Tech Tip:Drum miking overview
By Dennis Kambury
Miking any individual instrument is a study in balance - technique, gear, and ear must all harmonize to create the sound in the producer's head. Miking drums can take this concept to extremes, giving an enormous amount of control (and responsibility) to the engineer. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll examine some of the methods used to record drums and percussion. In this installment we'll introduce basic techniques used to record drum sets.
Let's look at the big picture, sonically speaking. To capture the essence of a performance, you need nothing more than a pair of high-quality condenser mics (e.g. AKG C-414 or Neumann TLM-103), a great sounding room, and a good drummer. Place the mics (generally cardioid pattern) in an X-Y configuration about 10' away from the kit, and adjust the height to balance the overall sound of the drums. There are no hard and fast rules - it all depends on your room, the drummer's technique, and your mics. The advantage to this approach is that it gives the drums a chance to "bloom," blending the sound a bit and gathering some room tone in the process. It also captures the true performance of the drummer, so it's important that they play with balance and accuracy - it's a lot harder to fix this in the mix. Another basic stereo option is to place the mics in an overhead configuration using:
...a spaced pair,
...an X-Y configuration,
...or M/S configuration.
(You can learn more about these techniques in Tech Tips - Recording Your Acoustic Guitar, Part). You'll be rewarded with a focused center, good stereo separation, and minimal phase issues.
More to come
With a simple stereo setup, you can capture a powerful, dynamic performance. The magic is in the mics you use, and where you place them. In our next installment, we'll look at miking individual drums.