How To Mic Drums for Recording, Part 3 — Multiple Microphones

How To Mic Drums for Recording, Part 3 — Multiple Microphones
Welcome to part 3 of our “How to Mic Drums for Recording” series. Part One was about using two microphones, Part Two covered a couple of different ways to utilize four microphones, and now, with Part Three, we’re going to get into how to use a lot of microphones; we’ll be putting mics on just about every piece of the drum kit as well as using multiple room mic options in order to have maximum control and flexibility in our recorded drum sound.
I would like to mention that the mic set up you see in the pictures is what we did that particular day. There is no one way to mic drums that works every time, with every kit, in every room, with every drummer. There are basic ways to mic drums that work reliably and that serve as starting points, but there is always room for imagination and creativity. If you come up with a new and better way to do something in the studio then go for it! It’s about making a great recording, however that may happen. It’s also worth mentioning that you can take it even farther then what we did in the studio on this particular day. I’ve heard stories of engineers and producers putting two mics on every tom, one underneath the drum and one on top. I’ve been in numerous sessions where the producer wanted a spot mic on each cymbal. Those are just a couple examples. But always be aware: the more microphones you put on a drumkit, the more you will have to deal with issues such as phase cancellation.
Your Recording Space
I’ll begin by saying the same thing that I’ve said in each of the articles in this series: your recording space and the gear you’re recording with make as big of an impact on the sound of your recordings as the microphones do. If your gear and the room sound bad then so will your recording. You have to take that into account and do whatever you can to get your room sounding its best, or as good as you can, before you ever hit the record button. This will make a huge difference in your recordings.
Mic Placement 
As you can see from the picture above, I set up a pretty big drum kit — a DW Collectors Series Cherry Gum kit with 8″, 10″, and 12″ rack toms, along with 16″ and 18″ floor toms. The kick drum is an 18″ x 23″. The second kick drum is a Gretsch 16″ x 20″. The main snare is a Pearl Masters MCX 6.5″ x 14″, and to round out the kit I have an old Mapex Black Panther 5″ x 10″. For the session we were working on that day I only used the second kick drum and small snare for color in the sound here and there, but they still needed to be set up.
Whenever a drummer sets up a big drum kit certain issues arise, such as how to place the mics in the right spot to get the best sound without the mics getting in the drummer’s way. Plus you don’t want the drummer hitting your mics accidentally! There is no sure answer I can give you on this because every drummer is different and some of them do not like to move their gear out of their comfort zone. For some players, raising their cymbals up higher really throws off their playing. In that case you have to just work with what you got.
Mic Setup
For the main kick drum we used a Shure Beta 52 on the inside of the drum and a Yamaha Sub Kick on the outside; the mic on the inside of the drum gets the attack and punch while the Sub Kick grabs a lot of the low-end subharmonics. Those two mics, along with the room and overheads come into combination to get a big sound. The second kick drum also has aShure Beta 52 on the inside. We chose not to use a subkick on that drum because it is a smaller-sized drum, I used it sparingly, and it just didn’t need as much low end in the sound.
full kit multi mic_front_Fotor_Fotor
full kit multi mic_main snare_Fotor_Fotor
For the main snare we used a Telefunken M80-SH for the top and a Telefunken M81-SH for the bottom. In a double kick drum set up I have found that squeezing the top mic between the rack toms is the best place to put the mic. It is pointing away from the toms and even more importantly, away from the cymbals. A lot of times when placing a snare mic from the side it will be pointing a bit at the ride or a crash cymbal. It’s preferable to minimize as much bleed from other instruments as possible. The bottom mic is placed pretty much right in the middle of the drum directly underneath the snare wires and it is there to pick up the snap those wires give off when the snare drum is hit. The M80 has a slight high-end boost, which is nice for the top of the drum while the M81 has more of a flat response. In this case, the “SH” in the name just stands for “short.” The M81-SH is the short-body version of the mic, which makes it a little easier to fit it into tight spaces. For the little side snare we chose a Telefunken M80. The slight top-end boost of the M80 works great for that small snare, to pick up its loud “crack.”
On the toms (except for the 8″) we used Sennheiser MD 421 IIs. MD 421 IIs are an industry standard when it comes to miking toms. They have great ability to keep the attack of the drums while bringing out a round tone. The 8″ tom is very high pitched and similar in tone to the small side snare without the wires so we went with the Telefunken M81-SH. We placed all of the tom mics about two inches above the drumhead, at a fairly steep angle to minimize bleed, and about an inch in from the rim.
On the hi-hat we use a Shure KSM141, which is a great mic for this application. It gets all of the high-end wash of hi-hat cymbals without making them sound harsh. As you can see in the pictures, the mic is pointing away from the rest of the drum kit. This is also to minimize bleed from the other drums.
For the overheads we used Shure KSM44As placed three or four feet above the cymbals. Our aim was to get them to basically split the kit in half in order to get a nice stereo spread when played back through speakers.
full kit lulti mic_room1_Fotor_Fotor
Room Mics
Since we are spoiled to have such a wonderful studio here at Sweetwater, we use room mics take advantage of the great room sound. We placed a Royer SF-12 Stereo Ribbon mic in the middle of the room directly in front of the drumkit. The Royer SF-12 is two matched ribbon microphones placed one above the other and fixed at a 90-degree angle. It is fantastic for room applications. It is a very clear sounding mic and the stereo spread really helps to get a big drum sound.
Just For Fun
The final mic in this big puzzle is a Neumann U 87 placed in one of the small iso rooms with the sliding glass door open. The point of placing the mic there is get an extreme sound to blend in with the rest of the drumkit. It is one of those situations where if you have it available, then go for it. The trick for this mic is to compress it hard in order to make the drums sound like they are “breathing.” 
full kit multi mic_room2_Fotor_Fotor
What’s the Point?
The point to having all of these mics on the drums is to have as much control as possible when it comes time to mix your song. But you do not necessarily have to use all of the mics. The meat of the sound should come from your kick drum mic, snare drum mic, and your overheads. Everything else, even the room mics, are all in support of your main sound. Start with the overheads and get them sounding as good as you can by themsleves. You are looking for a clear spread across the stereo field where you can hear the whole kit. Then start adding the kick drum, then the snare drum, and on from there. With some practice you will love having control over all of those separate sounds. It is super fun!
Now get on out there and make music!
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