Drum Mic'ing

A few general questions…

1.) any recommendations on an interface to track drums? I’m thinking about the Firepod.
2.) does the SM57 make a good snare mic?
3.) any recommendations on a set of good drum mics?
4.) are dynamic mic’s ok for overhead/cymbal mic’ing? If not, then I need condensers obviously, is phantom power any big challenge?
5.) does the Firepod have phantom power?

Hmmm… can you tell who is thinking about recording drums for his band, but never has before (drum machine = easy :D )?

SM57 very often used on Snare, BUT put one on top AND bottom of snare to get the stick crack and resonance, and the sound of the metal snares. Make sure you also reverse the phase of either the top mic or the bottom mic.

Studio Projects C4s (I think thats what they are called) are good… but some MXL 991 will do just as nicely and are much cheaper

Dynamic mics pretty not 2 good for overheads. They don’t have the transient response and most likely not to great for high frequencies. Also overheads are not ONLY used for picking up cymbals. If you place them high up on booms and widely spaced (don’t forget 3:1 for a stereo pair micing) you get a wide roomy kit that sounds hella cool.

Oh… the C4s and MXL 991’s are good for overheads

I liked Shure Beta 56’s on toms (I think they are 56s)
Audix D4 inside the kick pointing to where the beater hits
a PZM mic sitting on the bottom inside the kick
If you need a Hi Hat mic, then Shure 91 will do (I think they are 91)

I can never remember the names of all the mics!

Drums (well, kits, really) are the hardest of instruments to record of the usual suspects, IMHO. What you will want to use will depend on the sound you want to get, and beyond that the only rule is: know your equipment. From painful personal experience, I know that it is nearly impossible to get a good drum sound without a good room, and it is totally impossible to get a good sound without a good kit tuned well played by a good player. Those things are almost more important that what snare mic you use.

Having used an sm57 for snare for a couple of years now I have to say that it is a great value, but the peak in it can be annoying. Try the Audix i5, perhaps, at the same price level, also good for vocals and guitar amps. Could just be me though.

Dynamics for overheads? Sure, why not, it will give you a “smaller” but “thicker” sound, mostly. You won’t get nice sounding cymbals that way, however, where nice means “that pro sound.”

Also, from my experience, less is more when you are starting out. If it doesn’t sound good with one mic out in front of the kit, it won’t sound much better with ten all over it. That really is true.

yup, drums are definetly the most challenging, and are also the most important… i think most people will tell you that the quality of your drum recording heavily affects (if not defines) the overall quality of your final mix.

there are alot of resources on the 'net that will give you a starting point (which mics, how to position them, how to mix them, etc).

i basically started recording drums with a small collection of crappy dynamic vocal mics and a shure sm-57 on the snare. the sound was not the best, but i learned alot. my first upgrade was to use a single condenser mic for my overhead. made alot of difference on the “brightness” of the cymbals and drum mix overall. my second upgrade was a better kick drum mic. even with a proper kick mic, i’ve never been able to get the kick sound quite right… probably due to the actual kick drum i’m mic’ing sounding like crap. i’ve always had to sample the kick drum with software (drumagog), and it’s always turned out well.

my next mic upgrade will be a stereo pair of condensers for overheads.

the other thing i’ve found is if i’m short on mics, is that most dynamic mics sound pretty good on toms if they’re positioned well.

dimmer, check out the rode nt5 mics for overhead. I’m totally into them. :)

Of course, what I had before them was a pair of Apex SD pencil mics. What a difference in sound!

per sweet’s numbering system:

2.) Some folks swear this is the standard for snare, some swear at it as a bogus standard for snare. The 57 works, and it’s a fine place to start. There’s better in my opinion, but the sound of the drum under the mic has much to do with the sound you record.

3.) There’s a variety of packages out there, and if money wasn’t a big deal, I’d be looking at Earthworks. Great products form those folks. I’m sure AudioTechnica and Audix have drum packages too, and both of those companies make some nice things.
On a related note, I’d personally like to break people of the “drum mic” or “vocal mic” habit. I get this all the time when prospective clients visit the studio. They look around the live room where there are mics on stands and ask “so what vocal mics do you have?”. I try to be polite, but really…ANY microphone you sing into is by definition a vocal mic. Some days that’s a big expensive tube condensor, and some days it’s the crappiest high impedence thing you have in the locker. There is no such thing as a “vocal” mic…

4.) Dynamics can be wonderful OH mics, depending on what they are. Ribbon mics are dynamic, and they excell as overheads. Even the lowly SM57 can be pressed into service as an overhead, and sometimes sounds good up there. I often use at least 1 condensor as OH, but if dynamics are all you got, go ahead and use them above the kit. It’ll work…

As for phantom power, a number of companies make stand alone phantom power supplies for those that don’t have phantom on a mixer or interface or whatever. I have a dual unit from AKG and a single unit from AudioTechnica, for example. These things plug in between the mic output and the preamp input and power the mic with a DC converter just like a stomp box. There’s also battery powered condensor mics, like AKG C1000. Not that I prefer that as an OH choice mind you, but I used a pair there when I was starting. The Sony VP88 is a battery operated stereo mic that works great as OH, but it’s some dough. I’m sure there’s other examples.

And TomS is right on with his “less is more” comment. I would much rather be working with 3 mics on a kit than 10. The client gets what they want, and I can get a good sound with 10 mics, but that’s after years of practice in my room with my gear. For a starting effort, I’d be thinking snare, kick and 1 or 2 overheads. Just getting those to sound good will be more than enough work and adventure. Good luck…

Thanks a million guys!!

clavastudio, what would you suggest as a good, not too expensive kick mic? (oh, oh, I hope you don’t blast me for saying “kick mic” —as in “all mics can be kick mics”)

I was doing some research and think I’m looking for a shure beta52. That will allow me some tonal range for various kinds of music I play. I’ve read that the d112 is great but only for a certain type of thud. but the beta52 will offer more range. Does that make sense to you? and how important do you think having two mics on the snare is?


Quote (soul&folk @ July 20 2005,17:37)
. I've read that the d112 is great but only for a certain type of thud.

and how important do you think having two mics on the snare is?


D112 very good thud

I like those right in the sound hole so the blast of air going out goes WHOMP and then a mic at the beater gives you the tippity tap.

And to me, 2 mics on the snare very important if you want to control the sound of the acutual snare.. also leads to pretty cool sounds such as flanging the snare mic and leaving the skin mic normal.


oh, oh, I hope you don’t blast me for saying “kick mic” —as in “all mics can be kick mics”)

Touché…and yes, they can, but some are better than others…

Seriously, I’ve had the best luck on kick with the AudioTechnica ATM25; the last one I bought was about $135US. Sometimes I’ll suppliment that with a Sennheiser 421 on the batter side, sometimes with a LD condensor out front a few feet, sometimes with a speaker mic right in front of the resonant head. All depends on the drum, and the sound we’re looking for. Another favorite around here is the Beyerdynamic M380 which is a super cool figure 8 pattern dynamic. They haven’t been made in a long time though, could be hard to find, and costly. I had a D112 and sold it because I just didn’t like it much. They’re great for live sound because they can deliver a sharp attack, but I found it too clicky and boomy and hard to get an even sound with in the studio. Sorry, but I don’t know the Beta52.

I’ll use 2 mics on a snare on occasion, but not often. I pretty much grab the Neumann TLM103 for snare first and it seems to do a great job on most of the snare drums we have. I like the Oktava MC-012 for our snares too, and my buddy generally uses a Beyerdynamic M160. Two snare mics kinda goes against my minimal mic desires, and if I hear what I want with one mic, then one mic it is. If there’s going to be a combination of brush and stick work, I like an omni pointing at the head and something beefy like a dynamic pointing at the shell. The “at the head - at the shell” combo is the one I gravitate to more often than the “at the top - at the snares” scenario. In fact, even for 1 mic, “at the shell” generally sounds better to me than pointing at the top head, but you gotta try different things depending on the drum, the player, the song, etc.
I try not to have too much of a cookie cutter approach to recording drums, especially when I’m working on records for my friends. We have 6 or 7 kits here and maybe 9 snare drums. The drums get mixed and matched all the time too…the Sonar kick sounds better with the Rodgers toms, unless you want a really big boomy kick sound, then the big ol’ Gretch comes out of hiding, and that may mean the Ludwig toms are in order. You never know which floor tom is going to win the day until you play them with the other drums. We tend to switch drums and mics out during a session too, all depending on what kind of sound we’re after. If you don’t find the sound in your head, you just gotta keep looking. That’s part of the fun and creativity in my book…

i second the “speaker” mic trick on your kick. works great for me. got me an 8 inch out of old sansui home stereo speaker and wired it with an old guitar cable. be careful with your gain though they can be sensitive.

for a good mic setup with 4 mics, google up
Glyn Johns drum mic setup.


cool, thanks for the glyn johns thing. i jumped right into 6 mics on my first drum recording, did my mix on the board, and recorded the whole kit to a single stereo wav file. learned alot from that session. :cool:

clav, out of curiosity, can you describe how you would typically position a mic “at the shell”?


can you describe how you would typically position a mic “at the shell”?

so you got your mic and you got your snare drum on the stand. Instead of having the mic above the drum and pointing the mic capsule down at the batter head, you set the mic up at about mid level of the drum depth and point it at the shell. For an end address mic (like an SM57) you’d have the mic body basically parallel with the floor. I usually get the thing 2 inches away, and closer to the top rim than the bottom. Better if you don’t point it at the pressure relief hole…that’s kinda woofy and odd sounding. Ain’t just the head that vibrates on a drum, you see? Different shell material, thickness of shell, and depth of drum results in different tones. If you read my previous post on snare mic choices you’ll notice that I tend to favor a brighter mic for snare, and the shell gives you some extra heft to the sound. It also makes it a bit easier to position the mic so the hi hat is in the null area of the pickup pattern (less washy hat on your snare tracks is always good), and keeps yer nice $700 mic the #### away from sticks. Someone bashed one of my good vintage Sennheiser MD406’s during a session once. Didn’t like it. Didn’t like it one bit…
Another thing that many people miss is the effect of the stand in the sound equation. Lotsa folks use the type of stand that will clamp down tight on the bottom rim of the snare; so much so that you can pick up and invert the stand and the drum won’t fall out. DON’T clamp down on your drum this way. Kills the tone. Especially true when you also use this type of stand to hold a rack tom. Try it. Put up a drum on the stand tight and whack it a few times, then loosen the stand so the drum just rests in it and whack it some more. Big difference. Better with it loose. Lets the drum sing.

cool, i’ll keep that one in the back of my head for my next session… i can almost hear what that’s going to do. typically i use a single sm-57 pointed down at the head, positioned to taste. the 57 can DEFINETLY take a good stick smack once in awhile. course it ruins the snare track :wink:

i have one drummer who loves the sound of his snare with the snare wire mostly or completely off, but it’s a challenge to get the sound that i want out of it. i can almost get that “snap” back with eq and comp, but barely. i’m sure it’s just that extra boomy ring to it that he likes. much more r00m sound too.


I’m learning a lot from this. Keep it up. You’re on a roll!

I’ve been playing drums for almost 35 years but only started recording last year. I’ve yet to mic a drum set. Everything I recorded until now has been with minimal percussion or electronic drums or drum machines. My recording space is in a low ceiling basement. Any advice on mic placement for the overheads in this situation? I’ve got some old shure battery powered SD condencers (were sold by Radio Shack about 7 years ago), an sm57, sm58, sennheiser e835, one studio project B1 LD condenser, and a pair of PZM mics.
I’m thinking of getting rid of the pzm mics (they were for a live recording project that’s over) and getting the beta52 for the bass.

As for the set I’m using, I’ve currently got a Yamaha Stage Custom set and an older Roland electronic set with an Alesis DM5 brain. Thinking of selling both sets and getting a Yamaha Recording or Maple set and dropping this whole electronic drum idea. Another set I’m considering is an older Rogers set. Any opinons on that?

Oh, one more thing - Sweet, I apologize for hijacking this thread. But perhaps clavastudio’s answers will help all of us…

I’m a complete techno-phobe when it comes to drums. I like real drums. I’ve been playing for 30 years and it’s what I’m used to and prefer, so that’s what I’d suggest. Others are free to differ and prefer the electronic kind. I do have some old non-MIDI Symmons drums, but I only bust 'em out when I want to hear that cheesy New Wave sound for 5 minutes.

It’s impossible for me to suggest what kind of drums to buy. I haven’t bought any in 20 years and don’t figure I’ll ever need to again. I couldn’t tell you what the best of the newer kits are. All my drums are from the 60’s and early 70’s. Old drums have their own special problems, just like old tape machines. The biggest problem you’ll find with old drums is out of round shells and/or hoops. These make it darn near impossible to get a good tune on a kit. The other thing you may find with old drums is that the shell bearing edges are worn out, or worse, have been poorly dressed by a hack. The bearing edge is super important to the kind of resonance that the drum develops. Along the same lines, some older kits are ever so slightly oversized so modern heads don’t fit quite right. Aquarian makes a vintage series of heads that fits better on these older kits, and often sound better than standard Remo Abassadors. We have older kits from Gretch, Slingerland, Ludwig, Sonar, and Rodgers. All of them sound good in their own ways, all of them sound different, all have different shell materials, thicknesses, and bearing configurations. Play a kit before you buy it, is about all the advice I can offer.

As for low ceiling rooms, they’re not easy to get a good drum sound in. The reflections off the ceiling can be troublesome, especially on overhead mics that are likely to be closer to the ceiling than the drums. PZM’s can be your friend here, so don’t ditch the ones you have S&F. Mount one on the ceiling right above your kit…they work better when attached to a large surface anyway, especially in the lower frequencies. A PZM has a hemispherical pickup pattern, in case you didn’t know. Another thing you could try instead of overheads is underheads. Same idea, but you set those mics up below the kit instead of above. It takes some monkeying to get them in the right place but it sure can work great. More drum sound and less cymbal too, so if your tracks are plagued by cymbal hash, this could be a solution for you. Or the heart mic idea. Here you put a LD mic in front of the kit a foot or two and pointing right at the performer’s chest…no OH at all. Again, this is great for lotsa heft in your drums and less cymbals. I like this heart mic as a single track to compress and parallel mix under a clean drum buss.

Try all of these ideas! Mix and match 'em! Invent your own! Don’t tear all of your hair out in the process, you’ll need some to keep your head warm in a few months! Good luck…

thanks for your once again great post. I do want to hear some bright cymbals… Is there hope in my low ceiling situation?

Also, where would those underhead mics be positioned?


Seriously, I’ve had the best luck on kick with the AudioTechnica ATM25

I’ve got one too, and I’m a huge fan. I find just a touch of boost at 100-125 and a couple of db boost of high shelf after 1-2k is great. Tried yours on vocals yet?

Gee, can you tell there isn’t much going on for me at the day job today?

S&F, you’ll probably get too bright cymbals in that low ceiling room, that’s one of the problems with them. And odd phase problems from the reflections. Stuff like the underhead and heart mic techniques don’t drastically reduce cymbals either. More like help tame them or keep them under control better is all.

As for underhead placement, you’ll just have to experiment. Spaced pair in front of the kick with the capsules pointing up at an angle sorta towards the performer, and maybe a foot or so off the floor is as good a place to start as any. I usually wind up with one mic either side of the kick, about the middle of the kick diameter off the floor, and a foot or so in front of the drum. That’s for a traditional 5 piece kit, which I rarely if ever play. I’m a 4 piece or 3 piece (no rack tom) kinda guy so often only use one underhead in the middle, which just winds up being a low heart mic anyway. I hate hard panned drums too, so one OH (or UH or heart) mic doesn’t bother me in the slightest; in fact I like a mono drum mix on some kinds of music. A single nice ribbon mic or big ol’ LD tube mic in front of the kit can be a joy. I realize that not everyone approaches drums the way I do, so take all this with a big spoonful of salt…