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Micing Drums


4 piece 1970 ludwig with old zildjian cymbals, for indie rock/reggae style

Recording chain:
PreSonus FireStudio (8 preamps )
Sonar 8.5 (thanks!)

My mic options:

1 Shure Beta 52a (large dynamic)
3 Shure SM57 (dynamic)
2 RODE NT5 (small condenser)
1 Shure SM58 (dynamic)
1 RODE NTA1 (large condenser)


2 nt5's for overheards
1 beta on the kick
3 57's on the snare and two toms

that leaves 2 channels open

large condenser in the room?
extra kick mic?
extra snare mic?
something on the hihat?

Thanks for any help, let me know if you need any more info!


Boswell Wed, 02/22/2012 - 07:36
That should be a nice-sounding balanced kit, so I would try it without the tom mics, i.e. just the kick, snare and two overheads.

It's important to get the overheads positioned correctly. Some of this will depend on the acoustics of the space you are recording in, but carefully-placing the NT5s will help to compensate for deficiencies in the room acoustics. Unlike with NT55s, you can't pad NT5s on the mic, so you will probably need to engage at least a 10dB pad on the pre-amp. Don't look at the recorded track and say "that never goes over 0dB so I don't need a pad", as the sweet spot for all drum mics is usually well below what you see on the output waveform. Keep the levels of all the drum tracks down around -12dBFS peak - you can bring them up later in the mix if need be.

I would try the Recorderman method for setting up the distances from kick and snare skins to the two overhead mics. Although the method is principally recommended for when you have overheads only (two mics for the whole kit), the distance measuring is for getting the phasing right and holds good for positioning the overheads when using any number of additional close mics on the individual components of the kit. Youtube has a lot of rather variable-quality videos on the method, so don't stop looking when you find the first one. Make sure that your stands for the overheads are on solid bases so they don't wobble around on the kick hits.

RemyRAD Thu, 02/23/2012 - 00:17
When you get a little more experienced at this, you'll want to try an inverted phase microphone underneath the snare drum also. And if you have a song that's heavy on the hi hat, you might want a small diaphragm condenser microphone on that.

In many instances, I do it just like Boswell suggested. Two overheads kick and snare and you will be truly amazed when you get those overheads focused just right. It will basically sound like you have microphones on the tom-toms. Whereas, if you also include the microphones on the tom-toms, yeah, you could have phase issues that will really take away from the entire feel and clarity. The way I've dealt with that in the past, is where we use gates. Gates are basically backward compressors. They only let the sound through when there is sound to let through. Otherwise they are off and therefore, the microphones are off until they're hit, the drums that is not the microphones. So while the phase issue may still exist, it's been gated out. The drum only plays for a millisecond and you won't hear that phase cancellation during that millisecond. But setting the proper threshold on the gate can be very tricky. Sometimes, one has to utilize what's known as a " side chain " input on the gate. What that allows one to do is to equalize out everything that is not necessary for the gate to be working on i.e. all of the low frequencies and high frequencies are rolled off. That leaves the gate detector only with the frequencies to work on that are closest in range to that drum. That way the gate will not be opening from bass drum hits or cymbal crashes, etc.. But that is beyond your scope at this point and probably why Boswell didn't even bother to mention it. And that technique can even be harder trying to adjust in software than utilizing hardware devices like I have most of the time. I don't like trying to do that in software but I have. It's just tricky as hell.

One of the things I also regularly do what a lot of people don't do, is also invert the phase on your bass drum when it's inside the drum. I don't do that all of the time however because it presents a very different sound. I don't usually do that on Jazz but I usually do it on rock 'n roll. There is certain frequencies that get canceled out and that works to your advantage many times that way. Also use of compression and gating of both the snare and bass drum can also be monumentally important. That tightens everything up a lot and your overheads become the primary sound of the entire drum kit that way. That's why they are so important.

And then there's equalization to contend with. Many drums end up sounding rather boxy. That's awful sounding. A lot of that can be easily remedied with a small dip down between 200-400 Hz. And then you could also add some midrange and/or high-frequency boost to bring up overall brightness. But be careful with that as that can be easily over done which would yield a virtually unlistenable drum set recording. Sounds cool at first and especially through headphones. You end up with outrageous ear fatigue in just a few minutes.

And always remember, an ounce of punch is worth a pound of sound.
Mx. Remy Ann David

Davedog Thu, 02/23/2012 - 05:38
Close micing toms is dependent on how much work will be done on them. An occasional hit as an accent will dictate not really 'needing' to mic them, but a lot of work, rolls, fills, might want to.

Old Ludwig drums are quite dry sounding. This will be good for recording. The decay on the drums will be subject to the heads being used and the tension. Moongel and rings to tame stuff and keep the tone and impact.

If you want a more focused sound use the overheads in an X/Y configuration and the room mic above and behind the drummer. This will make the set more 'mono' sounding which can be very good depending on the sound of the tracks.

Schedule the drummer a day before the band and give it a test. Move mics. Have fun.

RemyRAD Thu, 02/23/2012 - 14:09
You get the proper balance when the overheads are of the right height. And that all depends upon the space you are in. Besides, you'll always want to hear more snap from the snare drum then the ring from the tom-toms. When the acoustic space is small and tight, I'll generally run overheads lower. When you have a large acoustic space, you can go higher which then may require the individual mics on the tom-toms for proper tonality. And with the greater height, far less chance of phasing problems when they become more than 6 feet away in height from the tom-toms. But that usually isn't quite as successful in smaller rooms with 8 feet of height floor to ceiling. That's when the gates come into play and out and in and out and in. But again that's not always true 100% of the time. It's a careful balancing act on the high wire. But you'll need that long pole, for proper balancing otherwise, you'll just fall to your death. And the same will hold true for your drums. That's why folks are suggesting just a pair of the overheads along with kick and snare. I've made fabulous sounding recordings of drums that way. It's ridiculously easy then to obtain a quality recording with plenty of clarity and punch.

I like the alcoholic punch best.
Mx. Remy Ann David


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