Help w/ recording drums

Discussion in 'Drums' started by esthar, May 19, 2007.

  1. esthar

    esthar Guest

    Hi guys,

    I'm sure a few of you have had experience w/ different micing techniques for drums, and was wondering if you could offer any advice. I have three microphones(right now I can't afford much more) a Shure SM57, SM58, and, a Rode NTK. Obviously this is not the most ideal set up but I'm looking for a great 1960's drum sound. For the most part I seem to achieve this, but have a hard time controlling the cymbals in the mix. They often tend to be much to loud(even if I change my playing dynamic) and give off a biting shrill sound. I'm looking for a shimmer that's not to loud, I'd really like the cymbals to be barely noticeable. The cymbals I'm currently using is a set of Sabian XS crash/ride, XS regular crash, and a set of XS hi-hats. The cymbal setup is modest, but unfortunately not ideal. I have a Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz kit, and have no prior knowledge on recording drums.

    Are there any effective mic placement techniques you could offer?

    Is there any unique techniques to control cymbal volume?

    Techniques differ from today, but what types of mic set ups would they use to record drums in the 1960's?

    I'm aiming for something modelled after Hal Blaine or Ringo Starr. If that helps. Something so subtle you almost don't notice them.
  2. If an amateur, so take all my advice with a grain of salt. There are a lot of better people on here than me, but I've gotten some good results before.

    I would suggest taping the cymbals with a thin strip of duct tape from the center to the edge. Use more or less as needed to en the harshness. This will en the sound, and will kill that sharp sounding edge. If you overdo it, it can sound kind of muffled, but I've had pretty good results so far with it.

    I would suggest taking the pop filter of the 58, and underneath it's basically a 57.

    Take the front head off your kick, and then put a small pillow with a heavey rock or weight so it muffles the kick a bit. Use the 57 off center a bit and experiment- closer gets more of the click, and farther out gets more of the impact. put the other 57 on the snare. you can tune out the resonant "poing" sound by making small donuts of duct tape and placing them on the edges of the snare head one at a time. You might only need 1 little one to get the sound you're after.

    Tuning the kit will make a big difference too.

    I would run your NTk over the drums as an overhead.

    John Bonham's sound only used three mics. A lot of traditional jazz is recorded that way as well, and I wouldn't see having less mics as a really limiting factor. I've found that having 8 mics on a kit can cause monstrous phase cancellation issues that can really weaken the overall sound if you're not careful.

    You can try using EQ on your drums after they're on tape.

    Check out some of john vestman's articles on That's where most of my ideas are from.
  3. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    Feb 26, 2005
    North Carolina, USA
    It could be the cymbals causing the main problem. Modern cymbals with a bright, even harsh tone, made for modern rock music. Any way you could borrow some older Zildjian A's or something like them to test out?

    As for mic'ing, I'd put the NTK over the drums, the 58 on the kick, and the 57 on snare. Try this...Put the NTK behind you as you sit at the kit, sort of looking over your right shoulder (assuming you're right handed), and aiming toward the center of the kit, not at the cymbals, but more down toward your kick leg. You can adjust what it picks up...if you need more floor tom, angle it slightly more towards the floor tom. The key here may be not having the mic over the cymbals, but behind the drums, sort of where it hears what you hear. Good luck! Andy
  4. DavidMoore10

    DavidMoore10 Guest

    Those three mic's mic be a bit hard to record with.

    Especially for a beginner. The best advice I can give, is if you are only using three mic's... like those... you ought to try to record in the best room you can possibly find. Something that's big and live. Some people like dead rooms, but the 60's room, you probably will be good with a big live room. Wood floors, like a church hall. Put one mic on the snare. And use the other two as room mics, overhead's.

    Just my 2 cents, and my experience.
  5. esthar

    esthar Guest

    Thanks for all the info guys. Luckily I live in a loft, with big wide open spaces, so I've sorta already achieved that echo chamber-esque feel. I'll take all of your suggestions and update you on what works best.

    I was looking at some old pictures of Charlie Watts and Hal Blaine in 60's studio's and they only had one or two Neumann mics on the as an overhead. Is there something I'm missing? Would a good compressor help?

    BROKENBONES Active Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Home Page:
    then you should close mic more. the more mics you hang on the kit the greater control you'll have.
    i'm micing hats and underneath the snare these days.
    taping the cymbals will only get you so far. deaden the room a bit too.
  7. averose

    averose Guest

    I'm not sure what your recording situation is in the way of software and such, but assuming you're recording into a computer at some point, have you tried a bit of EQ?

    You should be able to easily roll of the high frequencies, just be careful you don't start cutting into the snare. It should take away the shrillness. EQ can easily make things sound better, and it can easily make them sound like crap. Don't know until you try.
  8. Kent L T

    Kent L T Active Member

    Oct 28, 2003
    Home Page:
    Well this may sound kind of obvious but try not to whack the cymbals too hard cause they are going to cut through easier than anything else on the set......except maybe a cowbell, :p Cause the eq thing I think will be more detrimental than helpful. The only other thing that will help is mic placement. There is a good, make that great post somewhere in these forums on drum miking techniques. I have saved it on my computer for reference it goes into limited mic techniques. I will help you a lot understanding the different ways a drum kit can be miked.
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    In a word (or two) Cheap, soft cymbals. Stamped . Wuhans, basically crap. Something that will decay fast fast fast. Especially in a lofted room with its own set of decay. Drumists' suggestion of mic placement is right on the money. ( Great call Andy!). Dont worry about the cymbals not being bright enough or having that 'sheen'....your Rode mic will take care of that. Take the front head off your kick and dampen it. Moon gel on the snare. Due to the limitations of the equipment, you are now having to make the physics of the room and the drums themselves work for you.

    Just like we did it in the 'old days'.
  10. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    Feb 26, 2005
    North Carolina, USA
    Hey, thanks Davedog! I learned that from experience...mic'ing drums with one Groove Tubes mic...sounded pretty cool actually! Andy
  11. Ringo's drum sound = hours of tuning + orchestral live room + Geoff Emerick + many other brilliant, faceless EMI assistant engineers + Telefunken mics + Fairchild Compressor + Ringo frkng Star.

    That said, I'm in the same boat as esthar: limited mic selection and little outboard gear. I'm tracking in a big, bright room to a 2", with only one vintage stereo compressor (Urei 1178) to pass signal through before it hits the board.

    So what goes to the front of the tape here--the actual sound of the drums, the way they're tuned, and the way they sound in the room--is suddenly really very important.

    Close-micing and a combination of drumist's placement of the overhead mic is your best bet at being able to control the level of your cymbal volume, short of having to play them unnaturally (which will sound weird, as cymbals are for emphasis, right?).

    So, does anyone have any further ideas about this?
  12. deluxe74

    deluxe74 Guest

    I seem to get a better sound when I mic my drums on the bottoms of them. Toms too.
  13. SBTStudios

    SBTStudios Guest


    I firmly believe it comes down to the drummer and how the kit is prepared for the session. If the kit sounds good, and the drummer is good I feel you won't need any to little compression, maybe just some EQ and some reverb. I've been playing and tuning drums for over 12 years. I know every single drum head combination to make it work. I know what wood's work better in the studio. I constantly tune the drums before and during the session. With that being said, I've always had a killer drum sound in my small home studio, but have only been recording for a couple of years. If anybody wants to email me for some drum tips I'd be happy to reply.

    But some small things to keep in check...make sure the drummer hits the snare and kick hard and the cymbals not so much (bonham).

    I personally double mic all the drums and have an xy setup for 2 overheads. I like a bass w/ no port in the front. I use an audix d6 for the batter side, and a audix i5 for the resonant head 6 inches away.
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