For my second studio session, I decided that I would experiment with a variety of ways that a drum kit can be recorded. I was able to position microphones on all drums whilst also being able to record using a handful of stereo microphone techniques to find out which I preferred the sound of when making a recording of a full drum kit.
The techniques and equipment I used were:
AKG C1000 x 2
I used the AKG C1000 to make the following recordings:
- Mic’ing the Snare – Underneath the Snare
- Glyn John’s Technique
I decided to use this microphone for the following reasons:
Frequency Response – The C1000’s frequency response between 240Hz and 5000-6000Hz is good making it ideal for capturing the ‘fatness’ of the snare from the lower frequencies that are produced and the ‘crispness’ from the higher frequencies. Moreover, this microphone also has a good response to frequencies of 200Hz and frequencies of 7500 – 10,000Hz, making it ideal to use as an overhead mic as it will be able to capture the ‘clank’ and ‘sizzle’ of cymbals.
Frequency Response Graph:
Polar Pattern – This microphone uses a cardioid polar pattern. This was useful for making the aforementioned recordings as it allowed me to minimise the amount of spill from the other drums of the kit whilst being used to mic individual drums.
Sensitivity – AKG C1000s have a sensitivity of 6 mV/Pa (milliVolts per Pascal) making them medium sensitivity microphones. I believed that this was the most suitable sensitivity for this experiment as I would mainly be using them for overhead/ambient recordings. As a drum kit is a loud instrument to record, the medium sensitivity from an ambient position means that there was a minimal risk of the signal clipping and the recording becoming distorted. However, when I used a C1000 to record close mic’ed under the snare, I needed to use low gain levels to make sure the signal wouldn’t clip due to the sensitivity.
I only used the AKG D112 to capture a close mic’ed recording from inside the kick drum.
I decided that this was the only suitable use for the microphone for the following reasons:
Frequency Response – The D112 has a very good response to frequencies between 60Hz and 80Hz when placed within 10cm of the sound source. This made the microphone more than adequate for capturing the kick drum’s ‘thump’. Additionally, the D112 also has a very strong frequency response to frequencies of 4000Hz, making it good for capturing the ‘attack’ of the kick drum.
Frequency Response Graph:
Polar Pattern – The AKG D112 has a cardioid polar pattern which made it suitable for recording the kick drum as I was using a close mic’ing technique so didn’t want to capture spill from the other drums in order to achieve a clean, strong recording.
Sensitivity – This microphone has a sensitivity of 1.8 mV/Pa (milliVolts per Pascal) categorising it as a low sensitivity microphone. The D112’s low sensitivity made it most suitable for capturing the kick drum as if I used a medium or high sensitivity microphone, due to the volume of the kick drum, the signal would be likely to clip and distort, therefor leading to my use of the D112 thanks to its low sensitivity.
The only recording I captured using the AKG D40 was a close mic’ed recording of a high tom drum.
I used the microphone because, in my opinion, it was the most suitable for the recording due to the following reasons:
Frequency Response – The frequency response of the D40 is good at 120 – 240Hz, making it able to strongly capture the ‘fullness’ of the tom. Furthermore, the tom’s ‘attack’ can be found at around, 5000Hz. The AKG D40 is also sensitive to frequencies around this value meaning it was able to capture the ‘attack’ well.
Frequency Response Graph:
Polar Pattern – The polar pattern of this microphone is cardioid. This was useful for when I was making this recording as i only wanted to capture the sound of the toms with minimal spill from the other drums in the kit. When mic’ing multiple toms with this microphone, for best results, you should always ensure that each microphone is pointing at only one tom.
Sensitivity – The D40 has a sensitivity of 2.5 mV/Pa (milliVolts per Pascal), classifying it as a low sensitivity microphone. This made it suitable for capturing a close mic’ed recording on a tom as I needed to minimise the amount of spill from the other drums on the kit to ensure I had as clean of a recording as possible.
I used the Rode NT2-A to make a single recording whilst using it a room mic.
I chose this microphone for the following reasons:
Frequency Response – The NT2-A served as a room microphone for this recording, capturing the ambient sound of the room whilst the drum kit was being played. Because it would mostly be capturing the reverberated sound of the whole drum kit, instead of individual drums, I chose the NT2-A as it has a good response to most frequencies within the human hearing range.
Omnidirectional Frequency Response Graph:
Polar Pattern – The NT2-A offers interchangeability between three polar patterns: cardioid, bidirectional and omnidirectional. I used the omnidirectional polar pattern to record from 360º around the microphone in order to capture as much of the rooms ambience as possible.
Sensitivity – The sensitivity of the NT2-A is 16 mV/Pa (milliVolts per Pascal), making it a high sensitivity microphone. Because I was going to use it as a room mic, I decided to use the NT2-A as I wanted to ensure that the recording i captured using it in an ambient placement picked up as much of the ambience of the kit as possible. I believed that this microphones high sensitivity would allow me to do this.
Shure SM57 x 2
I used a Shure SM57 to make the following recordings:
- Mic’ing the Kick Drum – On the Kick Beater
- Mic’ing the Snare – On Top of the Snare
I used this microphone to make these recordings for the following reasons:
Frequency Response – The SM57 has a good frequency response at 4000Hz, the main frequency of the ‘attack’ of the kick beater on the kick drum skin. Because of this I decided to use this microphone to capture a recording from a position next to the kick beater. Similarly, the SM57 has a good frequency response at around 240Hz allowing it to capture the ‘fatness’ of the snare and also has a good response to frequencies between 5000Hz and 6000Hz, allowing for a strong recording to be captured of the snare’s ‘crispness’.
Frequency Response Graph:
Polar Pattern – This microphone has a cardioid polar pattern, meaning that it captures sound mostly from the front. This was a contributing factor to my choice of using this microphone to record the drum kit as it meant that the amount of spill from the other drums was limited compared to if i was to record using a microphone of a different polar pattern.
Sensitivity – The sensitivity of the SM57 is 1.88 mV/Pa (milliVolts per Pascal). This classifies it as a low sensitivity microphone. The low sensitivity made this microphone ideal for capturing both the kick drum and the snare as they are both loud drums and the low sensitivity prevented the signal from clipping and distorting as it would’ve done with higher sensitivity microphones when close mic’ed.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
- H440 Adapter Plate
- Microphone Clips and Cradles
- Microphone Stands
- XLR Cables
Mic’ing the Kick Drum:
The first technique I recorded with was a close mic of the kick drum in two locations. For the recording to be classed as close mic’ed, the microphones had to be placed within 30cm of the sound source, which in this case was the kick drum. The first location I placed a microphone was inside the kick drum using an AKG D112 and the second was at the site where the kick beater hit the skin of the drum, making use of a Shure SM57.
The setup i used to make this recording is depicted below.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Inside Kick.MP3” to hear the recording from inside the kick drum.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Kick Beater.MP3” to hear the recording from the kick beater.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Inside Kick and Kick Beater.MP3” to hear the recording of both the kick beater and the inside of the kick drum together.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Inside Kick and Kick Beater (Kick Beater Phase Inverted).MP3” to hear the recording of both the kick beater and the inside of the kick drum together with the phase of the kick beater track inverted.
When listening back to the recordings, I found that the recording from the D112 inside the shell of the kick drum was very dull and bass-y. I also found that the SM57 recording from the kick beater to be much punchier and have much more emphasis on the attack of the beater than the D112 recording. When I listened to both recordings together, I found that it provided a fatter, wider sound for the kick drum.
Additionally, post-recording, I inverted the phase on the track containing the SM57 recording from the kick beater with the invert phase button on the mixing desk to cancel out the resonance from the shell of the kick drum and tighten up each beat.
A potential issue with close mic’ing the site where the kick beater hits the drum skin is that it limits the space the drummer has behind the kit and there is a change that they may know into the mic stand during a recording.
Mic’ing the Snare:
The second technique I decided to record was a close mic on the snare drum. I used two microphones to capture the full range of the snare’s frequencies. The first microphone I used was a Shure SM57 on top of the snare and the second was a AKG C1000 underneath the snare.
To prevent phasing issues, after making the recording, I had to invert the phase of the C1000 microphone on the mixing console using the phase invert button.
The set up I used to make this recording is shown in the picture below.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Snare Top.MP3” to hear the recording I captured from the SM57 on top of the snare.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Snare Bottom.MP3” to hear the recording I captured from the C1000 underneath the snare.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Snare Top and Bottom.MP3” to hear the recordings from both on top and underneath the snare played together.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Snare Top and Bottom (Phase Inverted).MP3” to hear the recordings from both on top and underneath the snare played together with the phase of the C1000 track inverted.
When listening back to the recordings individually, I found that the recording from the SM57 on top of the snare sounded tinny and had more attack than the recording from the C1000 under the snare. I also thought that it captured more high band frequencies than the under snare mic. For the C1000 recording, I found that is sounded muffled and dull. There was also much more presence of the snare wires in this recording than the recording from the SM57. When played together, the recordings blended well to give a fuller, fatter tone to the snare. Without the inverted phase on the microphone underneath the snare, the overall recording sounds much thinner and lacks in strength when compared to the the recording that had had phase inversion applied.
Mic’ing the Toms:
The final close mic’ing technique I experimented with was a close mic’ed recording on one of the tom-tom drums. To make this recording, I used the AKG D40 mounted onto the drum hoop using a H440 adapter plate. As I was only mic’ing a single tom, the placement of the microphone on the drum hoop didn’t particularly matter. However, when mic’ing multiple toms, for best results, you should always ensure that each microphone is pointing at only one tom to minimise the amount of spill from the other drums.
The microphone position I used to capture this recording is depicted below.
Please see “Drums – Close Mic – Tom.MP3” to hear the recording I captured using this technique.
I found that the recording from the D40 was very strong and clear. I also found that it sounded bright and that the resonance of the drum sounded tinny at times.
I then captured a recording using an ambient microphone to attempt to capture the ambient sound of the room. I used a Rode NT2-A configured with an omnidirectional polar pattern to do this.
The set up I used to make the recording is depicted below.
Please see “Drums – Room Mic.MP3” to hear the recording I captured using this technique.
When I listened back to this recording, it was clear that it was an ambient microphone as the recording sounded distant from the kit and captured a slight amount of reverberated sounds from the rooms surfaces. The recording had a strong signal but sounded dull and slightly muffled. I can imagine that, if paired with close mic’ed techniques, this technique would make a full recording sound more lively.
Glyn Johns Technique (Stereo Technique):
The stereo technique I decided to record was a technique pioneered by the well-known music producer and musician, Glyn Johns. His technique centres around the use of two microphones to record a balanced stereo recording of a drum kit. The first microphone should be placed directly above and on-axis to the snare and the second should be placed on the side of the drum kit, perpendicular to and the same distance away from the snare as the first microphone. In order to make sure that the two microphones were the same distance apart, I used drumsticks to measured out the placement to ensure the distances were accurate and therefore avoid phasing issues. The microphones I used to make this recording were AKG C1000s.
To complete the stereo technique, I panned the microphone over the snare left and the microphone next to the floor tom to the right using the panning pots on the mixing console to create a stereo image that the listener is playing the drums.
Please see “Drums – Stereo Techniques – Glyn Johns – Hard Left and Right – Drummers Position.MP3” to hear the recording I captured using this technique.
I found that panning the tracks in this way formed a strong stereo image as, as the listener, it felt as though I was sat playing the kit as all the drums that make up the left hand side of the kit were playing from the left hand side and all the drums that make up the right hand side of the kit were playing from the right hand side. This effect added a level of intimacy between the listener and the recording, contributing to a more personal connection with the performance.
I also decided to pan the drum tracks the opposite way to create the image that the listener is watching a drum performance.
Please see “Drums – Stereo Techniques – Glyn Johns – Hard Left and Right – Audience Position.MP3” to hear the recording I captured using this technique.
Similarly to panning these tracks the opposite directions, the stereo image that was formed was strong. Unlike when panning the tracks in the other directions, the effect created this time was as though the listener was a member of an audience watching the drummer play as all the drums that make up the left side of the kit were coming from the right hand side and vice versa.
The positions of the microphones I used to make this recording is depicted below.
I found that the Glyn Johns technique provided a strong, articulate recording with a good balance of frequencies throughout. The recording was also very bright and provided a good stereo image when the tracks were panned hard left and right as it made me feel as though I was sat in the drummers position, making the listener feel more intimate and involved with the recording.
I feel as though this is the best technique I used to record the drums as it provides a good balance of frequencies and a good overall mix of the full kit whilst still being able to provide a strong, clear and bright recording with a good stereo image.