Separation and phasing

Placement of microphones in different positions relative to the drumset and to eaxh other brings a couple of implications that shoukd be considered

  • Separation between microphones and the representation of those signals
  • The phase relationship between  two or more microphpnes each picking up the same signal
Separation considerations

The next choice is what you want each microphone to pickup. If you want to keep the high hat out of the snare mic (as much as possible, anyway), a cardioid or hyper-cardioid is a better choice than an omni. But for overheads and room mics an omni may be just the ticket. There really aren't any rules, so grab as many mics as you can and experiment.

Phase considerations

Life would be easy if you could just get every drum sounding good on their own, and then they just sound great together. Life is rarely that easy, thanks to phase relationships.

As an example, let's look at the following scenario:

The snare is miked with an SM57. Sounds great. The rack tom is miked with an MD421. Sounds great. But when both channels are up, it sounds weird. That's because the snare mic is also picking up a little bit of the tom, and vice versa. This is called mic bleed. If the tom bleeding into the snare mic is out of phase with the tom in the tom mic, the tom can sound thin when struck. Without delving into physics, it's important to stress that moving either mic in this situation by as little as a 1/4 of an inch can fix the phase problem. So listen to all the mics together and make little changes until everything sounds good together.

Tip: A good thing to remember is that the volume of a source is halved when you double the distance. So a mic 2" from a drum will pick up that sound twice as loud as a mic 4" away. So even though two tom mics might only be a foot apart, if they are 1-2" away from the tom they're trying to pick up, you still will have a reasonable amount of isolation. If you're careful and what bleed remains is in phase, this is not a problem.

At this point, you're probably thinking, "I'll just gate it." While gating is a subjective subject, I do recommend that you not track with gates. Wait until mixdown for that. That way you can experiment and get it right, rather than live with a hasty decision while tracking.

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Articles by this Author:

Recording a Snare Drum
By Lyle Caldwell  Snare - What you usually want is a microphone that will handle the volume level and emphasize the attack of the snare while minimizing the bleed from other drums, especially...
Overhead Miking
Overhead Miking There are two ways to view overheads: The main stereo pair- gives you the bulk of the drum sound, with maybe kick and snare added for reinforcement. Usually very natural (though...
Recording the Kick Drum
By Lyle Caldwell   Bass drum - do you want more click? More boom? Or natural? To emphasize the attack, you may want to place the mic inside the drum, about 3-4" away from the...
Recording Hats and Rides
By Lyle Caldwell  Hi-hats and rides - while you normally get plenty of both in your overheads, for some styles you may want to have more control on their level in the mix. Cymbals usually...
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