Tech Tip:Miking Drums (Part 2): Dense Music & Close-Miking/Spacious Music & Natural Sounds
Part 2: Dense Music & Close-Miking/Spacious Music & Natural Sounds
3. The denser the music, the closer the mics will have to be.
Heavy rock, densely orchestrated pop, speed metal and fast punk respond best to close mics. In all these styles, the drum parts are likely to be busy and intense while the music will cover the entire frequency spectrum. To punch through and retain a maximum intensity, mics have to be close. While you should put up some room mics, you'll find that they are best used in small doses in the mix. Room sounds tend to pile up and make the music sound vague and distant in these situations. Looking for that big '80s pop sound? Those aren't actual rooms you're hearing. It's all about outboard reverb and gated snares.
Close miking can be defined as around one to two inches from the drum heads. You'll need a mic for each drum plus a pair of overheads above the kit, pointing downward to pick up the cymbals and add some extra life to the snare. You'll want those room mics as well. And go ahead and print the crappy talkback mic you've set up in the middle of the room - believe it or note, this is traditionally the one that sounds the best.
4. Space in the music allows for more natural drum sound.
Music that has minimal orchestration - that is, when few sounds are competing for the listener's attention - will usually be well served with a simple but compelling drum part. With ample space in the music, the drums can be recorded in such a way as to capture their full resonance, as they're heard in real life. A simple setup involving three to five mics placed farther away can be ideal for these types of recordings.
Just try listening to, or at least thinking about, how differently a drum sounds at various ranges. The "song" of each drum develops as it gets the air around it vibrating. Very close to the heads - say, within two inches - there's the click of the stick hit, a lot of initial low frequency thud, and often some annoying boinging sound or a steady tone that takes forever to decay. Five or more inches away and the interactions of air, wood and chamber resonance mix together and smooth out, solving a lot of niggling tuning problems and letting you hear things the way the drummer does.
To capture that native drum environment, try minimal miking: a mic in front of the kick, maybe six inches away; a mic on the snare, four or five inches away; and a pair of room mics, in the same plane as the kick mic, six feet out to each side and around four feet off the ground, facing the kit (see Fig. 2). Maybe you can try a mono overhead seven feet above the ground and facing straight down. Start with this and move things around until it sounds right for your room. You'll be amazed at how good a snare can sound when you get some distance from it.
Copyright ©2001 Douglas B. Henderson