Micing Drums. What I learned on a recent experiment

My drum micing has gotten fairly standard over the last while so I thought I would shake it up and try out some new things. I put up a ton of different mics and here is what I ended up liking.

My go to mic’s Have been sampson q7’s for close mics, sm-81’s for overheads, and some cheap apex ribbon mic’s for rooms.

I ended up still liking the sampson q7’s as close mic’s. The hyper cardiod pattern is awesome. I still prefer Sm-81’s in ORTF as overheads. I added a “homemade” Jeklin disk in between the ORTF pair. It did a wider stereo image.

Years ago I was prefering AKG 414’s on toms. I tried the fairly in expensive AT 2035’s with pad engaged on the bottom side of the toms and they are fantastic. q7’s on top where great.

There were a few surprises, re-20 on hat was awesome. A vintage Shure fatboy on kick made was fantastic for getting the high end snap. An AT 4040 was killer on kick to get a great low mid sound. I think I’ll be selling my Beta 52. A vintage EV 644 shotgun mic on snare top is really good. Using it to add some real meat to the snare was cool.

The ribbon mics for room are still really good and what I prefer.

What are all of you liking on drums lately?


I like tuning and mic placement, I don’t really care about the mics themselves…within reason.

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Man i wish i could say i have a preference but since I only own 5 mics and only have a roland vdrums… I don’t. One day though if i ever get out of this financial hole then i would like to try. For now it is fun reading about what others are doing and dreaming of the day.


That is a fair statement. The reason I chose the AT 2035’s on the bottom of the Toms was because LDC’s tend to capture the decay of the toms really well. I looked at the spec’s and saw they could handle pretty high SPL’s they have a pad as well and what do you know they sound great. Any LDC that could handle the SPL would likely be fantastic. The reason I thought to put the re-20 on hat was because it is very close to an LDC in how it reacts and the SDC’s on hats don’t do it for me. The RE-20 is less shrill on hats. Any mic that has a pretty severe low end roll off and can handle high SPL will likely capture kick attack really well. These are the mic’s in my collection that just happen to meet the requirements.

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Last time I did drums, I tried getting most of the capture from two mics - one kinda above the floor tom and just far back enough that said tom wasn’t miles off axis, one likewise in front of the kit looking over the high tom. I liked that. They both ended up underneath the cymbals. I called them kit L and R, they sounded like drums :slight_smile: It was a pair of at4050s because that’s what I have a pair of!

Then it was just snare (sm57) kick (re 20) and an okt-012 as a room mic.

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My admiration goes out to all you guys who mic real drums. I have enough trouble mixing the BFD mics without worrying about real room reflections etc etc etce. KUDOS.

Much of this discussion (to me anyway) is contingent upon the source/room/mic chemistry. Ever since I saw the Pensado video where they went inside Sunset Sound, I was fascinated with the concept of one mono room mic + one kick mic sounding bigger than a bazillion mics all over the kit. Here’s another video that demonstrates the concept, minus the million dollar acoustics design that Sunset has. https://youtu.be/W9WPzFILKEs (ps… can someone tell me how to embed a video on here?)

As far as my favs…If I use a mono overhead, or stereo room mics, it’ll end up being the Blue Bottles. A short while back I did some tracking in another room with some Telefunken copperheads. (That was before I had the pair of Blue’s). They did a nice job, and at $1300 a shot, they’re WAY more affordable. A mic I was recently VERY impressed with was the Brauner VMA. Just a breathtaking degree of detail, character, and clarity.

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Have you experimented with blending BFD sounds into the real drums samples? I use the Addictive trigger and feed the midi output directly to BFD. It also has a cross-compatible midi note map that can analyze the drum hits, convert them to midi, then drag and drop right into the BFD sequencer. It’s pretty cool. Even if the drum take is real good, I don’t see any shame in adding a little extra to get a ‘larger than life’ vibe that’s pretty common in pop tracks these days. :smiley:

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Yeah, it kinda makes sense that with just one mic, you’re going to get the most real, solid image. I think of the Beatles recordings - once you learn to listen past the production/ mix aesthetic of the era, the actual sound of the kit is as real and high quality as anything that came since. As soon as you add more mics you’ve got phase issues all over the shop. So as long as;

  • You’ve got an amazing drummer
  • The drum kit sounds amazing in the room, exactly like you want it to sound in the mix
  • The room is fantastic
  • Your one mic is really great
  • You know you won’t need to change a single thing about any individual drum sound or the internal balance of the kit in the future

It’s a good idea. :smiley:

In my terrible world of recording purgatory, I can only dream of these things coming together! And of course, for some styles the sound of close mics is pretty much essential (though I love genre-defying production choices!)

I don’t know that I would attempt that without a kick mic, if not just for sample trigger purposes. I would also use a snare mic for sample triggers as well. Some triggers can extract kick/snare hits from a mono or stereo stem, but it seems like it would save a lot of trouble to just slap something else on there and roll with it.

Just because the a mono room mic is picking up a lot of kick doesn’t void the value of having a good mic in the kick. Use the room mic to capture the dimension image of the kick, but use the kick mic to accentuate the attack and the energy. Then add a samples as necessary to manipulate the subharmonics and the depth.

Food for thought :smiley:

No, I don’t think I would either! Unless it was Jazz with loads of space in the low end for a roomy low end sound I suppose, but I’ve never done anything close to that myself.

I have experienced the “disappearing kit” from phase problem in the past. When I first started micing drums years ago I had mic’s galore and they were all out of phase and polarity. One of the things I have had said to me is that as you start adding more mics you get more phase problems no matter what. Samples seemed to be the way to go to enhance the kit but what I found out is that you can run into the same problem with samples. The worse part about samples is that once you get the track time aligned and in polarity you may end up with a couple rogue hits that are out of phase with your real mic.

Here is what I’ve done to combat phase issues when micing a kit. In logic I have created input channels so that I can record destructively with plugins. I load sound radix’s auto align plug in on each track. I make sure that the snare top mic has positive phase and then I set the snare top mic as the send channel and the rest as the receive. I make sure they detect phase and polarity. I get the drummer to hit snare until the plugin aligns everything. I get the drummer to keep hitting snare as I double check the the plugin improved my situation. It is awesome to hear this many mics align. The focus is unreal. Sometimes I go back and delay the room mics purposely. I also do this muti micing cabs. This can all be done after the fact but this way I get to isten to time aligned tracks right away.

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