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Uncharted Territory: Miking Live Drums?!?!?

Discussion in 'Drums' started by Rider, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. Rider

    Rider Guest

    okay up until now (the ~5 years ive been home recording) ive always used midi drums, lately DKFH2, and have learned the ins and outs of mixing them to taste, but ive run into a problem. were recording live drums for my bands demo, and have been unsuccessful twice now.

    this is a drum track of the recent recording (ignore the talking, i was just reminding him that he can pick up after the break if he messes up at the end)

    so... ill start with the setup (as best i remember it), and yes i know we are using some terrible setup here. its all we really have access to.

    Kick - PG52 - placed inside the kick as best we could position it
    Toms - 3x PG56 - we left the middle one out (which ill get to later)
    Overheads - 3x 57s - again left middle one out, but for obvious reasons

    we got the 52 in the kick, of course. we got the 56s around the 4-5 tom and the 1-2 tom (and somehow picking up the 3 tom as loud as the other 2, which is why we cut that mic), and the 2 57s overhead centering the snare/kick.

    we ran all this into the PA mixer then into an m-audio then into logic.

    Problems weve had and things i think we need to change..

    Kick - this was just terrible from the start. it either peaked out with pad/low fader, OR it just sounded so hollow and phased (from being moved a couple inches?), we could barley find a solution. it IS a kick mic afterall. we tried dampening with a blanket, it helped with the resonance problem. our drummer got a click pad to help with making it more distinct. the kick you hear doesnt cut through the mix at all because we had to mix it so low so it wouldnt peak out the m-audio.

    Overheads - obvious, we need real mics for overheads. i think i have a few ideas to try, i read about staggering the mics so it centers the snare and kick, instead of hanging them straight through we move one back to line up with the snare/kick. then there was another topic ive seen somewhere that discussed basically using string to match the distance of the overheads, it ended up one directly over the snare and the other off to the side same distance from it, which the example sounded decent enough.

    Toms - not much problem here for us, except that the snare is mostly ambient from the tom mics (i am led to believe). better way to mic 5 toms with 3 mics?

    Snare - we definitely are going to need to put a 57 on the snare it seems.

    Ride - just a special note, it sounds like the click is in the right place for the ride, but most of the resonance is on the opposite side, how could that happen?

    Cymbols - these are just sporatic, i think true overheads would work a lot better

    of couse we started out simple (against my drummers recommendation) of kick and 2 overhead, the toms were weak so we opened up the tom mics, and that was the best we could get.

    what could possibly cause some of these issues (ride, kick, toms). the MAIN ISSUE is the kick, because it is the simplest of them all (only ONE MIC) but yet sounds terrible even solo'd (so its not bleeding hmm). he has a good kit, it sounds great even sticking my ear up to it momentarily (near where the mic is in the kick), but it either clips out (tried cutting bass back too makes it worse) or is just hollow clicks with no middle ground. the only thing we could do is use the 3 band channel and the overall EQ to try and lower some of the boom to match the rest, but i think the kick's freq is all over the place, causing all the mud. The only other concern is just the toms and how they are picking up more than they should, and throwing the stereo field way out of whack.

    we are looking for a great metal tone, for the kick im imagining a really low tight thud (40-80hz range) thats pretty scooped sounding (basically very deep) with a strong natural click, and letting the bass mix in just above it for a real beefy tone to complement the guitars. as for the rest, theres no way were getting a shimmering dazzling studio tone, just straight up as-you-hear-it drum kit i think is reasonable to aim for. overall its fine, just mismatched and some phase/bleed issues. and as another note, i believe our mixer does NOT have phase reversals on it, its a pretty basic PA mixer and we can only track left-right into logic :(

    so, what am i looking for through all this mess of cables and skins? basically good placement recommendations and possibly low end solutions (good low price overheads for one?). im especially looking for advice to fix this crappy kick! it sounds like we got it at goodwill, even though its a higher end kick. its just.. dead sounding.

    ill say, i have to commend anyone who reads through this whole thing, even if you dont reply :p

    perhaps something like these? i think this is about where our budget is (around 100-200$ for overheads)
    (Dead Link Removed)
  2. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Try this;

    Kik: 4-6" hole in the kick front head... put the PG52 in the hole... JUST up to the grill... angle the mic to point it directly at the beater.

    kill the 56's.

    57 on the snare, snuck in just under the hat. Mic the underside of the snare. Make sure it's as close to 90 degrees from the top mic as you can. If you don't have a phase reverse switch... make one! flip the + and - leads on one end of a mic cable. (Be sure to mark it with tape or something)

    Put the 57's up as OH's... place them just over the drummer's head... spaced about 24" apart... set them at 90 to the floor and point them slightly angled toward the kit.

    Try cutting the kick at about 400-500Hz pretty hard with a slight boost at the low end and about 2kHz... maybe 4kHz. You'll have to play with it to zone in on the exact resonance of the kick.

    EQ for meat in the top 57 and high-end snap on the bottom 57.

    Whereever you did cuts on the kick, mimic that for the OH's.

    Maybe throwing a comp on the kick at tracking will work... but I don't recommend printing the comp to "tape" unless you have no other choice... it's bad enough not to be able to track a kit at 5 tracs and with EQ.
  3. natural

    natural Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    WELL, The track is not nearly as horrible as I expected after reading your post. I have heard much worse.
    Since you're new at recording drums, I would suggest if it's possible to set up some sessions to practice recording drums. Just drums and only drums, and keep the experiments focused. Like, today lets just work with the kick drum.
    Madmax is right on with his suggestions on kick eq. But before you get there, try different tunings of the head. record takes of where the head is now. Record takes a little tighter and looser. Put More padding in the kick, try too much padding. you never know until you go too far. take some out. If there's any O Ring dampers in the kick, record a take and then take them out. Record each change so you can compare them later.
    Now that you have a zillion takes, go into Logic and start working with the eq. See if you can turn one of those takes into what you're looking for. Hopefully you've been taking notes, and can get the drums and mic back to the best setting. Now try to improve it further from there.
    Next week..... on to the snare. Same procedure...
  4. Rider

    Rider Guest

    sweet ill try both of those.

    for the EQing, we dont have any outboard EQ (except preset parametrics per channel and a 10ish band pre-input), so its hard to get specifics. i did remix it a bit earlier and ironically, i did end up cutting around 600hz (boosting slight at 300hz to regain some beef on the snare), boosting 59hz with a medium Q and cutting around 120 (to take out some resonance and to make room for bass, make it more precise sounding) and i did end up boosting 2.5k (which is where the major click was). it came out clearer in the mix except the low end was still majorly lacking.

    which comes to - so how DO i get it to keep its low end and not peak on input, theres so much going on in the freq range of the kick it muds and peaks the box. im willing to spend like an hr per practice recording some settings (if drummer is too sure he is down for it), and just make notes. i just cant figure out where to cut this mud out.

    and i am suspecting his head is kinda loose, it sounds that way on tape, and not so much live but it doesnt have as tight a sound as say, sampled kicks do, or like studio recordings (of similar bands) have.

    he did another take while i was gone setting up only overheads and kick and it seemed to work nicely, but his snare was off to the left (lol?). he doesnt have as much a grasp at production as me, he puts it in 'as he feels it', just like a drummer would.

    and we dont have enough 57s to 2 overheads + 2 snares, so i guess we will just do one?

    and where do i put the 52? by grill do you mean the beater head, right up by it? thats where i got tons of overwhelming bass, same for by the sound hole. i stuck my hand in there to see what was going on and found out that the SPL seemed to go.. well ill try and diagram it.

    /|##=- -=##|

    / beater, | | the heads, ## == -- varying degrees of pressure. bsacially in the middle i barely felt anything and right up against either head it felt strongest, kinda like an eye of the storm type thing inside the kick. i dont understand the physics of it but im guessing its cause the resonant head backfires and/or builds up some of the pressure? when i tried miking i tried around the middle to lessen the insane low end mud, but it sounded thin. and any of the 3 band EQing i was doing wasnt coming out juts right, it made it thin or just weak.

    next session im going to focus on kick, and try setting up the overheads (only 3 mics total this round) centered and more phase coherent. i didnt really hear much phase issues though, as much as it was just excessive bleeding.

    and for a real tight kick, should i snug the pad up against the beater head, resonant head, both, neither?

    good news is his head got ripped (he has a home made sound hole, no O ring, so its.. shoddy) so i can easily convince him to buy a new head, and this time we can cut a smaller hole. his was pretty big, i read 7" is just about like having no head at all.. so i imagine having a 4 or 5" will give a lot more tighter sound but keep a good click to it?
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    OK... let's do a little physics... nothing in-depth... just basics.

    Think of a violin, guitar, etc...

    A string, when secured at both ends, and "plucked" will vibrate. The two ends receive energy from the string movement and transfer that energy to whatever they are attached to. The real premis being that the greatest movement observed will be in the middle of the string.

    With me so far?... OK, good!

    A drum is just the opposite. The two membranes (heads) move and the the maximum movement points are the ends (heads), therefore the middle has the least movement. (Before we get into a real hissy fit... this is REAL basic and I just want to explain the location of movement)

    In an ideal close mic-ing situation, you want to capture sound where the most movement of air occurs. Therefore that place is as close to the front head as possible. If you can put a transducer in the exact same plane as the resonating head... well hot damn... that's the ideal!

    I don't think I was too clear in describing the 52's placement. The 52 has a grill. Start by putting the mic in the hole up to the grill/body junction. Move it in/out of the hole in say... 1/8" increments until you get the optimum sound and level.

    If nothing else, use one of the 56's under the snare. Hey, it's intended to be a drum mic... it'll work just fine. There aren't any real rules in this game. Hell, try a 56 on top of the snare and a 57 underneath and see whatcha' get!

    Tuning is ALL critical to getting a decent sound. It's kinda' goofy to believe this at first, but you really do tune a kick backwards to conventional wisdom.

    If the kick sounds loose and sloppy... then you do need to tighten the heads. Probably more the resonant head than the beater head.... but only to a point. Try tighten the the beater head until the wrinkles are out... but barely.

    The resonant head is where the real sound is. You tighten the front head to drop the tone.... yes... I said tighten the front head to drop the tone. A floppy head does not vibrate. A loose(er) front head gives you snap. A floppy front head does not vibrate, and you get mush. Tighten it until it begins to resonate (ring), and take it a bit tighter from there. Now don't tighten the thing until it sounds like a snare... but tighten it until you really hear the sound develop into a decent thud. It'll have a bit of ring to a lot of ring... but it'll have TONE! Tune the drum until you get a tone that is what I call "Marching Band" thump... a solid tone with minimal harmonic ring.

    I then drop a good amount of heavy material in the drum. I like velour, but pillows work to take the ringing down to a short decay time. I like the material to touch about two inches of thickness of both sides in a 22" kick... more in a 24"... less in a 18" or 20". (duh) The way to get the pillow or material in the kick is to count the exact number of turns until the tension rod is loose. MAKE A NOTE! Put the material in the drum and count back as precisely as possible.

    A bit more about damping a kick. In metal and rock, there's a tendency to over dampen kick drums, or not damping enough. Either way, they sound like ass. Put some mass in there. If you use a pillow, use a heavy pillow... down filled are best IMHO. The foam ones just flop around... so if your stuck with a wimpy pillow... put a brick or 2 on it to hold it in place. The added mass of what's in the kick also helps to also reduce the resonance of the shell.

    I don't track much of my own playing, but here's a song I tracked a couple of months ago. This was tracked with a D112 in the hole, 57 on top, 57 on the bottom, and a Royer SF12 as overheads... that's it. The kit is a 72 Ludwig Vistalite - 24" kick, 7x14 Black Beauty snare. The thing about pointing this song out is that the truth is, I wasn't really able to hear what I was tracking. I was remote, working with discrete pre's and tracking without any EQ or compression whatsoever, all the while, only listening to the song on headphones. I submitted 6 tracks of which, 5 were used. (I also had a D6 sitting on the velour, 2" from the beater head, that wasn't used in the mix)

    As far as I know the kick drum only had some cut in the 300-400Hz range, and a narrow 3db boost at 3k and some compression on the submix. Same low end cut on the OH's. Otherwise it was pretty well as is.

    While it ain't the greatest drum sound in the world (and ignore the playing) the kit is very serviceable... all without much in the way of EQ and processing.

    While I'm in write mode... lemme conclude this novelette with another point of reality in mic-ing a kit... There are two other ways to mic a kit effectively. IF you have something like an AKG 414, or some other high-end LDC) you can place that mic exactly at the same height as the beater... but at a particular distance in front of the kit. (On a personal note, this is really where I like to use a good quality ribbon mic like a R84, 44 or a 77.) That distance is entirely up to you and your ear.

    Stand, sit, kneel... whatever you can manage (depending on age) in front of the kit. But get your ear as close to the level of the beater as you can. Now, move away from the kit and listen for the point where the kick is the strongest/deepest sound. You're actually gonna "feel" the low frequency more than hear it. Mark that spot on the floor with tape. Place the mic at that point and micro adjust.

    The second and last way is definitely my least favorite... but you sometimes are not left with any choice. Buy or build a set of triggers for each drum. Mount the triggers to each drum and use sample replacements. You can then put up a pair of the 57's as OH's and slice the EQ to cut as much of the kit as you can. <BLECH!> Yeah... I said it... but I honestly don't like this and have yet to actually resort to it.

    Again, there aren't any rules to this stuff... except the ones you create for yourself!

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