Posted tagged ‘Mic Technique’

TCM MASTERING & TCM MUSIC GROUP OWNER AND FOUNDER, TED CARFRAE DISCUSSES HOW TO ACHIEVE A GREAT VOCAL RECORDING

October 14, 2011

TCM Mastering & TCM Music Group Owner And Founder, Ted Carfrae Discusses How To Achieve A Great Vocal Recording.

In our Monday blogs (TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Series) we’re currently discussing the multitrack process. So we thought it might be useful to include a few videos that relate to this series – specifically recording vocals – as most great songs are best remembered for their vocal performance.

In the first video below, Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group, discusses vocal recording, microphone technique and finding your microphone’s ‘sweet spot’ to get that great vocal sound.

In the second video, Ted discusses how he and many other producers and engineers achieve a ‘magical’ vocal performance in the recording studio.

If you’re looking for help, putting those finishing touches to a music track or would like more information on our affordable studio packages, please contact us by clicking here.

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TCM MASTERING: HOME MUSIC STUDIO PART 22 – RECORDING DRUMS, MORE DETAILED MIC TECHNIQUES

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.

Toms

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…..an 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.

Overheads

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.

TCM MASTERING: HOME MUSIC STUDIO – PART 21 RECORDING DRUMS, MORE DETAILED MIC TECHNIQUES

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.

TCM MUSIC GROUP’S TED CARFRAE DISCUSSES VOCAL & MIC TECHNIQUES

July 21, 2011

TCM Music Group’s Ted Carfrae Discusses Vocal Tips and Microphone Techniques

TCM’s Ted Carfrae discusses some important vocal tips and in the video at the end of this blog considers microphone technique.

If you’ve watched and listened to a really good singer, they make it look so effortless don’t they. Making it look easy usually comes after many years of rehearsing and practice. There are child prodigies of course, which make you think they must be just naturally talented…..but even prodigies practice.

A Unique Vocalist – Ella Fitzgerald.

In fact studies have shown that virtuoso musicians for the most part have become virtuosos because they have spent several hours every day perfecting their craft over many years, at the expense of doing other things…..like, having a life.

In other words, for most virtuosos there’s no short cut to becoming the best in your field. It simply takes lots and lots of practice. As Nike said ‘Just Do It’.

So if you want to become a great singer, be prepared to put in those hours and learn your craft. Apart from any natural talent you may have, there are certain things you can do to help you get there.

Vocalist Recording – Standing, Upright Posture.

Let’s start with some basics…..posture and breathing.

You can’t expect your vocals to sound good if you’re bent over. Stand up straight so that your lungs can fill with air…..straight spine…..feet slightly apart…..look straight ahead…..shoulders back and relaxed…..arms down by your side.

To become a great singer you need to be able to control your breathing. Make full use of your diaphragm to take deep breaths…..open the throat…..ribs expand, opening the lungs…..as you breath out, the chest moves in and air is expelled.

Consider the points below too…..

  • Stretching your whole body before singing can often produce beneficial results. Give yourself a good mini-workout.
  • Milk and citrus fluids can produce mucous which does not do your voice any favours. Water is good, it keeps you and your vocal chords hydrated.
  • Vocal warm up exercises are useful if you’re recording or going for an audition.
  • If you have an important audition or recording session, don’t over do it the night before. Talking over loud music in a smokey bar or at a party will strain your voice.
  • Make use of a recorder to capture a rehearsal and play it back so that you can hear the positives as well as any negatives with your voice.

Zoom H4 Handy Recorder – Excellent Quality In A Small Device.

As you can see, there are plenty of things you can do to, improve your vocal technique.

And in case you’re thinking your favourite rocker doesn’t do all this – well, some don’t that’s true…..many successful singers appear to break all the rules, but even they have voice coaches and trainers…..these days.

Check out the video below. Ted Carfrae (singer, producer, sound mixer and founder of TCM Music Group) discusses vocal performance and microphone technique.

At the moment TCM are offering a RED HOT SUMMER DEAL – Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group will mix and master a track for £175.00 inclusive. For more information please contact TCM by clicking here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our various recording packages, or simply have a question about recording, mixing or mastering – please click here.

TCM MASTERING: HOME MUSIC STUDIO – PART 20 RECORDING DRUMS, SIMPLE MIC TECHNIQUES

July 17, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 20 Recording Drums – Simple Mic Techniques

Over the last two weeks we’ve covered tuning and some useful tips on setting up the drum kit before placing mics. Thanks to everyone who is taking time to check out this series. We really appreciate your interest.

This week we’ll look at some basic set ups and next week we’ll cover more detailed mic techniques for recording drums.

Dave Brubeck’s Drummer – Joe Morello With A Single Mic At The Front Of His Kit (Placed Left In Picture Just Below Cymbal).

Memorable drum tracks have been recorded by the Beatles, Motown and Sun Records as well as Jazz greats Joe Morello (check out this You Tube video – amazing drum solo!) and Buddy Rich to name a few…..all at a time when technology was quite primitive in comparison to the facilities that are available today.

Before placing any mics, make sure you find the best spot in your room to position the drums. Depending on whether your room is ‘live’ (reflective) or dead, will partly influence where to put the kit.

If the room is square, try setting up the kit in a corner facing into the room…..face the kit away from any windows and try to point it towards soft furniture that will absorb rather than reflect sound. If it’s a particularly dead room to start with, you may want to use a few reflective panels to bring some life into your recordings. But remember, it’s much easier to add some reverb in the mix than it is to remove it. 

Until you’ve gone through this process a few times, you won’t know which is the best spot. Eventually, you will get to know your room’s positives and negatives and be able to position instruments for the best results.

So let’s consider the most popular basic techniques for mic placement.

If you are limited by the number of mics, preamps or input channels, a basic stripped down approach will be required. Remember, drums used to be recorded with just one mic (before the days of multi-tracking).

A Single Well Placed Condenser (eg. Neumann U47) At The Front Of The Kit, Can Produce Great Results.

With a single well placed mic – if you have a great drummer playing a well tuned, decent kit in a good sounding room – most of your problems are solved. The challenges in recording a drum kit come from any of those factors not being quite good enough. In the pictures above, a single condenser mic is positioned at about 5-6 feet high at a distance of 2-5 feet from the kit.

Remember, when we mention distances they are only a guide. There is always a little trial and error in miking any instrument. What will work for one situation…..a room, drummer, kit…..will be different for another.

A Single Quality Mic Placed In Front Of The Kick Drum, Pointing Towards The Snare, At Hi-Hat Height Can Produce Great Results.

Try a condenser or ribbon mic either above and behind the drummer aimed at the snare (though you won’t pick up much kick) or in front of the kick drum at a height of 3-6 feet pointing towards the snare (see the picture above).

To find the best mic position, ask your drummer to play. Listen carefully with your ears as you move around the kit while it’s being played, then place the mic, monitor it and move it until you find the sweet spot.

And always evaluate a drum kit with the drummer you will use for your recording session. Two drummers can make the same kit sound quite different.

Most engineers seem to prefer large diaphragm mics, but you can try small too. Everything from a Neumann U47/87, TLM 103/170, KM84/184 to the AKG C414B/C451/C3000, Audio Technica AT 4033/4044 or a Coles 4033 ribbon can produce surprisingly good results.

X-Y Stereo Pair On Drum Kit.

If you want to keep it simple but record in stereo eg. a jazz kit, you can place an X-Y pair (AKG C451s or C460Bs work well) about 6 feet high aligned over the snare drum or the player’s head. This technique works well for mono compatibility. Sounds from different directions arrive at both mics at the same time – because the two mic heads are almost touching – resulting in no phase problems. Use either large or small diaphragm condensers. Ribbons yield a sweet sound.

A small change in mic position can give you a very different sound – favouring cymbals or drums. So take your time to try out various positions.

If you add individual mics for the kick and snare to the above set up, you should have ample coverage for the kit. Place the bass drum and snare mics a few inches away from the drum heads (see next week’s blog for more detailed placement). Use EQ sparingly. A little compression on the kick and snare usually help to keep a tight sound…..we’ll cover signal processing in more depth in a later blog.

A Stereo Spaced Pair Set Up Works Best Using The 3 To 1 Ratio Rule.

An alternative stereo set up is the Spaced Pair. Use two matched/identical mics. And remember to use the 3 to 1 ratio rule. For example, if the mics are placed 2 feet above the cymbals make sure the two mics are 6 feet apart. This helps to eliminate any phase problems.

With all techniques that employ more than one mic – check for mono compatibility…..the sound should still be full with a good bottom end. If there are out of phase issues, the two tracks being monitored together in mono will sound hollow. If you feel this is the case, move one of the mics until the sound improves or use a phase reversal switch on one of the mics. If you’re recording into a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), they often have the facility of flipping phase to solve this problem.

Good Bass Drum Mic Choices – AKG D112, Sennheiser E602 and Beyer Dynamic Opus 65.

There are plenty of mics on the market specifically designed to record the kick drum eg. AKG D112 or the classic D12 (if you can get your hands on one), Sennheiser E602 and Beyer Dynamic Opus 65 – all rugged, excellent for transients and capable of handling high SPLs (Sound Pressure Levels).

For the snare, the ever popular Shure SM57 (dynamic) or the AKG C451 (condenser) are commonly used. Angle the mic towards the snare, close to the drum’s edge but far enough away from the drummer to prevent the mic being struck.

The Glyn Johns’ 3 Mic Technique – Uses A Mic On The Kick And 2 Matched Mics Equidistant From The Snare…One To The Drummer’s Right, The Other Above The Snare. 

The last method I want to include in this week’s blog, uses 3 mics. Some variations on it use 4, but you can get away with 3 and achieve a great, live, open sound. Obviously, with only 3 mics there will be some compromises in the mixing of the drum kit. The ‘secret’ to success with this method seems to be in getting the drummer to play the cymbals quieter than normal.

Glyn Johns created this 3 mic method which he famously used on sessions for Led Zeppelin when recording drummer John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin Drummer – John Bonham.

A good mic (usually dynamic) is positioned 6 inches to a foot from the resonating head of the kick drum. Popular choices for decades have been the AKG D12/D112, Sennheiser MD421, Shure SM57/58 or Beta 52. The Audix D6, a large diaphragm, cardioid dynamic is also well liked. Condensers can work too, but you have to be very careful as the SPLs produced by a bass drum are high.

If you hear too much resonance or rattle you can place a blanket or pillow inside the kick drum. Refrain from using any EQ until you’re absolutely sure you are capturing the best possible sound.

The other 2 mics are matching ‘overheads’ eg. AT 2020s, placed the same distance from the centre of the snare. Use a measure, for accuracy. This eliminates any phasing problems…..see the diagram – Glyn Johns’ Technique – below.

Johns placed one mic out to the drummer’s right, 4 or 5 inches above and just beyond the floor tom pointing towards the snare drum. The other was placed directly over the snare pointing down. There have since been many minor variations on these positions. The key, however, is that the 2 ‘overhead’ mics are always equidistant from the snare drum.

Get the drummer to play the cymbals quieter than normal. Using smaller cymbals often helps too.

When it comes to mixing, pan the ‘overheads’ as far apart as you can before you lose stereo focus (try 3-9 o’clock). Bring the kick drum up in the centre.

If you like, you can add a fourth mic for the snare (panning it to the centre), to give more presence to the kit. And there you have it. A tried and tested mic technique for recording drums which should yield a great sounding kit.

In next week’s blog we will cover miking individual drums in more detail and get into more complicated set ups and mic techniques.

At the moment TCM are offering a RED HOT SUMMER DEAL – Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group will mix and master a track for £175.00 inclusive. For more information please contact TCM by clicking here.

And remember, 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.