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Drum Miking (MasterK's request)

posted on #1
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MasterK asked what my miking technique for my drums is so I thought I'd start a thread here showing how I do my drum miking. I hope it both helps others too as well as perhaps starts a useful debate on others' techniques. Sorry, this will be a long - but hopefully useful - post.

First off, I have to say when I joined three months ago, my drum sound was nothing like what it is now. Despite having the same tools I have now, it was thin, weedy and generally rubbish. Through a combination of learning from mistakes, excellent honest advice and feedback from 'Loopers plus more than a little bit of research (Sound On Sound's articles are particularly useful), I'm getting to a sound that I'm really very happy with.

In other words, I'm no expert but this is what is currently working for me.


Tune your drums as best you can. I'm awful at it but get there in the end. In the case of my drums - a Yamaha 9000 Recording Custom kit - the toms and kick have a very clean and focussed sound which makes tuning a lot easier! I use Remo Coated Ambassador heads all round. This gives me a very open sound but with the coating adding a little warmth.

Kick drum:

Based on wiseshanks' advice, I've now removed the pillow from my kick, instead leaving it leaning against the reso head just to kill off the overtones (the stock Yamaha logo head sounds hideous anyway). My kick was always very punchy (helped by a Powerstroke 3 batter head!) but the more open sound of using no padding really helps with recording. It's easier to EQ stuff out than try and put it back!

The mic is the industry-standard AKG D112 kick drum mic place in the centre of the hole (but not in the drum) pointing slightly to the right of where the pedal hits the head. Usually you need a large diaphragm mic for kicks as they both cope with the transients better and also cope with the lower frequencies well.



The biggest problem I've had is getting a good snare sound. I usually use a 1964 vintage Ludwig 400 Supraphonic snare - one of the best all-round snares ever made so I knew it couldn't be that which made my recordings sound awful.

The sound has always been all attack and no body in my uploads until recently - especially when doing rim-shots. Two things have transformed it for me: miking the snare top and bottom (to get more snare rattle) and moving the top mic further away from the snare (using the 'three finger rule' for distance with the mic pointing at the centre of the head). I discovered that cardioid mics behave oddly if they're too close to the head (which they used to be) causing an enhanced bass boom effect. This appeared to be the dominant reason for my very muddy snare sound in my uploads. Don't know the physics, but backing the top mic off has made a huge difference to the openness of the sound. Both heads are miked with Shure SM57s.

Of course, if using two mics like this, don't forget to reverse the phase of the bottom mic at mixdown!

I also have loads of Moongel which I add or remove from the top head depending on how much ring and resonance I want. Most recordings I have one piece sat on the edge of the batter head. Don't get too hung up on too much ring on the snare. It might sound awful in isolation but once in the mix, it's what helps it cut through a busy soundscape. Allow for more ring than you think you can tolerate and EQ it out if you don't like it.

Both Mics position:

Top Mic Position:


This is close-miked with a Shure SM57 from about 3" above the top hat, pointing towards the edge of the hats to get the sizzle. My hats are 13" Zildjian K/Z hats, probably 20+ years-old. They have a fantastic and expressive sound and contribute massively to my recorded kit sound.


My toms are close-miked with Audio-Technica clip-on gooseneck mics (very similar to the ones you would clip on a trumpet or sax). These are condensers and have an amazing frequency response for their size. They are positioned to point at the head about halfway between the centre of the head and the rim. I tune them quite low for recording and dampen them with Moongel.



This has been my other issue. I use a pair of Audio-Technica condensers for overheads. Positioning them over the cymbals results in a very, very clangy sound. Additionally, I use Zildjian A Custom crashes and they're very powerful and often drowned out the ride cymbal. After playing with many positions, I found having the overheads slightly behind my head and pointing 45-degrees towards each side of the kit gave me the right sound I was after, capturing the 'crash' of the cymbals without the associated 'gong' sound.

EDIT Forgot to add this very important point: the overheads are measured to be the exact same distance from the centre of the snare head and the centre of the kick drum head to help avoid phasing and stereo image problems!


I won't go into the recording aspect as that's another topic in itself. But I do have basic compressors on the snare and kick at the point of recording to take off the worst of the transients and the overheads and hi-hat mics have their bass rolled off around the 200hz mark when recording. EQs are left flat otherwise.

It has taken me many, many months of honing mic positions and recording techniques, mostly based on the excellent help and support I've received from WikiLoops.

I hope this post is helpful and not too long-winded! :)
Edited by mpointon on June 17 2015 14:21
posted on #2
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man this is some very valuable post ! thanks for that ;)
clusters Clusters CLUSTERS !!!!!!
posted on #3
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Joined: 27.09.14
I am not a drummer but I enjoyed reading it. Well done!!! :)
posted on #4
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Joined: 11.03.15
Awesome Marty ! Thanks soooo much for your time.
I was very curious about the overheads. And you cleared that up.
I do A/V for a living, and that is very helpful info.

Hope others that are struggling with their sound get to this ! :)
posted on #5
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Joined: 27.02.15
Thanks, MasterK!

I should add a couple of other points:

Always offer your drums as an HD download when you upload. Whilst it's no fun having your playing (and in my case, sometimes clumsy edits!) exposed it can really help improve things for the better. There are a lot of people on here who, if they use your isolated track, can really help the drums to sound better. And if they do sound better, ask the person who did the remix what they did! It really has helped me learn! That's how I've learned a lot about the mixing side.

Feedback from people like OliVBee, wiseshanks, Tofzegrit, Dick and SlonMusic have all heavily contributed to the constant improvement I've made in my recorded and also mixed drum sound.
Edited by mpointon on May 20 2015 22:04
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