In the time I have been posting music to the internet, I have often been asked how I achieve the sound I get when recording drums. For that reason, I decided to write a few posts on the subject.
Let me first state that I only play acoustic drums, and therefore, the following addresses only live mic recording. Also keep in mind, that when I am doing a static recording session, I have created a portable booth, using old cubicle dividers, which reduces outside sounds from getting into the drum track. It works remarkably well.
I will start with microphone placement. Because I have found that quality recording can be achieved with a wide variety of mic brands, I focus on mic style, and placement. The only thing that I will stress is that one must remember to use condenser instrument microphones, and no, that is not a typo, nopop filters, or wind guards. This is drum recording, so you want to have the pop. It makes a huge difference in maintaining the live sound.
I like to use 4 overhead microphones. By using overhead mics, one captures the high sounds of the kit, such as the snare drum, and cymbals, and in my case, roto toms, as high sounds have a tendency to rise. These are uni-directional instrument microphones. In using these, the mic is less likely to pick up sound from the sides, and focus on the drum, and cymbals.
I have one mic about 20 inches, directly above the high hats, one about 18 inches above the snare, and the other two are about 24 inches above the kit, spaced evenly between the remaining cymbals.
Place one omni-directional instrument mic below each ride, and floor tom. I learned when I was about 10 that I didn't like the reverberation that I was getting from the bottom skins of my ride, and floor toms. I also didn't like that by removing the bottom skins, I was getting the muted sound all the time. Over the next about 5 years, I found that if I cut a 3.5 inch hole in the bottom skin, I got a bright muted sound. This also provided an unexpected result. The hole provided a way for me to move the microphone closer, or farther away from the batter skin. This makes huge difference in the number of different sounds that one can pull from their kit, and allows for a much more even recording when I am using brushes.
I like to use two uni-directional microphones per kick drum. And once again, I use holes in the front skin as access. I have customized two mic stands for this purpose, by turning them into twin booms. This allows me to have one mic pointed directly at the beater on the batter skin, and on toward the front skin. This way I avoid the mic picking up any of the wind caused by the kick, as well as allowing me to move the mic closer, or further from the appropriate skin. The mic pointing toward the beater can be adjusted to capture the punch, and thud of the kick. The mic pointing forward, gives a very slight reverb to your kicks.
And finally, I use six omni directional microphones, two placed low, two placed mid, and two placed high, about 8 feet in front of the whole kit, placed in an arch. This will help to fill in not only low, and mid-range sounds from the kit, but also is great for stereo enhancement of the drums as well.
I think that is about it. If there is something you feel I have missed, or if you have questions, leave a comment, I promise to reply. Stay tuned. The next lesson will be on mixer setup, and recording levels.