recording drums with only 1 or 2 mics

If you only have two mics to record a drumkit, or even just one mic, how would you position them?

I’ve tried two mics on stands, one pointing at the hihats and snare, and one round the other side picking up the toms and ride, with the bass-drum hopefully being picked up on both. The results have been reasonable, with the stereo postion of the drums coming through quite well.

Another way that I’ve read about but not tried - you could have one mic on the bass drum and the second as an overhead, positioned behind the drummer’s shoulder and pointing at the snare. If you only have one mic I’ve read that it should just be posiiotned as an overhead, again pointing at the snare.

Any tips anyone?

Thanks

JW.

Well, I use two mics all the time 'cause I am too lazy to do more. :) Just a mic on the snare (a Rode nt3 nowadays) and one on the kick (audix d-6 mmm…mmm…good), I don’t worry about stereo really, a mono mix is good enough for my purposes, and sometimes it actually is the thing. Then again, I record in my basement and the room sound just sucks, so I can’t really do overheads very well.

What mics do you have? I started doing 2 mics to learn how to record drums well, thinking I should aim for the sort of drum sound you get from a kick plus an overhead (like an rca 44 over head that I see pretty often on late 60s recordings). But it turns out that as I said the room sounds so bad that close micing seems to be my only real option.

Personally, I would put one mic on the kick and the other as an over head. Check out this clip link. This is just a recording of a band practice so it isn’t polished at all, but the drums are decentish and only two mics were used as I described above.

Sounds like you have a good handle on things so far. With drums, the quality of the room has an enormous impact on the recording. Drums in an 8ft x 8ft room with an 8ft ceiling are going to be hard to get a decent recording of, no matter how many mics you use. Especially if you’re playing loud modern rock. Having said all that trite stuff…

For minimal mic drums, I’d strongly consider a mono drum track. I’m not a big fan of the wide panned drums anyway, but using only 2 mics, if you want a good stereo sound, you’re likely going to have to use a near coincident technique like mid-side or X-Y out in front of the kit. These techniques can sound great given the right room and right mics, but not everyone has those luxuries. Frankly, I’d rather mic the kick and use an overhead. Another option is an overhead and a mic a few feet off the floor and a few feet in front of the kit. For a single mic, I start with an overhead, and if that sounds bad I move to the front of the kit a few feet off the floor.

Do a search here, and you’ll find many threads on drum mic options. Most people have trouble with drum recording because it can be tricky. Once you do this recording thing enough in the same space you develop ways of getting decent sounds. Everyone’s way will be slightly different, depending on the room, the mics, the drums, the performer, the signal chain, what the engineer had for breakfast…you get the idea. It takes time and practice to find your way in your recording space. At least the search is fun…good luck…

I frequently don’t have enough inputs doing live recordings, so it’s a NT1 as an overhead (just above and behind the drummer’s head) and an ATM25 on the kick. My 50’s stuff in the users music section is done this way.

Willy.

Quote (Willy @ Nov. 15 2005,08:11)
I frequently don't have enough inputs doing live recordings, so it's a NT1 as an overhead (just above and behind the drummer's head) and an ATM25 on the kick. My 50's stuff in the users music section is done this way.

Willy.

The only thing I do differently (other than using different mics) is put a boom coming in over the kick drum and aim the business side of the mic at the snare. Cymbals can take over a lot of times, so eve though they are off axis slightly, they will be picked up fine.

Thanks for the ideas. I’m using a couple of dynamic mics, and the room won’t always be a good room, so would tend towards close mic’ing.

I’ve found though that the cymbals aren’t always being picked up well though. Snare/hihat and kick might, but cymbals will be muted - i.e. lack of treble due to not being mic’ed directly, but still being heard though.

I agree about mono. I’m not too concerned about a stereo mix, however the two tracks could be panned to 11am and 1pm, so to speak, to get a little stereo ambience.

JW

If you have a spare speaker around, you can wire a 1/4" jack on the end use it as a mic for the kick drum. Cheap way to get a 3rd mic.

Quote (Doug W @ Nov. 15 2005,09:43)
If you have a spare speaker around, you can wire a 1/4" jack on the end use it as a mic for the kick drum. Cheap way to get a 3rd mic.

Yup, and use the dynamics in an XY overhead and your are swell.

I do as Bubba suggests, however I would use 3 mic’s if I had them. Goto Rockin and play “Rockin’” or “MMHH” - both were recorded live with only 2 mic’s on the drums.

Ideally, yeah, an XY with a mic on the kick would be great… but with two mics, well, the forum has spoken. :;): I think a kick mic is super important. The interaction of the kick and bass set your groove which gets the booties movin’… and that’s a key part to most any modern rock recording.

Thanks - I think I was underestimating the kick, in favour of the rest. Will bear in mind in future.

JW

I agree with the concensus: a mike on the kick and an "overhead’ – and play around with a LOT of different positions on that overhead.

Mind the phase between the overhead and kick. If the kick is in front of the drum and the overhead is behind it, the kick will be out of phase in the overhead. Compensate by either inverting the overhead, or else by keeping the kick out of the overhead (by positioning and/or EQ).

And when I say “overhead”, I don’t necessarily mean above the cymbals. Try all sorts of different locations. On a small kit like a jazz kit, without lots of tom use, the second mike can be rather close to the snare but pointed so that it picks up the tom well, getting plenty of cymbals by the by. Frankly, it’s hard to keep cymbals OUT of a mike, and often the best approach is to minimize the exposure of the second mike to the cymbals, placing it below them and pointing downish.

Just remember that whatever you do, it’s going to be a compromise, and decide what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not.

This gives you mono drums, but there are a number of games you can play with the non-kick drum to fake a stereo image. Generally, it’s not so important to pan instruments (as alluded to above, this is often overdone), but it is very important to spread out the sound of the cymbals. You can do that with something like n-Track pitch shift plugin:

- In Properties, check the “expand mono track to stere” box.
- In the pitch shift plugin, on ONE SIDE ONLY, adjust the pitch by one or two clicks. The pitch amount will read 99% or 100%, but the image sound will change dramatically when you get this right.
- Set the “accuracy” as high as your CPU can stand. When you like how it sounds, freeze it to free up CPU power.

Be sure to play with the left/right/both settings so you understand how to control left & right side independently or both together and what the controls are doing. It can be a little confusing at first.