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3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

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3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:25 am

Greetings All,
I want to record a drum kit that has lots of character. I am not looking to record in the traditional manner as I have 3 mics and 3 mic pres. The room is not a great room. I dont want the pristine sound of every piece of the kit on its own track. I am not looking for a good room tone in the recording So in my mind I am going to do a guerrilla recording. The mics are - a ribbon beyerdynamic, an Avantone ribbon, its a figure 8 and the back side gives a slightly darker tone (the SOS review of this mic was spot on - excellent mic choice for the $$) and an Earthworks SR77. I know I will have to experiment with placement to get the sound I want but sometimes the tips I get here save me time and teach me cool things. So for kick drum I would use the Beyerdynamic as it has a very good built in windscreen. I thought I would place the Avantone near the snare but facing the toms and I thought the earthworks would be a good overhead for the cyms and toms. As we are talking 3 mics its not a hassle to switch them up but this is where I thought I should start. Any thoughts appreciated.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby grab » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:04 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:I am not looking for a good room tone in the recording

At the risk of asking a stupid question, why not? If you're not close-micing, the room is going to make a massive difference to the recording, and the "lots of character" might be ruined by the room.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:58 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:I want to record a drum kit that has lots of character.

Then you need to start with a great drum kit, set up carefully and tuned well, played by someone skilful, and in a good sounding room with plenty of height.

The room is not a great room.

Ah... Then the recording will always be compromised.

I am not looking for a good room tone

Okay... then you only solutions are: (1) close-mic everything individually in order to exclude as much room as possible, or (2) hang lots of absorbers to make the room as dead as possible

I dont want the pristine sound of every piece of the kit on its own track.


Then record a mono or stereo mix of your mics... ;)

To be blunt, if you want to record a full drum kit with only three mics you have to take a relatively distant miking approach because otherwise the mics won't get a balanced picture of the kit. The standard jazz approach is a pair of overheads and a kick drum mic for stereo, or kick, snare and overhead for mono -- or some variation on that theme. But either way, the overhead has to be a fair way up, and so it will inevitably pick up your less than idea room tone -- and there's no way around that.

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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby paul tha other » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:00 pm

i would go for the setup you suggested..but i wouldnt bother pointing the snare mic toward the toms....place the other mic above you head pointing at the toms..i use this setup a lot when recording acoustic /singersongwriter type things
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Mixedup » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:00 pm

grab wrote:
ManFromGlass wrote:I am not looking for a good room tone in the recording

At the risk of asking a stupid question, why not? If you're not close-micing, the room is going to make a massive difference to the recording, and the "lots of character" might be ruined by the room.

+1. If you don't care about the sound of the kit in the room, you're not going to get good results with that setup. But FWIW, you could configure the two ribbons as an MS pair in the room, with the dark/bright one in the centre so the two sides sound right. Set the height of that pair to get more/less cymbals and/or change the tone. Aim down the centre and make sure the kick and snare are dead centre on the kit. See how it sounds and stick a close mic on snare or kick if either needs reinforcing. Or try similar approach with MS overheads and a single mic on kick. Raise or lower the cymbals to change the balance of cymbals/rest of kit... but this all requires you to think about what's captured to the rear of the central fig 8 mic... maybe put a screen up there?
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby The Elf » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:25 pm

Much of it has already been said.

If you're going to take a three mic approach then the room is going to play a big part, whether you like it or not. In fact the room will effectively *become* a large part of the sound of the kit.

If I was using three mic's, and this wasn't going to be a jazz recording, then ideally I'd be going stereo overheads/kick mic. I'd begin backing the overhead(s) away to let them get an overall picture of the kit, and I would bring them in front of the kit to get a subjectively better balance between drums and cymbals. My third mic would be outside the kick.

If I was going for a mono overhead then I may allocate one mic to pointing down on the snare.

With most styles of music, as long as the kick and snare are well supported, and you've got something providing a picture of the kit as a whole, then the drums will sound reasonable.

Never let it be said that you can't get a great sounding drum recording with three mic's, but the kit, room and player really do have to be up to scratch.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:41 pm

What sort of music is it?

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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:42 pm

You don't point a mic at something in order to "pick it up". Use your ears not your eyes. You put the mics where you think they'll work, then listen in the isolated control room while someone moves them under your instruction. If you've no control room then you do lots of test recordings. You do this while the band rehearses, otherwise you'll piss off the drummer and they won't play well. If you don't like the room use a different one, or use an appropriate mix of absorbers and diffusers to create an acoustic you like.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Thunderbass1 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 3:54 pm

There is a tried and tested three mic drum technique that works to my taste as long as the drummer and kit are good. One high over the snare (2 sticks distant) one horizontally by the floor tom equidistant from the snare overhead and a third Kick mic.
It's around on the internet, sometimes attributed to Glyn Johns but I think it's older than that. In Youtube look for...
"Three Mic Drum Test (Glyn Johns Technique)"
and you can hear it demonstrated.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:12 pm

That works, that Glyn Johns/Recorderman variation, whatever you choose to call it. It allows for quite a focused snare sound without having a snare close mic, which is good, because a spaced pair of overheads usually yields a rather too 'natural' snare for some tastes. But the problem to watch out for with that technique is that sometimes the left crash (drummers perspective) ends up at an angle which fires a load of harmonics really strongly at the right hand floor tom side mic. And that leads to a sort of weird swishing of that crash across the image. It's quite distracting. If you had a drummer who had that crash quite loose on the stand and hit it hard it might be a real problem.

Your best approach really does depend on what style of music it is, and what the room sounds like. It goes without saying that the drummer MUST play in balance and the kit must be well tuned with heads in good condition.

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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby The Elf » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:39 pm

I'm all for getting the snare centred in the overheads, but the 'Recorderman' technique is overkill IMO. It typically leaves far too much room between the mic's and the kit for my taste, and the kick will need close mic support in any case, making centering it of questionable value.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:53 pm

But then if there's no close mic, the overheads ARE the snare sound. And if the room is a bit weird it could be very hard to get them sounding coherent. Maybe a mono overhead, kick and snare is more the way to go with this. Again...depends on the music.

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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby The Elf » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:57 pm

'Recorderman' is designed to centre both the snare *and* kick. If I was using three mic's (and stereo overheads) I'd only concern myself with centering the snare (i.e. the 'Glyn Johns' method).
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 5:04 pm

Well it 'sort of' centres the kick. The reality of most rooms is that the low end is of course uneven within the room, and the chances are you're going to get more low end energy on one side. Also of course, the mic that's next to the floor tom picks up all the low end coming off the floor tom every time the kick and snare hit. It can be very nice, but it's not exactly 'centred' low-end energy. My point about the snare being focused wasn't so much to do with it being centred but to do with having a mic that really captures the snare directly, which that L overhead in recorderman does. Spaced pairs always give you a bit of a phantom snare and again you're a slave to the low end lumps in the room.

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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby turbodave » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:48 pm

Hi, I would mic to the music..that is to say if you ain't gonna use the toms , then take 'em off. This helps with rattle and hum and changes the options with mic placement. Also , use one crash maybe unless two is crucial. Maybe you won't use the ride. Always think a little outside the box when recording kit as a whole kit isn't necessary for most tunes. Dave
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby mellowsouls » Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:43 am

Hang on, ribbon on a kick drum? Would the OP need to be cautious with placement to avoid damaging the ribon element?
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby grab » Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:03 pm

Having done a recording where I didn't pay due care and attention to centring the kick and was duly embarrassed by the dodgy result, if you're going Glyn Johns then checking equal distances from kick to both mics is a good move. The "two drum sticks" rule isn't great though - the angle and placement of cymbals and toms will make this sound different for every kit, so the right place for the overhead is where your ears tell you it is.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby The Elf » Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:06 pm

grab wrote:if you're going Glyn Johns then checking equal distances from kick to both mics is a good move.

Then the result will be 'Recorderman', not 'Glyn Johns'.

As far as I am aware (and I'm ready to learn if I've always misconstrued!) the 'Glyn Johns' method centres snare - *not* kick. 'Recorderman' centres both snare and kick.

Anyway, by the time you've rolled off the extreme low end from the overheads, and replaced it with the close kick mic signal, an off-centre kick in the overheads is rarely a problem.
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:38 pm

Yes! Love this forum, many valuable points to be considered were raised -thanks. Last night I was at a festival and was chatting with a producer friend who mentioned the Glyn Johns approach too. So I have some experimenting to do. My friend told the story of the drummer who came back into the control room and complained that one tom was to loud, please turn it down and the producer said "I'm here to capture the performance. Go back in and play it that way". My player is a seasoned vet and monster player so I hope to do his playing justice by trying the tips here. Fwiw- the room does have a unique sound, it's not a room that would be a first choice for recording drums. The style required is in the Steve Gadd vein similar to the end of Aja, almost a primitive kick ass high energy drum solo, so toms, kick and snare all play an important roll, cyms not so much. All this to be mixed in with tabla, Indian flutes, mbira, a hybrid fretless bass and more. Can there be any better job in the world?
Thanks again,
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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:39 pm

Sounds like it's going to be amazing!

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Re: 3 mics on a drum kit. How would you do it?

Postby grab » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:39 pm

I'm also happy to be corrected - and usually am! :)

Recorderman guarantees to centre snare and kick, which seems like a good idea. But ISTR that also part of the Recorderman method as originally stated was a rule of "place the top mic two drumsticks from the snare". This might give some kind of starting point, but I don't think it's great as a solid rule.

Our first drummer, indeed it wasn't a problem. Our current drummer though has a nice kit and quite a clicky kick. So the kick puts out a lot more than a HPF will block.
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