discussion in 'Drums' started by ferociousj, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. ferociousj

    ferociousj Active Member

    I recently recorded an album not paying much attention to the intricacies that go into getting good drum sounds. I simply used one overhead dynamic mic which ran directly into my computer, no interface. I then used several filters in Adobe Audition to liven up the sound. I wasn't going for a polished sound... it was a surf rock/indie/garage rock album so I wanted a more ambient sound if anything. I for one was quite pleased with my production, however many people say it sounds lo-fi (not exactly in a bad way) Lo-fi wasn't really what I was going for, I was going for a jazzy ambient sound.

    So I'm about to record a new album and I don't ever want to see or hear the term "lo-fi" in a review of my music again. I'm certainly not going for a polished pop radio sound. My question here is, could I get away with placing a single condenser mic overhead, and a dynamic mic by the bass drum? And what kind of interface should I use if I'm using minimal mics? Something cheap but good.

    I want to know how jazz drummers were recorded in the 40s and 50s. What about the Ventures? (Walk Don't Run) I want the sound to be simple, ambient and full with no chance of being called lo-fi.

    Sorry for using so many words here. Thanks,
  2. casper

    casper Guest

    A big factor to recording the drums besides mics is the room acoustics and how are you going to tame it. With two overheads our picking up the sound from the whole room. In a controled enviroment like a studio you can often get away with overhead mics. In your case you may get better results by close micing the bass and snare and position the overheads to catch the cymbals and hihat. Another thing to try is reposition the drumset and see if the sound changes. You might use moving blankets to reduce the sound waves off the wall. The other good thing about using four mics is the ability to dial in EQ and FX to get the sound you are looking for.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Sure, back in the 1940s & 50's, you had record companies with large acoustic spaces i.e. "studios" of appreciable size with actual acoustics. You could place a single microphone over top of the drum kit. It would sound great. That's still done today.

    In smaller studios of the modern type i.e. your bedroom, acoustics are either nonexistent or less than stellar. It's unfortunate but it's due to cubic feet or meters. In that respect, you're likely to find getting a good sound more of a challenge than a cut and dried simple directions to quality recording, drive-through adventure & primer.

    Raw & Amateur are two different things. They are not necessarily related to each other but could be. Don't go there. Those old recordings were not made by happenstance engineers. So, while it is quite possible to get a good drum sound with only 1 or 2 microphones. You won't necessarily get satisfactory results without having a quality sound interface for your computer. Listen to your friends. They didn't BS you.

    Thinking around side the box
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    If you are dead set on the minimal mic technique you should buy an interface with just two inputs rather than waste money on extra inputs you aren't going to need. Those inputs would ideally have good quality pre-amps; the quality of the pre-amps is at least as important as the choice of microphone.

    I suggest a Mackie Onyx Satellite: two inputs are exactly what you need, the Onyx preamps are (IMO) the best you can get without adding another '0' to the price tag, and you can pick them up for peanuts now. Mine has been working well for nearly two years, despite the pod unit having travelled all over europe with me.

    However; last time I checked they hadn't released any Vista drivers yet. They do appear to be working on that (Mackie forum post) but if you are a Vista user you might want to look at something else.
  5. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    Oh, and another thing: when the 'Pod' part of the Satellite is not plugged into a firewire port it can be used as a pair of standalone mic pre-amps, ie; you could still use it to provide pre-amps for a pair of line inputs even if you end up changing your mind about the minimalism and buying a multi-channel interface.
  6. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    Sometimes a mic in front of the kit will sound better than an overhead: it will pick up more of the bass drum (especially if positioned close to the floor) and more of the crack from the bottom snare head. Be prepared to spend a lot of time trying out different mic positiions!

    You might also want to consider a ribbon mic instead of a condenser, if you are after a 'vintage' type sound.
  7. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    I like to use minimalist mics on drum set too, at least when I can convince the client to try it. Time is money after all.

    If I am doing a song where the kick is most important drum,I put up two QTC50 (small condensers Omni) in front of the kit. I position them so the kick drum is the same distance from each. I use a piece of string about 2.5 meters long. The strings is held or temporarily taped to center of the outer kick drum skin. The Mics are usually positioned about 2 metes high. I find this captures the kit from the audience perspective. This works well in my room. I have fairly low ceilings, but Plywood under the kit and quite a bit of Rigid fiberglass panels on ceiling. As well I build a few plywood deflectors or wheels that I use to change the wall angles. These help throw a bit more high frequency engery forward.

    You can try the same approach but focus of the snare instead, when I do that I throw a D112, or ATM 25 or RE20 on the kick as well.

    Any way hope this helps.
  8. ferociousj

    ferociousj Active Member

    Now I need some advice on what condenser mic to get. I want to spend under 200. Someone told me the MXL 990 was good for the money. I was also looking at the shure KSM109. Are these good choices?
  9. ferociousj

    ferociousj Active Member

    Sigh... I feel like I'm getting in way over my head here. I looked at the Mackie Onyx Satellite. Thats $200. A decent condenser will run me $200. Then i'll have to get cables and stands. I'm just not prepared to spend $500 dollars when I can get decent results using one mic. Perhaps i'll pick up an SM57 but Im just not ready to spend that kind of money on recording when minimalism is what Im going for anyway. I really only wanted the condenser to record my classical guitar cause the dynamic mic im using now can't handle that range. If an SM57 could handle that range then i'd be set.
  10. Greener

    Greener Guest

    I've recorded drums with just one 57. It's harsh and if you get a punchy kick you will have a weak snare. If you get the snare nailed your kick is like a wet fish... It's hard to win.
  11. hackenslash

    hackenslash Active Member

    I'd be sure to get at least two, or maybe four SM57/58s. One on the kick, one on the snare, and two closish overheads. It'll still sound a bit lo-fi, but you'll have enough control over it during the mix stage to address most issues.

    Not ideal, but perfectly usable, and much better than one mic. You really have your work cut out with a mono drum track.
  12. GeckoMusic

    GeckoMusic Guest

    The most practical microphone placement that I use on a regular basis is an XY small diaphragm condenser pair for overheads about 2' above the drummer's head. A dynamic in the kick, and an SM57 on the snare. More microphones take longer to get right. With just overheads you loose the kick and snare without careful placement.

    I never had good luck with dynamic microphones as overheads. There always seemed to be too much hiss.
  13. ferociousj

    ferociousj Active Member

    Well I just found out my friend has a MXL 990 that he doesn't use. I know thats not a great mic but that takes care of the mic situation. If I could just borrow an interface from another friend I might be able to do this without spending a penny...

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