Recording Drums – Miking Techniques Part 1
Recording drums can be one of the hardest things when recording a band. Many people are unsure what to do and how to go about it. Although when recording drums mic placement and choice is a big issue, the biggest issue of all is how good the drummer places. ie a solid drummer is going to be alot easier to record than someone who plays loose and out of time.
Lets talk about how to mic a kick drum. The kick drum is a solid focal point behind the drums with a low end frequency that in some context establishes the beat of the song. for this reason kick drum mics are large with a low end frequency range. In terms of mic placement the mic needs to be placed inside the kick drum. This means that unless the front skin has a hole in it, it should be removed! Once you have removed the front skin place the mic about 12” away from the beater, slightly off-center and pointing directly at it (Placing it directly in-front of the beater means that it is the path of the sound and puts the mic under alot of pressure). Use this mic placement if you want a nice precise and punchy sound. If you want a more open sound bring the mic further away from the beater – just on the outside of the drum. A good choice of mic generaly is the AKG D112 and Sennheiser 421, I also find that the shure kick drum mics work great. In terms of miking a kick drum these are general guidelines and you should experiment with you mic placement since the sound depends alot on the person playing the drums.
With The snare drum the hardest thing is placing the mic in the right spot since there is little room. When you position it try and place it 1” in from the rim, 2-3” above it, facing to the center of the drum at 45 degrees and facing directly away from the hi-hat. Facing the mic away from the hi-hat means that you minimise the amount of hi-hat coming through that mic (if you still get alot of hi-hat coming through the snare mic try and put a round peace of foam around the mic). If you find the snare sound is not cutting through than consider miking the bottom of the snare drum as well, if you do decide to do this remember to reverse the phase on the bottom mic. In terms of mic choice the shure sm57 is a great it has been used by many great engineers in the past and still is. It is a relitivly cheap mic but still function as good or better than other mics more expensive. There are many other good snare mics out there and you should try them out to find what best works for you.