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Recording drums: finding the sweetspot

Discussion in 'Drums' started by JoaoSpin, Mar 9, 2016.

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  1. JoaoSpin

    JoaoSpin Active Member

    Hi guys and girls of the forum,
    This has probably been adressed here before, perhaps not so specifically... I did try searching but the vastness of the forum was overwhelming. I think it's a pretty straightforward question: When close-micing drums, do you laboriously listen to each drum mic and move it around until you find the sweetspot, or do you just go by common sense/experience? How much is healthy perfeccionism and how much is wasting yours and the drummer's time? I haven't been recording drums for that long and I'm getting ready to produce my own band's new EP and I wanna do my best work yet. In case you're curious I'm using a four-mic setup (cause that's how many channels I have available), with modest mics: at2020 and mxl v67 for the overheads, a shure sm57 on snare and a samson Qkick on the kick. I'm thinking of using the Glys Johns technicque with the mxl next to the floor tom and the audio technica over the snare.
    Cheers guys,
    Congratulations on how this forum has grown over the years.
    All the best,
    João
     
    audiokid likes this.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    GJ's drum miking method is a good one, as it uses minimal mics; and the more mics you use, the more potential for issues to occur. Keep in mind that you're not going to want to put your MXL pointing down at the floor tom as you would your AT pointing down at the snare/kit, but rather, you'll want to put it above the floor tom, but aimed in a directional plane across the kit.

    As far as how I set up mics for a kits, I always put all the mics up, ( my usual go-to's were a 57 on snare, 421's on toms, RE20 on the kick, and whatever good condensers I had available as OH's) and then had the drummer play the kit, at which point I would listen for possible mic position changes.
    Unless I'm trying to zero-in on a problem - like a rattle or a ring - I always felt as though solo'ing up the individual drums and listening and making changes that way was kind of a waste of time ( IMO) because that's not the way they will sound when all the other mics are hot.

    ( FWIW, I rarely put a mic directly on the hat - unless it was light jazz or something - I was never a fan of that method, as I never really liked the sound - and the times I did do it, I usually ended up having to pull it back so far into the mix that it was a waste of a track to have done it to begin with. Instead, I would usually rely on the OH's to pick up the HH, which was plenty present in the mix, and "silky" sounding as well.)

    Sometimes I would use a ribbon or a condenser as a room mic as well, but that always depended on the room I was hired to record in. When I had my own place , I used to like to put a Neumann U89 out into the room, because the room I had sounded good.

    But... this is just my way. Others might take exception.

    IMO of course.

    -d.
     
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    A well-tuned drum shouldn't take that long to find the sweet-spot. I'd rather take a few minutes working on mic-placement than introduce a bunch of EQ that could have been avoided. A little time on the front end moving mics, or trying different kick drum mics, is time that I think is saved over the course of the project from tracking to final mix. Drum tuning and mic placement are the cure, EQ just masks the symptoms. If the drums aren't tuned to have the punch and tone that's appropriate to the music style it's going to be an uphill struggle. In that case, I'd rather take as long as it takes to get the drums tuned properly. From here on, we'll assume the drums have new(ish) heads and are well tuned / damped.

    After I've heard the drums I'll start with my best guess at the best mic and mic location for the job. Then I'll have the drummer just hit the kick drum (and record 30 seconds of it for playback), if it's not what we're looking for - all options are on the table, (different mic, different position, and EQ) with EQ being the last resort. Sometimes it's amazing the difference a half an inch one way or the other, or a few degrees of tilt can make. Within a few minutes we can usually find a sound we all love and move on to the next mic.

    Good kick, snare, and hi-hat are essential, but if you're relying heavily on overheads, make sure the drummer gives you a good representation of how they'll be playing during the drum check. Are the toms even in tone and volume? Does the ride cymbal get lost in the chorus? Do the 5 chinaboy cymbals drown out the rest of the kit when they're getting thrashed? Do they play the hi-hat sloppy and half open smearing up the works (which might sound good to them)? Do you need more cowbell?
     
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