When performing or recording miking your instruments is one of the most important jobs. Without a proper miking you are robbing your audience of all you have to give them. Miking your drums can be particularly challenging. Here are the basics to miking your drums.  Before you begin take a glance at the vocabulary and Drum Kit Diagram at the bottom of the page. 

Are Mics Even Needed?

Before you start the hassle of miking your drums ask yourself if you need too. Pay attention to the size of the room you are in and what you are currently doing. Is it necessary? Also ask yourself if your PA system can handle it. If you believe your drums sound clear enough, use your best judgement and decide whether or not the hassle is worth it. But if miking your drums is needed and 9/10 times it will be, here are some useful methods.

Two Types of Mics

Dynamic: You can rest easy when using these mics to record a clear, clean sound and can withstand high sound pressure levels. They shine their brightest when miking loud sound sources like guitar and bass amplifiers, and drum kits without any form of distortion or damage. The mic also built for quieter settings. The mic is good at picking up mid-range and is sturdy enough to take a few miss-hits. The majority of dynamic mics reject sounds coming from behind them in addition to boosting bottom-end when placed close to the object producing the sound.

Condenser: These mics are great for capturing precision in the studio. This method of recording does require power and will need a mixer or direct box with phantom power. The drum you are attempting to record using a condenser mic will get the job done as long as the sound pressure levels aren’t too high. Condenser mics also tend to be more sensitive than dynamic mics because of the low mass of their moving parts. Condenser mics are good for recording drums, although dynamic mics are great and preferred by the professionals

How Many Mics

How many microphones you place on your kit depends on the number of mixer channels available. If you only have the capacity for one mic, you can use the one mic method. There are three locations for this method: room mic, drummer’s perspective mic, and front kit mic. The room mic is about 10 feet away from the kit and captures more of the character of the room along with a distant sound. The front kit mic is 2 feet from the kit and 4 feet up capturing the most powerful, “boomy” sound. And finally the drummer’s perspective is considered the logical and similar to the front kit. The mic should be a few inches away from the kit and 4 feet above, peering over. This will capture the clearest sound possible with the one mic method. If you have invested in a few opinions for the ideal set up.

The Whole Kit

For recording the whole kit you will need at least have 2 ambient mics on the drums. These are called Overhead mics, because they are placed over the kit. There are two methods for placing these mic. The first method is X-Y. These are placed about 2 feet above the cymbals, placed side by side, and are aimed in opposite directions. The other method doesn’t have an official name. Both mics are placed on opposite ends of the kit and are angled down. They should be 3 to 6 feet apart and 2 feet above cymbals.

Kick Drum

There are three different ways to mic your kick drum. The first method is putting the mic inside the drum head. There are two ways you can do this. One, you take off the head to place the mic inside. Two, you create a hole to put the mic in. The mic should be a good 2 to 3 inches away from the drum head and a inch or two off center to produce a nice sharp audio beat.

The next method is placing the mic halfway in the drum. Make sure that the mic is somewhere close to the center of the kick drum and is aimed towards the spot where the beater hits the drum. This will record the overall body of the drum.

The third method is placing the mic outside of the drum and will record a boom sound. To do this you will place it roughly 3 inches away from the head and aim it towards the center of the head.

Snare

To mic a snare is very simple. Place your mic above the snare and be sure to point it towards the center. Using the three finger rule, make sure the mic is at a good distance. This will ensure to capture a clean sound with each hit.

Tom-Toms

There are two different toms to record, floor toms and rack toms. For rack toms you can record with one mic and if you can spare another, two mics. If you are only using one make sure your mic is roughly 5 inches away from the rims. If you are using 2 mics then you should have your mic 2 to 3 inches away from each rim. For floor toms the same applies. Place your mic a couple inches away from your rim and if you have more than one floor tom place your mic in between the two.

Hi-Hats

Hi-Hats are a little different. They should be recorded with a condenser mic pointed down to ensure a clear cut sound. Many don’t deem miking the Hi-hat’s necessary because it gets picked up by your other mics. If you are going to mic your Hi-hat’s do your best to use a noise gate on other mics to ensure they don’t pick up the sound.  

Conclusion

Do what works the best for you and trust your best judgement. If something doesn’t sound right, move your mic around. Don’t judge your equipment off of what you see in this article. Use this article as a guide and slowly make adjustments to your needs. Good luck to all the drummers out there and make some music.

 

Vocabulary

  • Size of the Room: This will affect the sound produced by the drums.
  • PA system: A public address system (PA system) is an electronic sound amplification and distribution system with a microphone, amplifier and loudspeakers, used to allow a person to speak to a large public.
  • Mixers: Subgroup Channels. Larger sound desks usually have a set of subgroups, which provide a way to sub-mix groups of channels before they are sent to the main output mix. For example, you might have 10 input channels for the drum mics which are assigned to 2 subgroup channels, which in turn are assigned to the master mix.

Full Drum Kit Diagram

drum-2

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