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Q. What mics do I need to record a drum kit?

It's possible to make perfectly good drum kit recordings using just a spaced pair of overhead mics.It's possible to make perfectly good drum kit recordings using just a spaced pair of overhead mics.

I have a five-piece drum kit with the three standard cymbals. I am trying to get the best sound possible on a very small budget. I am willing to learn new techniques (and I have to anyway) but I do want to keep prices low. I'm planning to order a Rode NT1A which I hope to use as a single mono overhead, but I was also thinking about a pair of AKG C1000s instead. I am considering a Samson Q Kick mic for the bass drum and a Shure SM57 for the snare. My budget may not stretch to the SM57 for now — can I manage without it? I'm aiming for an acoustic rock sound.

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Reviews Editor Mike Senior replies: The mics you mention are all solid choices overall, but I'd suggest you go for stereo overheads as opposed to mono. In fact, I'd rather go for stereo overheads to start with, rather than a mono overhead and kick drum mic.

You can manage very well with just a pair of overheads, although you're more at the mercy of your drummer's skills than you are with a full multi-mic setup. After that, I'd probably suggest that a kick-drum mic would be the next best investment, followed by a snare-drum mic. Your choices for both of these should be fine, and you should be able to find lots of other uses for both mics in the studio other than just drum miking.

However, as far as the overheads go, the AKG C1000s wouldn't be my first choice, to be honest. They're designed primarily for stage use — unlike phantom-powered condenser mics, they use a back-electret condenser design which means they can run off battery power — and I've found they can sound a bit nasal. Looking at the options within your budget, a better pair of mics to go for would probably be the Samson CO2s or Red5 Audio RV4s, either of which will set you back only £99 per pair in the UK. A slightly more expensive option would be a set of SE Electronics SE1As, which are £199 per pair. Any of these would be a good starting point, and, again, you should find lots of uses for them as your studio grows. The only potential fly in the ointment is that none of these mics can be battery-powered, so you'll need at least two input channels with phantom power to get them to work. You don't say what you're recording to, but two channels of phantom power isn't asking very much!

In terms of techniques, Hugh Robjohns feature on recording drums from SOS February 2003 is an excellent starting point — sos/feb03/articles/drummiking.asp. In it he discusses not only mic selection and positioning, but also room acoustics, mixing and effects, and the vitally important and often overlooked matter of making sure the kit is properly set up and tuned in the first place! Searching the SOS web site for 'drum recording' should turn up lots more helpful information. In particular, we frequently tackle drum-related issues in the course of our Studio SOS visits — in March 2003 ( sos/mar03/articles/studiosos0303.asp), March 2005 ( sos/mar05/articles/studiosos.htm) and as recently as April 2006 ( sos/apr06/articles/studiosos_0406.htm). It's not really surprising that the topic comes up so often — recording a full kit in a home studio environment is a bit of a challenge, but with a bit of know-how and some experimentation, you should be able to get good results.