Posted tagged ‘Hi-Hat’


January 9, 2012

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 45 Mixing Drums

Over the last few weeks we’ve covered the various individual drums and cymbals that make up the drum kit. This week we’ll conclude our look at drums in the mix, by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks.

Overheads: Spaced Pair.

We’ve mentioned the Overheads a few times and alluded to how useful they can be to pull the overall drum sound together.

The overheads are often set up as a stereo pair, for example X-Y Coincident, Spaced pair or Blumlein. There are other stereo techniques each with their own pros and cons as well as mic setups with one mic in front of the kit and one behind the drummer.

See this blog for more information on recording techniques for overheads and ambience tracks.

In reality, unless you were standing very close to a drum kit, you would hear very little stereo spread. So, how important is it to have a wide stereo picture of the drums in your song? That’s entirely for you to decide. Some songs will suit a wider stereo image than others.

Overheads: X-Y Coincident Pair.

If you do decide to go with stereo drums in your mix, listen to your overhead tracks sooner rather than later. Providing you set up your OHs as a stereo pair with quality mics, you should hear a pretty good drum mix from just these two mics. They will most likely have picked up the cymbals, hi-hat, snare and toms quite well.

By adding in the kick and snare specific mikes, you should be able to produce a drum sound that provides punch and clarity.

With such a wide range of kit components, it might be difficult to apply an EQ setting that works well for everything. Providing you are adding close miked tracks, you could try rolling off a lot of low-end from the OHs, maybe all the way up to 400 Hz. This can sometimes help the close mics poke through more.

If the drums heard in the OHs sound muddy, play around with the 100-200 Hz range of frequencies. If they sound boxy try cutting between 400 Hz-1 kHz.

TML Studio TCM Music Nashville – Showing Overhead Spaced Pair, Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat & Tom Mics.

Just be careful in applying any EQ. What works for cymbals for example, may not make your toms sound great and vice versa. So a compromise needs to be reached. However, don’t dismiss the OHs because of this. With a little effort, these two tracks can provide a great base to build your drum sound on.

Remember, if you recorded the kit using 10 or 20 mics it does not mean you have to use all of them. Only use what is needed to get a great drum sound. And when using more than one mic, there is always the possibility of phase issues. The more mics you use the more the problem gets compounded. So check for mono compatibility whenever you introduce another mic into the mix.

Also consider which way you want to ‘see’ the kit. Do you want the listener POV or the drummer POV? Whichever way you decide to go with, make sure you’re consistent when adding individual drums and cymbals to the OHs.

Kit From Drummer’s POV, Hi-Hat Left.

Kit From Audience POV, Hi-Hat Right.

When panning the OHs left and right, if the OHs have the hi-hat appearing on the right, don’t place the individual hi-hat mic track on the left. Listen carefully to the OHs (solo them) and determine where each kit component is in the stereo field, then add the individual tracks to match the position you hear in the OHs.

Gating the OHs does not work. The OHs are effectively capturing the whole kit. Gating the OHs will do the opposite and result in parts of the kit being cut out. So don’t use this processor to fix your OHs sound. If the OHs don’t sound very good, you may have to re-record them.

Actually, the OH’s often help to mask any gating artifacts from the individually miked drums…..another very good reason to have them as part of your drum sound.

Adding compression to the OHs is debatable…..some engineers do, some don’t. If you recorded your OHs as a stereo pair and do decide to use compression, make sure you use a linked stereo compressor to prevent image shift. If the two sides of the compressor are not linked, every time the crash cymbal is struck, the stereo image will move because the mic that is closest to the crash will compress more than the one that is further away. This is especially true for a Spaced Pair setup.

Best to use light compression in the OHs if at all, and compress the individual drum mikes.

Using A Royer SF-12 Stereo Ribbon Mic To Record Ambience In Kitchen, Drums In Next Room.

Ambient mics can add a unique quality to the sound of your drums (or any instrument). They are usually placed several feet away from the signal source and therefore capture more of the room sound. The position(s) that work will only be discovered by experimentation.

In a home studio setting, one room – your main recording room – may be somewhat acoustically treated. The other rooms are probably not.

Try listening to the drums from different points in the same room as well as different rooms. Bathrooms, kitchens or hallways may provide useful opportunities to place ambient mics that produce interesting results. Whilst the drummer is playing, move around until you hear a sound quality you like (the sweet spot), set up a mic and listen to the result. Providing you have enough tracks, you can always record an ambient track or three then decide in the mix if you want to use them.

If you’re able to borrow a church hall or other large reverberant space, you can capture some amazing ambient sounds which when added to your close mics, can transform the sound of your kit and other instruments.

Incidentally, if you want to hear what a great sounding room can do for your music, search out Beaver & Krause’s ‘Gandharva’. Recorded in 1971, side two of the LP was recorded in San Fransisco’s magnificent Grace Cathedral. Featuring Mike Bloomfield, Gerry Mulligan, Bud Shank and many other stalwart musicians of that era, it’s an amazing mixture of Jazz, Blues, Rock and Gospel – a unique album.

If you use more than one mic at varying distances on a single source, the sound will arrive at the different mics at slightly different times. So delays will be introduced as well as possible phase problems.

The further away a mic is from a source, the less attack will be picked up and there will be less signal to noise. So you may need to EQ out some background noise or rumble. Play around with the panning of ambient mic(s) to see what works best for the song.

Maybe the best advice with drums, is to start off simple – using the Glyn Johns mic technique – using three or four mics or something similar. Then as you become more familiar with your mic collection, acoustics, the recording and mixing processes you’ll feel inclined to experiment with more complex setups.

Getting a great drum sound can be one of the more challenging aspects of the mix stage. But as with everything in life, practice makes perfect. There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and just doing it. Fortunately in the home studio, the multitrack process allows endless attempts at getting the mix right. Take your time, learn your skills and have fun.

Next week we’ll look at Percussion before moving on to the other instruments in the mix.

All of us at TCM Mastering love music. We’ve all spent most of our lives in this business. So, if you have any questions regarding the blog, mastering or recording in general please drop us a line or contact us here.



January 2, 2012

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 44 Mixing Drums

Happy New Year from all of us at TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group. We hope 2012 will be a great year for all our clients and readers alike.

Drum Kit Showing Hi-Hat & Various Cymbals From The Drummer’s POV – Hi-Hat Left, Lowest Tom Right.

Continuing with our look at drums in the mix, this week it’s the turn of  the Cymbals and the Hi-Hat.

Consider when placing your mics that, the cymbals produce most of their sound above and below the metal plate in a figure-8 pattern (if you were to look edge on). The hi-hat produces lots of high-end transients and most of its sound is generated horizontally.

The height you position cymbals above the toms will alter their sound which in turn affects what is picked up by mics.

There are also cymbals which work better for recording than live work.

Using An AKG 452 Under The Cymbal.

If you have used specific mics for the cymbals (see this blog for tips on recording), you can often get rid of frequencies below the 150-200 Hz range, by using a shelf EQ. This removes rumble picked up by the mics. If the cymbals come across as ‘cheap’ and clunky you may be able to improve their sound by cutting a few dB at 1-2 kHz. To give them that ‘ring’, try adding a shelf EQ above 10 kHz.

We’ll discuss the use of the overheads in the mix next week. But bear in mind these mics (if you used them) will pick up so much of your drum and cymbal sound, you may decide that certain specific mikes are redundant when it comes to determining the overall sound of the kit in the final mix.

Hi-Hat & Snare Miked.

The hi-hat sound is characterised by the ‘ring’ between 7-10 kHz. The stick noise is around 5 kHz and the ‘clang’ between 500 Hz to 1 kHz.

The hi-hat may well be picked up by other mics in the kit, especially the snare mic. But assuming you have used a good quality mic and it was optimally placed, you could use a shelf EQ above 10 kHz to boost the brightness of the hi-hat. To remove rumble picked up by the mic, use a similar EQ setting to the one used for cymbals. To give it that high, crisp ‘tssshh’ use a wide bandwidth (or low Q setting) around 15-16 kHz.

The quality and sound of cymbals and hi-hats can vary enormously from different manufacturers and price ranges. So the application of EQ should be approached carefully in isolation of the cymbal sound and in comparison with the whole kit submix and all the other instruments, especially the rhythm section.

It’s essential to listen to instruments in the setting of the overall mix. As all the instruments are interdependent upon each other.

Toms Panned From Just Right Of Centre (Highest Pitch) Over To The Left (Lowest Pitch). Hi-Hat Panned Right Or Centre, Cymbals Right & Left. The Kick And Snare Are Normally Down The Middle. Centre Double Kicks, Or You Could Try Splitting The Kicks Evenly Off Centre Left & Right Slightly.

With regards to panning the cymbals, there are two perspectives used. Either from the point of view of the drummer or the POV of the listener. So as we mentioned last week, if we were to take the listener’s POV, the toms would be panned with the highest pitched just right of centre, moving left as we go down in pitch to the biggest floor tom. Cymbals can be placed right and left depending on the spread width and effect you want. The hi-hat is usually panned right or centre, depending on the genre of music.

Alternatively, if you intend to use the overheads in the drum submix, you will want the individually miked components to be placed in the same position in the stereo field as you hear in the OHs. For example, solo the OHs and listen to where the hi-hat appears. Let’s say it sounds like it’s at 2 on the clock. Match the hi-hat close mic track to the same position in the OH’s stereo picture.

The cymbals and hi-hat rarely, if ever, benefit from gating. Cymbals especially, have such a relatively long decay that it’s impossible to gate them effectively. Far better to clean up the cymbal and hi-hat track in the editing stage if necessary.

Many DAWs Offer A Non-Destructive ‘Strip Silence’ Option. Setup The Parameters So That Only Unwanted Audio (Below A Specified Level) Is Removed.

One method is to use the non-destructive ‘Strip Silence’ feature offered in many DAWs. But you have to be very careful in setting up the parameters so that you don’t strip away any of the sound you want to keep. If you do remove wanted material accidentally, you can hit ‘Undo’ and try again.

Or better still, simply edit out unwanted drum sounds from the cymbals and hi-hat tracks and apply fades in and out, so that the sounds you do want to keep don’t jump out at the listener. This method will give more control than a global gate setting any day.

If you do end up gating cymbals (not recommended, unless for a special effect), a little reverb added can restore the decay sound that inevitably gets cut off by the gate.

Pro Tools Automation.

You could also use automation to clean up tracks, but this will use up processing power in your computer’s CPU.

With any clean up procedure, you should always do a before and after comparison though, to make sure you’re actually improving the sound.

Spill from one drum mic to another is unavoidable with a multiple mic setup and is often the very thing that gives drums that real sound. So gating the hi-hat is really best reserved for ‘fixing’ the sound e.g. making it tighter.

If you notice serious problems with your drum sound in the mix stage… may have to re-record them…..not an easy or popular option.

However, if the session is finished and the drummer is no longer available, you may have no choice but to resort to some or all of the above suggestions to get your tracks in shape.

Tama Rock Kit With 14” Hi-Hat, 16” Crash & 20” Ride.

It’s therefore vital that you get the best drum sound you can, the first time. As trying to make a badly recorded drum kit sound good is always going to be an uphill struggle. So, take the time to tune and set up the drums and cymbals properly; place the best mics correctly and get the drummer to play the kit for you prior to hitting the record button, so that you can make sure everything is as good as can be.

If you only have a few problems with a specific cymbal and/or drum in the mix stage, you could always try triggering a sample to replace the offending hit(s). Or alternatively, record a wild hit then place it at the right sync point in the track.

I think it’s always worth sampling all the individual drums and cymbals from a kit, separately, just before you start recording the kit as a whole, for ‘backup’ purposes. You never know when you’ll need a clean snare, tom or crash cymbal hit. Make sure you label each drum and cymbal sample as accurately as possible, including size and make. Then add them to your music library for future use.

Check out our drum posts starting with tuning, by clicking here.

As I said in an earlier blog, if you can achieve a great recording of the drum kit, it usually yields an easy mix.

Next week we’ll conclude our look at mixing drums by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks.

TCM Music Group have access to many great session musicians, including Troy Luccketta (drummer with Tesla). If you’re interested in finding out more about our recording packages, or simply have a question about recording, mixing or mastering – please click here.


December 26, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 43 Mixing Drums

As we are in the middle of the Holidays and many of you, I’m sure, will be spending time with family and friends, I’ve decided to put out the next few blogs in smaller, more easily digestible chunks.

Last week we considered the kick and snare drums and how best to treat them in the mix. Today, we’ll continue by looking at Toms. Next week, the first Monday of 2012, we’ll discuss Cymbals and Hi-hat in the mix. Then, we’ll finish our look at drums by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks. Check out this blog for more information on recording toms, cymbals, hi-hat, overheads and ambience tracks.

A Typical Drum Setup For Legendary Mixer Bruce Swedien – Note The Use Of Neumann U87s On The Toms.

As we mentioned (in this blog), you don’t have to record dozens of tracks to get a great drum sound. Three or four mics, well placed, can produce an amazing sound. The greater number of mics you use and tracks you record, the more difficult it will be to isolate specific drums. There will be spill from one drum mic to another and possible phase issues to address.

In addition, if you recorded the drums with the rest of the band playing at the same time, the other instruments may well be present in some of the drum tracks too. However, if you are prepared to accept all these challenges then more mics can certainly give you more options in your mix.

Remember, the recorded sound can be altered dramatically by using a different mic, altering the mic’s position, replacing the drum’s head, the use of acoustic panels etc. In other words, try to get as close to the sound you want from your drums in the recording stage.

The kick and snare are the two most important drums in most kit setups. But drums would be quite boring without the other components to add colour, syncopation and interest to the rhythm track.

A Basic Kit Showing Three Toms – Two Mounted On The Kick And One Floor Tom On The Left.

A common configuration for the toms is to have 3 – high, mid and low – a couple mounted (often on top of the kick) and one floor, but many drummers use more. For the purposes of our discussion, we’ll assume you have gone some ways to record them with specific mic’s.

Toms come in a huge range of sizes and therefore pitches. The larger the tom, the deeper the tone. To give more depth to mounted toms, try adding a few dB around 200-250 Hz. To reduce any boxiness, you could try cutting in the 600 Hz to 1 kHz range. By adding some 3-5 kHz, you can increase the stick’s attack. Whilst the 5-8 kHz range will boost the presence.

Top: Floor Tom Miked From Above, Below: Mounted Toms Miked From Above And Inside.

Floor toms might need a slightly different EQ. Between 40-125 Hz, try boosting to increase richness or fullness. Try cutting a little between 400-800 Hz to get rid of boxiness. And to get more attack, boost between 2-5 kHz.

To make it easier to find the exact EQ frequency that needs adjusting, try using extreme cut or boost, whilst employing a very high Q or narrow bandwidth setting as you sweep through the frequencies. Once you’ve found the frequency that works best, moderate the cut or boost dB levels and widen the bandwidth a little.

Uniquely Shaped Staccato Drums.

Also consider whether you want to EQ before compressing or vice versa. Consider this guideline…..if the drum needs drastic EQ then compress before EQ. If the drum needs serious compression then EQ before compression. Ultimately, it’s down to what sounds best, so try both and see which you prefer. Click here for more information on compressing and the other forms of dynamic processing.

If you want powerful sounding toms try using a compression ratio of 4, 5 or 6:1. Don’t use too high a ratio, this might result in the compressor giving a sucking effect to the audio. Set the threshold to act on the highest transients and use a fast to medium attack time. Remember, you are compressing the toms. You don’t want the compressor to noticeably raise the levels of the other drums or cymbals.

Compression and a good short reverb can combine to produce a great, big sound on the toms. Try a small room or a short plate reverb setting. Of course it depends on your song…..if the toms are being used sparingly a longer reverb might work. If the toms are featured a lot, a long reverb could muddy the mix.

A Tama Kit With Double Kick, Five Toms & Hi-Hat On The Right.

Most people (drummers included) are right-handed, so the kit is usually setup with the hi-hat off to the right…..if you’re viewing the kit from the perspective of the audience. Last week we mentioned the usual position to place the kick and snare is straight down the middle of the stereo field.

The toms can be placed as you would see them – the highest pitched slightly off to the right, across to the left for the lowest pitched. You will need to listen to the toms as they are being played back to position them accurately within the stereo image. And if you are adding reverb or delay match the effect position in the stero image, with that of the tom you are applying the effect to.

Drum Kit With Multiple Mics, Including Overheads.

If you have used several microphones to record your drums, as you add more and more drum tracks into the mix, you will realise that the same components are represented on many different tracks. The Overheads especially, will pick up cymbals, toms, snare and more.

So once you have sorted out the kick and the snare, you could try adding the overheads panning them hard left and right. You may find that they provide enough of the remaining components to fill out the drum sound. We’ll discuss the overheads in greater detail in 2 weeks time.

Note: If you intend to use the overheads in the drum submix, you will most likely want the individually miked components to be placed in the same position in the stereo field as you hear in the OHs.

Next week we’ll take a look at the Cymbals and Hi-hat in the mix. Followed by the Overheads and Ambience the following Monday.

All of us at TCM hope you had a fantastic Christmas and Holiday break and wish all our readers a Happy New Year. If you have a music project coming up in 2012, why not get in touch with us to see what we can do for you. TCM Music Group and TCM Mastering have been providing production, recording, mixing and mastering services to musicians and the music industry for decades. For more information about TCM Music Group and the various services they can provide, please contact us by clicking here.


August 1, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 22 Recording Drums, More Detailed Mic Techniques (continued).

If you’ve been following this Home Music Studio series of blogs over the last few weeks, you’ll have noticed that we’ve dedicated a fair amount of space to tuning and recording drums. However, we are somewhat limited by blog space…..there are a lot of facts to get across, but we don’t want to cram too much into a single blog. So if you feel we have missed out something important, please get in touch to let us know and we’ll do our best to cover it in future blogs.

The Legendary Sheila E – Showing You Can Be Fashionable And A World Class Percussionist & Drummer.

All of us at TCM Music Group are passionate about everything musical and are always happy to answer any questions you may have about recording, mixing, mastering or audio restoration.

And just to let you know, TCM are offering some truly great recording packages and mix and master deals at the moment…..for more information, click here.

Last week we covered in some detail the kick or bass drum and snare drum. This week we’ll continue with the toms and cymbals, including the hi-hat.


If you’re recording a Jazz kit you will probably get away with using overheads to capture the toms. However, big rock kit recordings tend to mic almost everything. The problem is…..the more mics you use to record a kit, the more difficult it becomes to get good separation on all the mics and phasing issues become more prevalent……making the mixing process harder.

Jazz Drummer Roy Haynes – Showing Floor Toms With Mics.

Separation can be aided with the use of a Noise Gate… electronic device which is useful in eliminating unwanted noise. A Noise Gate effectively filters out sounds below a specified threshold whilst allowing sounds above the threshold through. So a mic on a drum could have a Gate in the recording chain to allow that drum to be heard, but it would cut out any other drums spilling into the mic in question.

But…..there’s always a but isn’t there?….Gates can cut out some transients when they’re not set up properly, which can adversely affect the sound of the instrument you’re trying to record. So, always take care and monitor closely the effect any signal processing has on the recorded sound by comparing the sound with processing and without.

We will cover signal processing in detail in a future blog.

Sennheiser 441 On Toms.

Good condensers or dynamics work well with toms. The SM57 with its tight polarity pattern is popular as well as the AKG C1000, the latter giving a crisper sound. Sennheiser 441s are also often employed, but quite expensive.

Position your mic of choice about 1 to 3 inches above the tom at about 30 degrees to the skin, keeping it well clear of any cymbals that might hit it. It’s important to angle the mic so that, as much as possible, the cymbals or other drums are not picked up by the mic. Hypercardioids often work best in this position.

Left – Mic Position On Single Tom. Right – Single Wide Cardioid Mic Between Two Toms.

If you have a pair of toms next to each other you may be able to use one mic between the two. As each individual tom will be off the mic’s central axis, a mic placed between the heads –  about 4-6 inches away from them, with a wide cardioid pattern – will work best.

Alternatively, you could try a figure-8 (eg. Sennheiser MKH30 works well but at about £1400 is very expensive). If positioned correctly, this should pick up the two toms whilst rejecting the cymbals above it. However, this may necessitate the use of a delicate and more expensive ribbon or condenser…..with the possibility of the drummer hitting the mic, you may decide it’s not worth the risk.

Miking A Tom From Inside Gives Greater Separation And Less Attack.

If you have toms with the bottom heads removed, this offers another option. You can position a mic inside the tom pointing up towards the head. This technique has several advantages. It keeps the mic out of harms way from the drummer hitting it. It also provides very good separation from the other drums and cymbals. The resulting sound will probably be more resonant but have less stick attack.

Other popular mics for recording toms are Sennheiser MD421, Beyer M88 and Audix D2.

Drum Kits Move During Playing – So Watch For Mics Or Mic Stands Coming Into Contact With The Kit.

Another problem to watch out for when you mic several drums is that the kit will move over time during a performance and the various mic stands and/or mics may end up interfering with the kit.

You could get metal stands touching or scraping against kit hardware and transferring sound through the metal instead of through the mic’s diaphragm, which will add an unusual quality to the sound.

Beyer Opus 88 Clamped To Underside Of Tom.

The answer – use clip on mics. There are some great mics available on the market eg. Sennheiser E604 or Beyer Opus 62/88.

Hi-Hat & Cymbals

The hi-hat produces lots of high-end transients and most of its sound is generated horizontally. Whereas the cymbals create sound above and below the metal plate in a figure-8 pattern (if you were to look edge on).

In addition, the height you position cymbals above the toms will alter their sound which in turn affects what is picked up by the mics. There are also cymbals which work better for recording than live work.

        Left – Octava MK319 Condenser Mic On Ride Cymbal.

Right – AKG 452 Positioned Under The Cymbal Pointing Up.

Having this information at your finger tips enables you to position a mic to pick up more cymbal by placing the mic above (or below) and nearer the plane of the cymbal to pick up less. Just remember to place the mic far enough away from the cymbal so that the two don’t make contact when the cymbal is struck.

Position Your Hi-Hat Mic On The Opposite Side To The Snare.

For the hi-hat, a condenser will give a crisp sound. Place it about 3 inches above the upper cymbal. Make sure it’s angled away from the snare to give as much separation as possible. Pointing it towards the edge from above will give a more hissy, crisp sound than aiming it at the centre, which will produce a more metallic sound.

Use Directional Mics On The Hi-Hat And Snare To Obtain Good Separation.

As I mentioned when discussing the snare, do not point a mic horizontally towards the hi-hat edge as the air blasts from it closing can produce unwanted ‘puffs’ or air blasts that can ruin your recording.

The AKG C1000 is a favourite with some, but not everyone. The AKG C451B cardioid, condenser is a very popular hi-hat mic with fantastic transient response as is the Neumann KM84…..but neither are cheap. You could try the Octava MK219 or AT 4041 which are more affordable.

You don’t necessarily need to mic the hi-hat as it will get picked up by the overheads (if you’re using them). But a dedicated hi-hat mic will give you more control over its volume in the overall mix, provided it has enough separation from the other instruments in the kit.


If you use a couple of overhead mics – 6 to 9 feet above the floor – you may find you can dispense with certain other mics on the kit. They will do a good job of picking up the cymbals and should give a better, fuller, overall stereo sound to the kit.

A Spaced Pair Of Coles 4038 Ribbons.

Large or small diaphragm condensers are the most popular choice but ribbons (eg. Coles 4038s) can give a warmer sound. Check out AKG C414/C451s, Royer NT-1A, Neumann U87/89s, AKG C1000s, Sennheiser MD421s and Octava MK012s.

There are several stereo techniques you can try from X-Y Coincident Pair, Spaced Pair, Blumlein and others . Each technique has its pros and cons. Some are better than others depending on the situation and the room.

A Stereo Spaced Pair Of Mics.

The Spaced Pair technique works well when the 3 to 1 rule is applied. If the mics are 3 feet from the cymbals (the sound source), then place the mics about 9 feet apart. This is not an exact science, but the rule seems to work very well. And don’t worry too much about getting the mics symmetrically positioned in front of the kit. Getting the correct balance between the mics is more important. The stereo ‘picture’ can be artificially wide but phase issues and comb filtering are more prevalent than with the X-Y option.

X-Y Or Coincident Pair Set Up. Right – Pair Of AKG C460Bs.

The X-Y or Coincident Pair technique uses 2 matched mics. Usually, condensers set up either in front or behind the drummer. There are no phase issues with this technique. The sound arrives at both mics at the same time because the mic heads are together. So there’s excellent mono compatibility, but the stereo width is quite narrow.

Ambient Mics

Because the drum kit is a loud collection of instruments (sound reflections are more apparent), your room will play an important part in the sound you capture. It will either enhance the sound or you will find yourself fighting to minimise the effect it has on your recording. So the use of ambient mics (condensers or ribbons are favourites) can ultimately improve the overall sound or ruin it. Of course, if they don’t contribute any positives you don’t have to use them.

Remember, in a Home Studio you could have access to several rooms so don’t limit yourself to placing an ambient mic in the same room that you’re recording in. You could place a mic or mics (eg. Royer SF-12  stereo ribbon, C414, SM58s or PZMs) at different positions down a hallway or in another room completely.

Experiment, you might get lucky. You’ll not only get a different quality to the sound, but it will arrive at the mic later than sound in the main room, so you will end up with slight delays that might work great or sound awful.

If you would like more details on these and other mic techniques, they are discussed in greater detail in this blog.

Next week’s Home Music Studio blog will look at miking percussion.

Any questions? Drop us a line or call us – for TCM Music Group contact details, click here. And if you find this blog to be useful, you could subscribe to it and tell your band mates too.


July 24, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 21 Recording Drums, More Detailed Mic Techniques

Last week we covered some basic mic techniques for recording the drum kit…..from using just one mic to the 3 mic method pioneered by legendary producer and engineer, Glyn Johns.

For most Home Music Studios the methods mentioned, should allow you to capture a pretty good drum sound providing all the fundamentals are covered. That is, if you have a decent sounding drum kit that is tuned and set up properly, a room that is not too dead or reverberant and a decent drummer who can control to some extent his volume when playing.

As part of their recording packages, TCM offer the services of professional session musicians. Troy Luccketta, drummer with Tesla is available through TCM Music Group and is also a Producer partner.

This week and next we will discuss in greater detail miking individual drums and cymbals then follow that with percussion.

First a word on recording levels – When recording any instrument, you want to capture the highest level without distortion with as little noise as possible. In other words you want a high signal-to-noise ratio.

Drums produce loud transients and are usually recorded quite hot, that is at a level that is close to distorting. Analogue tape can be quite forgiving, in fact many engineers record high levels onto tape to saturate the tape, which gives a warmer sound. However, if you record above 0dB into a digital system, the distortion you get will not be pleasant at all.

So before recording, always get your drummer to play the kit at the loudest volume he/she will play at for the track you’re working on, so that you can set your levels to best suit either your analogue or digital recorder.

If you have the resources to buy a large selection of mics and have the requisite number of preamps and inputs to plug all those mics into…..the possibilities for recording drums are almost endless.

One Mic Ain’t Gonna Do It For Neil Peart’s Kit! 

A lot of modern popular music, rock or country recordings use several mics. As well as using overheads or ambient mics, specific mics will be used for the kick, snare, toms, hi-hat, cymbals, gongs and other assorted percussion.

For example…..

  • 2 or even 3 mics for the kick (eg. AKG D112/D12, Audix D6).
  • 2 for the snare (eg. Shure SM57, AKG C451, Sennheiser e604).
  • Top and bottom mics on each tom (eg. Sennheiser 441/MD421/e604, Beyer M88, Audix D2).
  • A couple on the hi-hat (eg. AKG C1000/C451B, AT 4041).
  • A mic on each cymbal (eg. AKG 452/C1000, Octava MK319).
  • A stereo pair of overheads (eg. AKG C414/C451, Royer NT-1A).
  • A couple of ambience mics at different distances from the kit (eg. AKG C414, Neumann U87).
  • Mics for specific pieces of percussion.

That’s a lot of mics. And the more mics you have set up, the bigger the potential problem with phase issues. So setting up such a large group of mics in pretty close proximity to each other will present several challenges to the recording engineer.

Reasonably Priced Samson 7 Piece Mic Set For Drums.

Miking each instrument in the drum kit separately, will allow you to apply EQ, compression and balance the levels between the different drums and cymbals. But in order for this to work effectively, you will need to achieve good separation between the various mics, so that each one picks up the drum it’s positioned on without picking up the other drums.

Just because you have set up a complicated array of mics and captured a good recording of them all on your DAW or recorder, doesn’t mean you will necessarily use all the tracks in the final mix.

Once all the other instruments in the band are recorded and the mix process is underway you may decide for example, to dispense with the ambient mics or only use one mic each on the kick and snare. The music track you’re working on will (or it should) dictate the overall drum sound you present in your final mix.

Bass or Kick Drum

So let’s consider the bass or kick drum. This drum provides the basic rhythm of a song.

An Audix D6 Mic Positioned Through The Cut Out Hole, Aimed At The Beater Head. Note The Blanket Inside To Reduce Boominess.

Reduce the boominess from your kick by putting a pillow or blanket inside the drum. Place it so that it is either touching the inner skin or just an inch or so away from the skin. You will need to experiment.

Be careful when tuning the bass drum. You don’t want it too low. A tight well tuned beater head will give a full-bodied tone. The beater itself will contribute to the quality of the sound. A hard beater will give more attack than a soft one.

Top Nashville Mixer, Steve Marcantonio Favours Placing An AKG D112 Or EV RE20 Inside The Bass Drum Near The Beater And A Neumann U47 FET About 7 Inches Back From The Outer Skin.

You can place a mic inside the kick drum if you remove the outer head or cut a hole in it eg. AKG D112/D12, Sennheiser MD421, Beyer M88 or Audix D6. Position it 2 or 3 inches from the inside head just off centre. This will give you a sharp attack from the beater. Dynamics work best in this situation because they can handle the high SPLs. Condensers and especially ribbons are more fragile, so be very careful using them close up.

You may want to label the mic you use and keep it specifically for the kick, because it will take more of a beating than any other mic in your collection.

Pulling the mic a little further from the beater head (midway) will result in less attack and a bit more body to the drum sound.

If you don’t want to remove the outer head, you can place the mic 2-8 inches from the outer skin. Aimed at the centre, this position will give a more open, boomy quality. Move the mic a little from the centre to get less boom.

Of course, the further you place the mic away from the kick drum, the more it will pick up other drums and the room. To reduce this, you can place a blanket or acoustic panel over and around the kick mic.

Miking The Kick On The Beater Side Contributes Mid And Treble Giving Definition If Added To The Sound From A Mic Positioned At The Front.

Alternatively, you can place a mic on the beater side of the drum. This position is more prone to pick up squeaks from the pedal (keep a can of oil or WD40 handy), but will give a less boomy sound with lots of mids and treble. By mixing this mic position with a mic on the front end, it will add definition and give a fuller more rounded overall sound.

Make sure (as with all the drums and cymbals) that you achieve the best sound you can get from the particular instrument, before adding any EQ or compression. If you can, hold off on the EQ until the mixdown stage. When you add in the other band instruments, certain frequencies on the drums will be more useful than others to bring them out in the mix. You don’t want to commit too early to a kick EQ, because the kick and the bass guitar have to work together and the bass guitar sound will certainly affect the way you treat the kick sound.

Snare Drum

The snare is probably the most important drum in the kit because it drives the tempo of the song (and is probably the most strident of the drums). So it really needs as much separation as possible from the rest of the kit.

Aim A Quality Dynamic Mic Towards The Centre Of The Snare, Far Enough Back So That The Drummer Doesn’t Hit It.

When miking the snare consider it’s proximity to the hi-hat and don’t place it too far over the head or the drummer could accidentally hit it. Use a robust cardioid dynamic mic angled between 30 and 40 degrees to the beater head about an inch or two above the skin. Shure SM57s are widely used because they can handle the high SPLs and do a great job capturing the mid-range. You could also try an AKG C451 or Sennheiser 409.

Plus there are several mic packs on the market specifically designed for the drums. I mention Samson above, Audio Technica also do a 5 mic drum pack – AT MBDK5.

Striking The Snare At Different Points Produces Varying Sound Qualities.

Striking the snare in the centre will give most attack, at the edge will produce lots of high harmonics and midway will be the most resonant.

And remember, due to the Proximity Effect – the closer you move a mic with  a cardioid polarity pattern into a sound source, the more bottom end it will pick up.

Left – Miking The Snare From Below. Right – Air Blasts From The Hi-Hat Can Affect The Snare Mic Sound.

Positioning the mic over the snare may need a few attempts to get it right, so that it doesn’t pick up the blasts of air from the hi-hat opening and closing. Sometimes a super or hypercardioid does a better job.

Adding a mic below the snare gives you more options and tonal qualities as it will capture the sizzle of the snare wires. But you will need to reverse its phase with the mic above the snare. The snare wires should be tensioned so that they rattle when the snare is struck but not buzz in sympathy when other parts of the kit are hit. Applying some tissue or gaffa tape to the snare wires may be necessary, but don’t dampen or mute them completely.

Next week we’ll conclude our coverage of the Drum Kit with the Toms and Cymbals, then continue with Percussion.

Links For Mics…..AKG, Audix, Shure, Sennheiser, Royer, Neumann.