If you had to record a drum set using only two mics...

Discussion in 'Drums' started by Guitarfreak, Aug 8, 2010.

  1. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Let's say it is a basic nothing special drum set (drummers don't kill me) and you had to mic it up but you only had two SM57s and two channels to work with, how would you do it? Would you put one mic on the kick and one mic on the snare and let the rest of the set bleed over. Would you use both mics as over heads in a stereo pattern and sacrifice close miking the two most important elements of the mix? Something else?
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Depends on the song and the genre. With most of the folk or jazz stuff I record I'd go with two mics in recorderman configuration. (Yeah, I'd definitely prefer condensers.) Since it is 57s I'd consider putting them in xy in front of the kit. (Depends on the room.) And yes, for some songs, one on the snare, one on the kick - positioned to pick up more bleed than usual.

    BTW, xy in front of the kit is my favorite festival/battle of the bands/quick change live technique. Not going to make a crappy kit (or drummer) something that it's not - but it is what it is.
  3. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Thanks. Where would you put the xy pair, pretty close to the set or further away? What would you point the mics at? About the xy configuration: 90 degrees, tighter, or wider? I know it's mostly arbitrary, but I'd just like to know if you have a personal preference on the matter.
  4. JasonAlanJohnson

    JasonAlanJohnson Active Member

    Jul 21, 2010
    I would definitely capture the performance using the mics as overheads. Then, I would record a sample of each individual drum. Then, I would layer the samples underneath my overhead tracks in my DAW. It is tedious and time consuming, but the best way to get a good drum sound with mic and channel limitations. You will have to layer each snare, each kick, and so on.
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Contrary to Jason's pain staking views...

    I'd go sell the 2 57's and get a decent entry level ribbon like a Cascade and do a mono front of kit. Setting the mic about 4 feet in front of the kit, and a coupla' inches over the top of the toms... pointing generally on an angle to the snare top. (but the key is to actually listen to the sounds of the kit as you move the mic to get the optimal sound for the genre' you're recording.)

    Track it mono... duplicate the track twice... eq the top off, squeeze the fool out of the track, then take the 2nd dupe, chop the low end out and use that for an OH track, the roll out the bottom and mid harshness of the original track... blend to taste and call it done.

    A whole lot easier if you ask me... and I would bet that in most cases, it'd sound more natural, cleaner and far more believable, as a coupla' dozen times faster.
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  6. Shadow_7

    Shadow_7 Active Member

    Mar 22, 2010
    If we were talking best two mics on a budget. I'd probably say 2x MXL 603's. Or 2x Kel HM7u's depending on the budget. As far as just two mics not in a room ambiance configuration... Are we talking just two drums? snare + ride cymbal (or high hat)? Or a full set that would typically take 8+ channels to mic in it's entirety? Does the drummer favor the right hand or left? Traditional or matched? Lot's of variables in there. What's your goal? Honest capture of the event? Or enough editing potential to make a drum god out of a regular joe?
  7. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    I've used the very same mic in the same manner Max describes. Not as a mono, all-of-the-kit mic,
    but as an alternative/addition to other kit micing techniques.

    Placed in the manner he describes, I find you get a lot of meat of the kit, and still plenty of cymbals.
    And with the typically smoother high end of a ribbon, the cymbals aren't harsh.
    I usually do the uber-compression and nuclear LPF as he describes, and bring it in to my normal drum mix (2xOH, Kick, Snare, Room, and maybe toms) to make for a thumpin' kit.

    I know you're on a budget, but I'll offer this:
    About a year or so ago, I bought a pair of the Cascade Fathead IIs and got a pair of M39 SDCs as a throw-in.
    Forget exactly what I paid, but it was well under $500 for 4 very servicable microphones. I believe I paid around $300 for the two pairs, but I don't want to misrepresent. Cascade always offers nice deals of some sort.

    Depending on the style/purpose, my M39s beat out my 414s for OH mics.
    And they ALWAYS beat out my 603s, which were my first pair of SDCs.
    Plus they make great stereo acoustic guitar mics and work well as spot mics on other acoustic instruments and random percussion. The ribbons get used for horns, room mics, guitar cabs, and female vocalists.
    That's an awful lot of sources and choices for 4 microphones.
    Are they Neumann's or Beyers? No. But they'll remain in my locker even when I have my lust list complete.

    Again, I know you're not looking to spend, but a pair of decent ribbons and decent SDCs would serve you well and free up those 57s for sources meant for them.
    Now you can (theoretically) use the SDCs for OHs and a ribbon as FOK mic for a nice kit sound, add the 57s for snare and kick if desired. Or keep it simple and have two 57s and ribbon left to play with. Just don't put the ribbon mic inside the kick.

    Be aware that both pairs (from whatever manufacturer) can be had for relatively cheap, and still be a worthwhile investment.

    Hope that helps.
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Thanks for the recommendation on mics. I guess everyone pretty much expressed a dislike for 57's in this usage. I may be able to justify a Fathead II because I can use it for acoustic guitar and guitar cab as well. I'd get a pair of condensers for overheads, but I just don't track drums that much, they would sit around with no use. Could I use one Fathead II and one 57 in M/S pattern? Or should I stick to just one FH like Max said? Would you place the mic longways to the set or with one side pointing directly at the set?
  9. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Not to derail the thread too far... but a 414 is a good mic on everything, but it's not a GREAT mic on ANYTHING. It's the Swiss Army knife of microphones. Everyone should have a pair. When you get a pair, they're your "go to" for a pretty good while, and end up in most mic lockers as the "go to" mic when you run out of other mic's that you dedicate to other purposes and you have the need to capture extra tracks... like a string quartet you hadn't counted on, stereo pair for aux percussion, the banjo you hadn't counted on, etc...

    Back OT...

    Don't get me wrong, I like 57's. If I didn't, I wouldn't own half a dozen, would I? They're great mic's for a LOT of things. With 6 SM57's, I could record an entire album, and it would be as good as anything else I've recorded... it would most likely just take a lot longer to get what I wanted as a final product. (depending on genre' of music I was recording)

    My point about alternate mic's was to encourage you (et al) to stop thinking of being limited with two mic's and two channels/tracks.

    As a recordist, you should think past the rule that you have to close mic ANYTHING. Close mic-ing is a "new" trend and fad. Sure, it's appropriate when you want that sound, but there isn't any rule that says you have to record that way.

    The only rule is that there are NO RULES! Well... there is one rule I try to live by... DO WHAT SERVES THE SONG!

    Back in the 30's, 40's and 50's, there was only mono, and usually, there was only one track. In those days, they could track an entire big band or full orchestra with only ONE mic... a ribbon... and some of those recording still stand up to today's standards. So, how did they do it?

    They listened with their ears to what was happening in the room, and placed the mic where it would capture what was the "best" sound in the room. Nothing has changed, except that lots of engineers have gotten lazy and have never fully understood that it's their JOB to actually use the six inches between their ears to find the appropriate solution to the recording that serves the song.

    I've tracked a six piece drum kit with as few as one mic, and with as many as 20 mic's/tracks. So, thinking things through and determining that you have to do this, or gotta' do that, because "Randy Random" got a Grammy doing it this way, is a disservice to your client... and to learning and executing the craft of recording.

    Use your ears, and the physics involved with enclosures and sound sources to expand your abilities.

    Room boundaries are where low frequencies build up. So, stick your head/ears in every square inch of your room... and LISTEN!

    You might find a spot where the kick is absolutely killa' and the snare is perfectly balanced. Listen all around the kit. You'll hear spots where phase cancels different things out.

    You might try thinking past "I got two 57's and two tracks... I gotta use em' in a stereo pair."

    Granted, you aren't likely to have a stone castle with 50' halls and 3 story stairwells, but the "legendary" Bonham sound was really mono recording of the drums in the environment.

    Maybe a 57 in the kick and some condenser over the drummer's shoulder in a modified Glenn Johns is the answer. Maybe a 57 on the snare will do it. You might want to try a 57 nestled between the floor tom and the kick, pointing at the batter with another 57 on the ride bell.

    There is no correct answer to give you, other than LISTEN, and serve the song with what is appropriate.

    As an example, I'm getting ready to track a 3 piece rockabilly band. We're discussing the possibility to tracking the entire album with one or two mic's... period.

    I plan on trying a single ribbon in the room, and another condenser outside the room (in the tiled bathroom), as a natural verb/delay. It might work, it might not. But we're going to experiment to see what serves the song. Heck, we might end up close micing everything and using 48 tracks. It doesn't matter to me, but I find that using fewer tracks allows me to actually be free to expand my skills and really capture the true essence of the music...

    Limiting your tracks and mic's isn't confining... it's liberating!

  10. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Awesome advice Max. Your initial post did just that, I didn't think about limiting it to a single mic or even doing different takes with different mic setups. That's a stroke of genius, granted the drummer has to be on the tip top of his game for that to work.

    This is all just up in the air for right now, a buddy of mine quickly mentioned drum tracking and I told him I really don't have the setup for it, but that I would do some research. My bedroom is far too small to track drums, but if I take my DAW into the basement we could be looking at a setup that is very similar to a 50' Cement castle haha! Looks like I will have to keep my credit card under lockdown so if this drum thing does become a reality I can jump on a Fathead II, always liked that mic on guitar anyway. I am thinking of saving up for the one with the upgrade transformer.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    OMG! Here is another thought that actually works rather well. You want stereo drums right? So you'd think that overheads would be the way to go? They're not. Cymbals make enough of a racket that you don't need them overhead. I've used this many times and it works rather well. Set the microphones on either side of the drum set on the floor, flat on the floor. You'll get a great stereo drum kit with plenty of cymbals and also plenty of bass drum. Your Toms will sound killer and your snare drum will most decidedly have a heavier high-end thwack. Lie the microphones on something soft like a little square of carpet or piece of foam.

    Of course the old-fashioned way would be one on the kick and one overhead. And arrange that overhead to adjust your balance. After all you don't want just snare or just some toms. But the Cymbal gaggle could be too intense that way. There is nothing I hate worse than too much cymbals. I want to hear the drums THE DRUMS cymbals are just an accoutrement to the drums not the other way around. This technique actually came from utilizing PZM microphones. I love those. I've miced an entire drum set with PZMs. One in front of the kick. 2 on either side. 2 above & behind and my lavalier/tie tack PZM right on the drummer in the middle of his chest. Great for jazz. Pretty cool for rock 'n roll also. And yes, Crown did make a lavalier tie tack PZM. Particularly effective when recording jazz.

    Don't forget to stick one up his ass also
    Mx. Remy and David
  12. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Interesting, sounds very artistic. 57's would be fine for this then? Did you mean to literally put them at the sides of the set? Or off to the sides and in front of the set? I'd assume that the tips of the mics would hang over whatever lift material you rest them on yes?

    A PZM strapped to a man's chest sounds like it would result in a very hi-fi stethoscope sound. lol

    Does anyone have a recommendation for the Fathead II stock vs. upgrade tranny?
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