Tech Tip:Miking Drums (Part 3): FAQ

spacerPart 1 |Part 2 | Part 3 |Part 4



Miking Drums (Part 3) FAQ


How do I get the hi-hat under control? I've used close mics and it's still too loud.
Hi-hat bleed is the bane of all recordings. There are precious few drummers who have any control over their right hands. Drummers often buy the loudest hats they can find, thinking that this is somehow more "exciting." I look for softer cymbals, ask the drummer not to hit as hard (though only if they're able to do this and still keep the right energy and groove), and see if there's another way to orchestrate the song using less hat.


Failing that, I get a pair of light leather gloves and tape them together at the wrist, then slide them over the hi-hat post so they just rest on the bell of the hat. This lowers the volume a bit without killing the sound. I've also taped a 6" diameter conical cardboard shield around the end of the snare mic, with the large end just shy of the mic capsule. You' ll need to play with this arrangement to keep the snare sounding decent, but it helps. Then apply a noise gate to the snare mic, but not while tracking - only in mixdown.


Why do my room mics sound washy and vague?
Room mics are wonderful things in that they make the drums sound real, and they pick up the resonance of the room and the subtleties of the drummer's performance. But for the same reasons they can also be problematic. Poorly tuned drums, a splashy, overly live room and a bad performance will sound all the more stark in the room mics. It's generally a good idea to pad a room down with some blankets on the walls and some pieces of carpet on the floor to make the room itself more manageable. Go a little more "dead" (more padding) than you think necessary, but don't kill all the reverb in the room. Then try a little compression and a little extra low frequency boost on the mics and listen to it come alive while still tight and present. Also, make sure somebody knows how to tune the drums! Listen to how they sound in the room. If the kick isn't fat, TUNE IT. And if the drummer just plain sucks, lay down a click track first and sequence the whole mess at a later date.


What is the "note" of the snare drum?

Like every drum in the kit, the snare has a pitch associated with it, which is a function of its tuning, its heads, and its size. Lots of drummers try to tune the snare very high to make the note relatively weak by comparison to the crack of the drum, but the note is still gonna be there. Where there's a pitch, there's the potential for mega-dissonance, making your sweet love song into an ode to aspirin. Make sure the pitch of the drum is tuned to a note that's consonant with the key of the song. To make the note easier to hear, you can push up a handful of midrange EQ (around 900 - 1500 Hz) while tuning. Remember, the snare is likely to be one of the loudest things in the mix, so it has to be right. On the other hand, you can probably get away with odd tom notes.


Copyright ©2001 Douglas B. Henderson



Part 1 |Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4