I'll be doing a session with lots of mics and I'm going to be running out of gear choices without hiring, begging or stealing! For the kit, I don't really have all the right mics, so will need to compromise. Is it wise to use a Shure SM58 on kick drum? What can I expect?
Via SOS web site
SOS contributor Mike Senior replies: The first thing to say is that, although this mic (and, indeed, its SM57 cousin) is much better known for vocal, guitar and snare miking, there is also a good deal to recommend it for kick‑drum applications: its physical ruggedness; its ability to deal with high SPLs; and its presence-frequency emphasis, which can, in many situations, help the drum 'click' to cut through the mix, even when it's played back on small speakers. The biggest potential problem will be the low‑frequency response, which has been tailored to compensate for proximity effect in close‑miking situations and so falls off pretty steeply below 100Hz. However, there are several reasons why this needn't actually be a disaster in practice.
The first reason is that your microphone placement may well compensate for this, somewhat, especially if you're planning to use the mic inside the casing of the drum, where small changes in positioning can make an enormous difference to the amount of captured low end. It's also worth bearing in mind that lots of low‑end may not actually be very desirable at all, especially if the song you happen to be recording features detailed kick‑drum patterns that could lose definition in the presence of bloated lows. I often find myself filtering out sub‑bass frequencies at mixdown, in fact, as this can make the drum feel a lot tighter, as well as leaving more mix headroom for the bass part.
However, even if you do get an undesirably lightweight kick‑drum close‑mic sound, it's comparatively easy to supplement that at the mix: this is usually one of the simpler mix salvage tasks you're likely to encounter, in fact. One approach is to create some kind of low‑frequency synth tone (typically a sine wave, but it might be something more complex if you need more low‑end support) and then gate that in time with the kick‑drum hits. You can do this in most DAW systems now, using the built‑in dynamics side‑chaining system. I've done this in the past, but I tend to prefer the other common tactic: triggering a sample alongside the live kick‑drum using a sample‑triggering program (see our feature in last month's issue). There are now loads of these on the market, including the examples shown in the screens above.