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Monday, April 26, 2010

Drum miking for the home studio

Getting great drum sounds with a low budget and less than perfect room acoustics can be challenging, but a little bit of practicality and common sense can go a long way. I’ll outline some basic considerations for tracking drums in a home studio and share my favorite mics and miking techniques with you.
Location…The bedroom, the living room, or the hallway?

Try to find the roomiest and most “live” portion of your house – unless of course you want a super tight, Indie drum sound. Hardwood floors trump carpet when it comes to acoustics. Realistically, most of us don’t have much choice which room we get to track drums in, but try to find the best practical location. Avoid tight enclosed areas. An open room with access to a hallway or another room is ideal for placing room mics and hall mics. If you’re drum set is near a stairway, sometimes a mic placed at the other end of the stairs can make a great long hall mic.

    Things to remember:
  • Turn off your air-conditioning & fans in your drum room
  • Don’t let someone use the bathroom while tracking drums (the noise form the pipes is always audible in the walls)
  • Don’t run the dishwasher.
  • Keep your speakers at a low level (or monitor with headphones) to avoid bleed into the drum room.
  • A great drummer is better than a bad drummer on a well-miked kit.

Try a beta52 halfway inside the hole in the front drum head, angled slightly upward. If it sounds bad, it’s the kick drum or the drummer, not the mic.
One of my “secrets” is my homemade sub-kick microphone. You can easily make one yourself with a large speaker (mine is a 14” car stereo speaker I found at a used electronics store) and a few drum hardware parts for creating a stand and mounting the speaker. Take an ordinary XLR cable and solder the + and – wires to the speaker (match the + and – polarities respectively). Usually the signal is strong enough that you also need to add a 30db or 40db pad on the XLR before entering your pre-amp.
I generally place my sub-kick about 2 inches away from the kick drumhead.
Make sure the transients from both drum mics (and any samples you use) are in phase and line up when editing/mixing.

Favored mic: SM57
Place the mic ~3 inches over the rim of the snare drum pointed directly at the center of the drumhead. Aiming the mic away from the high-hat helps reduce high-hat bleed.
Use any condenser mic for the bottom snare mic and place it 6 – 10 inches from the bottom head pointed directly at the snare and angled away from the kick drum if possible. There’s nothing worse than a lot of kick drum bleed in the bottom snare mic.

Position the mic 3 to 4 inches over the rim of the tom, angled at the center of the drumhead, similar to the snare miking technique.

Favored mics: SM81’s (standard, cheap, sound great)
I use a spaced pair about 2 or 3 feet above my cymbals, 4 to 5 feet apart. One trick to keeping your mics in phase with the snare drum (and making sure your snare stays in the center of your stereo image) is to use a string to measure the distance from the snare drum to each of your overheads. It’s great to have both overheads the exact same distance, but this is also a rule that can be broken.

Favored mic: Neumann KM84 (I know, not the average home studio mic…), any small diaphragm condenser mic works great (SM81)
Position the mic 5 to 8” above the top hat, aimed down and angled away from the snare drum to reduce bleed from the snare and rest of the kit.

Room Mics
I usually use large diaphragm condensers for room mics (AT4033a). However, the second method I’ll mention involves SM57’s.
I’ve been a fan of the spaced pair low to the ground facing the kit (about 6 – 8 feet apart), as far in the room from the kit as possible, ideally more than 10 feet.
One trick I recently learned is to place two SM57s directly in front of the kit (spaced apart 4 feet, at about chest level) and aim them directly away from the kit. Surprisingly, they pick up mostly room noise instead of the direct sound from the kit – mostly due to the cardiod pattern.
Another method I’m fond of only involves one room mic in the center/back of the room. This paired with a great hall mic can add a lot of depth to your snare – mixed directly up the center. Using one mic is also practical if you’re running out of inputs on your interface.

Hall Mics
One hall mic is usually sufficient – again, I usually use a large diaphragm condenser. Try placing this mic in the next room over (leave the door in between open) or literally down the hall outside your drum room. You’re aiming to get a good natural reverb and ambience to mix in with the “fake” reverb. A great hall mic can add a lot of depth and liveliness to your kit, especially the snare and toms.
I'm removing my comments about sampling for the purposes of guiding the discussion back to miking techniques.  You shouldn't sample if you don't have to - In my opinion, real drums always sound better. Drum samples can become necessary tools when mixing, but should not replace real drum sounds.
Another great point that needs to be addressed:
Drum tuning is one of the most significant factors when it comes to getting great drum sounds.  I won't address it in this article, but you can find tons of other great articles and books out there about drum tuning techniques - just do a little digging :)

Written by Jake Hartsfield

Thankyou to tunecore.

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