Monday, January 16, 2012

Gear Up: Microphones Part 2

Last week, I mentioned a few suggestions on some microphones to get started with for drums.

This week, where in the world do you place them? What will get the best and most consistent sound?

First, don't reinvent the wheel. Whenever you work with a good sound tech, watch what they do, and ask them questions (nicely, at appropriate times, and respectfully, of course) about why they do it the way they do. Listen and learn. There are also myriad websites that have very clear, complete information.

I'm definitely not a sound engineer, but there are a few really simple concepts that I have used for years that have produced good, consistent results. Again, there are a lot of factors at play here, including your drums/heads, tuning, the size and shape of the room, how loud you play, other sound sources on the stage, etc*.

One semi-funny story: Back in the day, I played with a band called Hillside Nine. We got a gig playing at a high school for a huge senior party. Lots of fun. After sound check the engineer asked if there was anything else we needed, and I jokingly said, "Just make us sound amazing, okay?" He replied without missing a beat, "Ah, okay. I'll turn the 'Talent' knob all the way up, and the 'Suck' switch completely off. Will that work?"

Oh, if only it were that simple! Anyway, on to the good stuff.

Snare and Toms
Line up the end of the microphone (the end where it captures the sound - it usually has a screen) with the hoop/rim of the drum, at least an inch above the hoop - mine are about 2-3" up - and angle the mic at the dead center of the drum. The microphone will end up at about a 30ish degree angle up from the plane of the drum head. Try it out. You'll like it!

Kick Drum
My drum's resonant (front) head is ported. That means it has a five inch hole cut in the head, at about the 4 o'clock position. I have had good results putting the mic through the port, with the end of the mic (again, the screen/capture side) about three inches inside the drum, pointed at the dead center of the batter head. If your kick drum doesn't have a front head (or if you've removed it for recording), move the mic to about the halfway point of the shell, right in the middle, and point it at the center of the resonant head.

Overhead/Cymbals
I like to use two identical mics to capture the cymbals and full kit sound. One mic sits over my left hand area, pointed at the place where my left side crash overlaps my hi-hat. The right side hangs over my ride cymbal where it hangs over my floor tom. Both are just above head level, out of range of an errant stick stroke.

Especially if you're using mics a lot, and even more especially in a recording setting, it's worth experimenting with different placements - angles, heights, alignments and how far over the drum it sits.

Happy drumming!


*Okay, one MAJOR tip: the best mics, sound engineer and placement won't make your drums sound good if they don't already. Before you go to the gig, make sure that your instrument is in good working order - heads in good shape, and well tuned. This will have the BIGGEST impact on how good you sound. That, and the P word: PRACTICE!!

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Drummer's Weight Room: Tap Timing Exercise

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