Some instruments are not all that difficult to capture outside of a conventional recording studio. Guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals, etc. can be recorded just about anywhere. However, there is the one beast that does require a quality, dedicated room in order to capture the full spectrum of its glory. That beast is the drum set. If you hop on the internet and do a quick search for miking drums, you will see countless tutorials and methods for recording drums. And there are a lot of awesome techniques out there. The beauty of the process is that there are no rules. There are some suggested standards on recording and miking drums, but as long as it sounds good to the ear, the job has been performed correctly.
Here is how I go about miking drums.
1. First, new heads are preferred (maybe not brand new, but not old and dead either). I like to put them on and give them a few weeks of action so they are nice and worn in.
2. After I get everything tuned and set up, I get the drum overhead microphones in place. I have another article right here on rockindiy.com that covers this. I prefer Behringer ECM8000 microphones using the Recorderman technique. This has been the best method I have discovered for overheads. It gives me an extremely accurate stereo image. And most importantly, it is rather fool proof. If I can do it, anyone can. I’ve noticed though that the kick is almost always out of phase. But with a flick of the polarity switch, it is thumpin’ again. Also, the Behringer ECM8000 microphones are relatively inexpensive.
3. For the kick I use two microphones. I place one standard dynamic (GLS ES57) inside the drum and very close to the batter head. And then I will place another microphone (Audio Technica Pro25) just inside the resonance port hole. I do not point either of these directly at the point of impact. They are both just slightly off-axis. Just be sure to check for phase issues between the two microphones. I’ve also used the Audio Technica alone, placed inside the bass drum about 6 inches away from the batter head.
4. For the close mics used on toms and the snare, I have a variety of dynamic microphones that I use. I usually place them about 1-2” in from the edge of the drum and about 1-2” above the drum head. I usually point them about halfway between the edge and the center of the drum. Works for me. A second condenser microphone can be added to the underside of the snare drum. Just make sure to flip the polarity of the bottom mic, or the sound will be out of phase and very thin.
5. I never use a hi-hat microphone. I have tried, and it is never helpful… for me, that is. I pick up plenty of the hats in the overhead microphones.
So there you have it: recording and miking drums. Well, at least that is how I have been doing it recently. But there are plenty of other methods available. Here is a great video of Steve Albini, the man behind the production of Nirvana’s In Utero, talking about drum recording. Learn all you can and experiment with recording and miking drums. This is the only way to find out what works best for you in the audio recording studio.