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HOW TO RECORD DRUMS

November 1, 2019

BY CJ JACOBSON

This is one of my most asked questions, because there are so many ways to record drums. This is why people get confused on the 'right' way on how to record drums. I put the word right in quotation marks because there are no right or wrong ways to record drums. The right way is the way you get the best sound. Each situation will be different, so i'm going to give you a good basic set up to get you started.


Basic Steps For Recording Drums

1.) The first thing i do is to tune the drums. The drummer of the band usually tunes his drums. But from time to time, you as an audio engineer may need to do it. A good tuned drum set sounds way better than a not so tuned drum set.


2.) I mic the snare drum. You can use 1 or 2 microphones, one for the top and one for the bottom. The mic of choice is usually dynamic microphones, like the SM57 and Neumann KM84 For the top, place the mic about 1 to 2 inches form the top of the head near the edge and point it toward the center of the snare drum. Experiment with position to get the best sound. The bottom mic is placed underneath and position it off axis, about 1 to 2 inches from the bottom head. try near the center and near the edge to get the best. 


3.) I mic the kick drum. some good kick drum mic's are the Sennheiser e902,  Sennheiser e602 ii Dynamic,  Shure Beta 52A, and the ADK D112. If your kick drum has a port, placed the mic inside it and if you do not have a port, place the kick drum mic about 2 to 4 inches away form the kick drum head. If you have enough mic's, you can use 2 mics for the kick drum.


4.) I set up the individual toms. If you have enough microphones, mic each tom. If not, skip this and begin mic'ing the overheads. The SM57 is a great mic for all the toms, including the floor toms. Place the mic about 1 to 2 inches away from the drum head, a bit off axis facing to the center of the head, slightly off axis.


5.) Mic the hi-hats and rides, only if you have enough microphones. If not just proceed to micing the overheads.

The hi-hat is tricky. First i would find the sweet-spot in the hi-hat and then place the mic about 2 to 4 inches from the top of that sweet-spot. Make sure this mic has no view of the snare, or there will be a lot of snare bleed in this hi hat track. The 4011A is a good hi hat mic. 


For the Ride, i would position the mic about between the edge and the bell. Find the midpoint and place the mic. You want the mic close to prevent bleed, but not so close that it muffles the sound. Try between 1 to 3 inches


6.) Overhead microphone set up is crucial in getting the overall sound of the drums,  the environment the drums and the cymbals. For the drum overheads, i use condenser microphones. like a pair of U87's, a pair of Shure KSM 137/SL's or a pair of AT4050's. Always use a matched pair for the overheads.


Place each mic above the drum set so its over the cymbals equally spaced. The higher you place the mics, the more room sound you will get and the more overall sound you will get of the entire drums set. The closer the mics are to the cymbals, the less of the overall drum sound you will pick up. Experiment and see what works best for you.

The further you spread the paired mics away from each other, the wider the stereo image will be. 


Good luck on recording your drum set,

CJ