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Ambient Miking | Media

Small-room Drum Ambience
By Neil Rogers

Audio files to accompany the article.

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Room For Improvement

Small-room Drum Ambience

The audio files available on this page accompany my article in SOS February 2015 about capturing useful room and other ambient signals when recording drums in a small or less than ideal room. I described different options in the article and here have provided audio examples for you to download and listen to, to get an idea of the effect that they can create in a drum mix. For each option, I’ve included a raw (ie. unprocessed) stereo file of my basic drum kit recording, raw files for each room option, a processed version of each room option and, finally, a file with the processed room mic gradually being blended with the basic kit, to demonstrate how it could be used.

RoomOption1_01_Basic Kit

A basic recording of the drum kit to demonstrate how the room mics might be combined with a more traditional setup. The stereo overhead was captured courtesy of a Royer SF-12 stereo ribbon mic placed centrally over the drum kit, about four feet above the snare drum. The two channels from the stereo mic are panned hard left and right from the audience’s perspective of looking at the drum kit. The kick drum mic was a Beyerdynamic M88 placed three inches away, directly outside the hole in the front of the bass drum, and the snare drum was captured with a Shure SM57 2-3 inches above the rim of the snare, pointing towards the centre of the drum. All these mics are completely unprocessed.

Room Option1_02_Raw

A pair of AKG 414 mics were positioned two feet apart, pointing straight at the floor about 50cm in front of the bass drum. These two tracks have been hard-panned left and right and mixed to one stereo track.

RoomOption1_03_Processed

An example of how these mics might be processed in a mix. Using the Waves SSL channel strip, I removed 6dB of low-mid muddiness around 250Hz and applied a low-pass filter at 11kHz to roll off the cymbals a little. I then heavily compressed them with a fast attack and release to give a more aggressive, explosive quality to the drums. This sounds quite over the top on its own, but blended in with the basic kit it can be quite subtle — or not, depending on taste.

RoomOption1_04_Blend

In this audio file the processed room option 1 is gradually faded into the basic kit recording, going from subtle to more extreme. Notice how the cymbals remain fairly under control even when the level of the room mics get more extreme.

RoomOption1_05_Blend

The same technique and processing but with the mics moved twice as far away from the kick drum. Notice how much more audible the top-end elements of the kit are.

RoomOption2_01_Basic Kit

Basic kit recording as described earlier.

RoomOption2_02_Raw

This is an example of how you might use an adjoining space to add some natural ambience to your drum mix. I placed a U87 condenser mic just outside the room in a corridor, with the door left very slightly open.

RoomOption2_03_Processed

My processing for this option was very similar to option 1, except I added some extra low frequencies at 110Hz with the SSL channel-strip EQ. Again, it’s quite heavily compressed with a fast attack and release, which creates a pumping effect.

RoomOption2_04_Blend

In this audio file the processed room option 2 is gradually faded into the basic kit recording, going from subtle to more extreme.

RoomOption3_01_Basic Kit

Basic Kit recording, as described earlier.

RoomOption3_02_Raw

For option 3 I placed a Beyerdynamic M160 ribbon mic on top of the kit drum pointing towards the snare. This option sounds pretty unremarkable on its own but can work well in a mix, adding plenty of punch and attack to the kick and snare.

RoomOption3_03 _Processed

As an example of how you might process this option, I added a 3dB EQ boost at 101 Hz to help beef up the low end, removed 3dB at 250 Hz and removed 2dB at 680 Hz to help ‘clean things up’ a little. I applied some fairly heavy pumping-style compression, using a fast attack and release.

RoomOption3_04_Blend

In this example, the processed room option 3 is gradually faded into the basic kit recording — going from subtle to more extreme. Things get a little OTT fairly quickly with this technique!

RoomOption4_01_Basic Kit

Basic kit recording, as described earlier.

RoomOption4_02_Raw

Option 4 was a Shure SM58 pointing towards the corner of the room. Notice how the mic captures a subtle but nice low-end thump. The upper mid-range is quite pronounced due to the SM58’s vocal-friendly frequency response.

RoomOption4_03_Processed

I added some extra low frequencies at 101Hz to help exaggerate the thump, and applied some fairly aggressive compression using a fast attack and release.

RoomOption4_04_Blend

In this file, the processed room option 4 is gradually faded into the basic kit recording, going from subtle to more extreme.

RoomOption5_01_Basic Kit

Basic kit recording, as described earlier.

RoomOption5_02_Raw

Option 5 was an AKG C451 cardioid condenser mic lying directly on the floor to create a hemi-cardioid boundary-mic-style recording. Notice how bright this recording sounds compared to some of the other options.

RoomOption5_03_Processed

EQ-wise, I applied +3dB at 93Hz, -8dB at 260Hz, -4dB at 680Hz, and a low-pass filter at 12kHz. I also tried some medium compression with a fast attack and release to get a little pumping effect.

RoomOption5_04_Blend

In this audio file, the processed option 5 is gradually faded into the basic kit recording, going from subtle to more extreme. I delayed the room mic by 10ms against the basic drum kit to try to re-create the Steve Albini room sound discussed in the article.

RoomOption6_01_Basic Kit

Basic kit recording, as described earlier.

RoomOption6_Mid Channel_02_Raw

For option 6 I used a Mid/Sides recording setup. This file is the ‘Mid’ channel on its own: an AKG C414 B-ULS, set in cardioid mode and pointed directly at the drum kit, at waist height, about 1.5m away.

RoomOption6_Side Channel_02_Raw

This is the ‘Sides’ part of the M/S configuration, which was captured with an AKG 414 set in a figure-of-eight polar pattern. The mic was positioned crossways under the mid microphone, with its side-null aiming at the kit. The file should be copied in your DAW, with each file then hard-panned left and right. One of the two side channels should then have its polarity reversed. These two Sides channels can then be balanced against the Mid channel to taste.

RoomOption6_04_Processed

For my processed example, I combined the Mid and Sides signals as described above, and applied the following EQ: -5dB at 250Hz, 2dB at 680Hz, high-pass filter at 38Hz, and low-pass filter at 12kHz. I also applied a little compression with fast attack and release.

RoomOption6_05_Blend

In this audio file the processed room option 6 is gradually faded into the basic kit recording, going from subtle to more extreme.

Published February 2015