Drum Micíing Techniques†††



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†††††† There are about as many ways to record a drum kit as there are drummersójust kidding. Seriously, there are quite a few techniques that are used to record drums from using one microphone to more than a dozen (sometimes two). They all have their own niche as far as what kind of sound you want to get. Letís start from one and work our way up.

†††††† With one microphone, you want to isolate the drummer from everyone else (not a bad idea in any case) and have him/her play in a live room. The microphone should large diaphragm condenser situated directly in front of the drummer and about 3-4 feet above the cymbals. Realize that thereís not much you can do with this track after you record it other than some equalization so make sure youíre getting what you want before you track. This technique results in a honest, live sound.

†††††† The two microphone technique gives you a little bit more control. You can chose to use the second microphone to record either the snare or the kick drum depending on what you want to emphasize. Again, there wonít be a lot you can do with the overall sound of the kit but if you do it right, you wonít need to.

†††††† Three microphones will allow you to record the kick drum and the snare and the overall sound of the kit† or you can have two overheads with a mic for either the kick or the snare.† Four micís allow you to get a stereo image of the kit by using two overhead microphones. Place these carefully and use condenser micís. Large diaphragm micís will give a warmer sound and pick up more of the room while small diaphragm micís tend to ďsizzleĒ more and are more focused. Earthworks has a microphone bundle that has a kick microphone with a special inline bass filter and two small diaphragm condensers that they claim are all you need to† mike a drum kit.

†††††† When you get past four micís, the choices open up as to which drums and cymbals will get their own mic. If you have two mounted toms, you can generally place a mic between them and get a decent result. The same applies with floor toms. This will take six micís.

†††††† With eight microphones, each drum can have itís own microphone. The hi-hat is picked up from the overheads and somewhat from the snare mic.

†††††† If youíve got unlimited channels and microphones and the time to set them up properly, you can really go crazy. Iíve seen upwards of 16 micís on a kit. Typically, you would have a mic for the top and the bottom of the snare and the same for the hi-hat. In addition to the overheads, you also have room micís and individual microphones for each cymbal.

†††††† In any case, when you are mixing a drum kit, the overheads should be the base that the mix sits on. Any individual drums/cymbals should be brought in to add color to the sound. Keep in mind that when you are compressing a snare track, the snare from the overhead is not compressed and the balance between the two still has to lean toward the overheads. Same with the kick.

†††††† Micíing a drum kit is the most difficult skill to master of all the recording engineerís skills. Doing it correctly is absolutely imperative because a poorly micíed kit can ruin a track. Remember, the drums and bass guitar are foundation of the whole song so take your time to do it correctly. Thereís no such thing as fixing it in the mix.