Lesson 44

Recording Drums

Drums are one of the most challenging instruments to record. You need good acoustics, Several input channels, and a bunch of microphones.
I’m covering this in 2 lessons. This lesson is if you have no limitations on available channels and microphones. The next lesson is on using less microphones to capture the kit.
So what situations would you want more microphones or less microphones? Well, the advantage of having more microphones is to capture some of the more subtle elements of the kit, and give the mixing engineer more control to blend these in. This is more important in a dense mix that has lots of tracks, or heavy guitars, where these elements can get drowned out. 
If it is a soft song, or doesn’t have a lot of parts conflicting to be heard, then less mics are just fine. 

In a basic setup, you’ll have a mic on the kick, snare, each Tom, and a pair of condensers as overheads. So if you have 3 toms, that’s 7 mics in total. The iSK dsm7a drum mic kit is designed for this basic setup.
While this basic setup is good, quite often the Hihat and the ride will not get picked up very well by the overheads, and could get lost in the mix. So some people like to put a mic on the hi hat and ride. That gives the mixing engineer more control and flexibility to get the volume of those parts just right. Also, the most popular place to put the kick mic is at the back of the kick drum, which captures the low frequencies really well, but doesn’t really get the click that adds punch to it. Some people like to place another mic in the front of the kick drum to capture that high frequency click. Again, that gives the mixing engineer the control to adjust how much of that is heard.

Also, some people like to place a mic on the bottom of the snare. That picks up the snare rattling, and more of the crack on a snare hit. 

So, if you have a mic on the kick front and back, snare top and bottom, 3 toms, hihat, ride and 2 overheads, that’s 11 microphones in total, which will require 11 preamps and 11 input channels on your recording interface. Do you really need that many, mo, but it is helpful to have the control during mixdown. The next lesson, 3.4 will cover using less microphones.

An important consideration when using lots of microphones is bleed formo the rest of the kit. This bleed will cause phase issues with the other parts of the kit. see lesson 1.3.2 for more information on phase. To minimize this problem you want as good of isolation as possible on each drum mic. This is achieved mostly in the placement, but also in the polar pattern response of the microphone. See lesson 1.9 on microphone polar patterns.
Generally, you’ll want to place the mics as close as possible, and pointed in a direction to get the best rejection of the rest of the kit.
So for instance, when placing the snare mic, i know that this microphone is cardioid, so it’s best rejection is directly behind it. So I’m going aim the back of the mic at the high hat directly above it to minimize the sound of the hi hat in this mic. 

Now let’s look at microphone placement, and different types of microphones, and hear how it sounds.

Kick mic in the hole, beside the hole, kick mic inside the drum
Bdm1 on kick, 2b Beauty on kick,
TDM 1 on the front of kick
TDM1 on top of the snare
TDM1 on bottom of snare
Compare how the close up sounds with the overhead ribbons and overhead condensers
TDM1 vs pearl on hi hat and ride
Compare different placements on hi hat and ride
Compare TDM1 and pearl on toms
Compare TDM1 and pearl on snare

And let’s also take a listen to how the bleed from microphones impacts the overall sound.
There’s ways to reduce this in the mixing though, so check out lesson 4.3.2 on mixing drums.

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Record a simple jazzy song with a bass line, keys, and trumpet. Use it for different drum examples, and use it on the next lesson also. Maybe use the same song from recording overview lesson.