Tip & How-To about Music

Studio Recording at Home; Part Deux

This tip, continuing the series of Home Studio Recording, focuses on the hardest part of accomplishing this feat: Drums.

A big sound killer on 'budget' recordings is poorly recorded drums. There is a remedy, though. If you have one set of drum mics, buy another (or borrow. This will come into play later, though).

If you have clips that hold them on the drums, great. With the two sets, you'll only use half of the clips. For the rest of the mics, you'll want stands. You'll need one stand for each drum, plus six.

The dual mics serve this purpose: To capture the sound of the whole drum. One mic for the batter head (the side you hit), and one for the resonator (the side you don't).

For the batter head, you'll use the mic clips, and attach the mics as you normally would during playing. For the resonator head, use the stands to position the mic directly across the drum, making a straight line from the top of the drum to the bottom. This will help eliminate any voicing differences, which can be a real headache.

For the bass drum, you'll need 2 stands. Position the batter head mic close to the edge of the head on whatever side is easiest to access, but is also comfortable for your playing style.

Aim the mic so that it is pointed at a midway point between the center of the head and the edge. You can experiment with different spots, but be sure to NEVER let the mic be directly in front of the head.
For the bass resonator head (the front one that everybody sees), position the mic so that it is a mirror image of the batter mic. Once again, this gets rid of voicing problems.

You have just miked your drum kit, but what about cymbals? That's where the other 4 mics and stands come into play. Those 4 will take care of:

Hi-hats

Ride

Overheads

For the hi-hats, you'll want to position the mic about 3-5 inches from the top, and 2-4 inches from the side. It's best to come in from the outside of the kit, so that you'll pick up a bit of ambiance (the rest of the kit, as well as some natural reverb). Point the mic at a point close to midway between the bell and edge of the hats. Too close to the edge, and you'll get a sound similar to banging trash can lids together. Too close to the bell, and there's too much high-mid noise that CANNOT be reduced with an EQ.

For the ride, follow the same instructions for the hi-hats, but add about 2 inches to the distances. Aim the mic a little closer to the center as well, so that the mic will pick up any bell hits. A good spot is 1/4 the distance between the bell and edge.

Now for overheads. These are the mics that not only record the cymbals, but pick up the most ambiance.

NOTICE: I haven't already mentioned it, but you do NOT want to record with the drum kit up against a wall, nor do you want it in the center of the room. For best results, use the midway rule (as with placing mics on drums and cymbals, place the kit midway between the center of the room and the edge, preferably headed towards a corner). This will reduce unwanted echoes in the room due to sound reflection.

You will want to place the overheads about 1.5 feet above the highest cymbal. Space them out so that the entire kit is between them, but be sure to keep them evenly spaced. You'll want to use the snare as a midway marker for the placement of overhead mics, since it is your loudest drum, and more likely to be picked up in the overheads than any other drum. This will also keep the snare panned center (you'll be panning the drums out to the left and right later on the mixer, but the snare and bass stay center).

These are some guidelines for setting up mics for recording drums at home. I hope that helps, and stay tuned for Part Trés of Home Studio Recording.

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