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KenSanders
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« on: May 25, 2010, 11:20:49 PM »

I've read some recent material about using minimal mic'ing for recording drums.....some have even referrered to it as the "old school" method.  Earthworks now has a system with two condensors and a kick mic (that Keith Carlock has been recording with) that claims to produce the most NATURAL sounding results to date.  A pretty serious claim.

Some folks using this 3 microphone idea place one on the kick and one over each shoulder of the drummer. Others use the XY placement for the overheads.  I know that there HAS to have been lots of experimentation with other placements too.

I'd really love to hear some feedback regarding minimal mic'ing vs. close mic'ing drums and hi hats plus overheads and maybe sometimes even adding room mics, subkicks or woofers.

Can the full rich tones of your drums be better captured using LESS microphones that are carefully placed?

I hope some of you will share your recent experiences.

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Ken Sanders
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2010, 12:12:21 AM »

With so many folks recording in home studios now, I thought surely some readers may have tried the "minimum" mic technique.  I had read some articles about Ginger Baker and John Bonham recording some of their biggest hits this way. 

I recently had an opportunity to try a four-microphone version of this method.  I used a bass drum mic about a foot away from a front head with no port; a snare drum mic about  6" away from and level with the batter head; and two overheads.  Both overheads were about 18" above my head - one forward of my left shoulder and the other slightly behind my right shoulder.   It did produce a really big sound.

As far as isolation, there was bleed into each of the four tracks with this method.  However, blended together, and stated before...it was a big sound.  Maybe the bleed into each track was part of that?

I used a Heil PR40 for the bass drum, Heil PR30' for the overheads, and a Heil PR22 for the snare drum.  The PR40 and the PR30's and large diaphram dynmanic mics that "think" that are condensors.  The PR22 is a cardiod dynamic mic. These are my mics that we used.

Some local studio folks I have spoken with claim that a big part of getting a great drum sound with this method is to be in a good "live" sounding room.  They have said that high celings and hardwood floors seem to enhance this characteristic. Microphones? Every engineer has his own combination of favorites...basically the microphones he has worked with so much that he knows EXACTLY what they will do.

I did record in a room like the one they described but there were four 4' x 4'  baffles about 5 feet away from the kit in each direction, but not touching each other.

More comments or experiences regarding this?
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Ken Sanders
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 10:11:01 PM »

Hi Everyone; I just joined the site, and I'm really impressed with the quality of your posts!

I've successfully used a few different mic arrangements on my drums; both close-micing and minimal overhead techniques. Here's what I've done most often over the years:

Simple setup - used for monitoring yourself in headphones (like when practicing/learning pre-recorded music): Single condenser mic overhead, 12-18 inches above and 8-10 inches forward of my head, through a stereo line mixer. The mic is panned to center, being a single source, and the program material from the audio system feeds left & right inputs of a stereo line input (a simple but high quality 1 mic/ 4 line input mixer was used). This worked really well and helped me keep the overall volume down. The drums were clear but the bass drum level was hard to control relative to the other drums & cymbals.

Close-mic'd setup - used for monitoring as above and also recording: 2 condenser overheads in an XY pair in the same position as the overhead above, with everything below about 700Hz rolled off; one mic per 2 toms (I have 4 toms), EQ'd to cover roughly 150-400 Hz depending on which toms; one mic 4" into the bass drum via a 4" port in the resonant head and more or less pointing at where the beaters strike the head, w/ everything above 100 Hz rolled off; an Audio Technica AT-851 Boundary mic on the floor under the snare drum, with the bottom rolled off below about 200 Hz. With this arrangement, the main part of the sound is the overheads, with the tom mics just supplying low/mid punch and a little additional stereo imaging (levels on these and the bass drum mic are pretty low, compared to the overheads). The toms are panned left & right just a bit inside of the overheads.  The bass drum is more or less in the center. The boundary mic on the floor is also panned to center and provides snap to the snare (which isn't close-mic'd) and gives presence and top end to the bass drum as well, which is a nice by-product of its proximity to the batter head (of the bass drum).

Side note - A true (90 degree) XY overhead placement is killer for a clear, focussed stereo image - try it out if you haven't yet!! For more info on this, check out any info on Alan Blumlein and the XY coincident microphone technique he pioneered.

In my band, we record ourselves (and review it later) every time we play or jam. For speed & simplicity, we use a Zoom digital recorder. It's just a little thing the size of a large Ipod, and we put it on the floor two or three feet in front of my drums. It gives us unbelievable results!
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2010, 10:49:44 PM »

Hey Ian Borg!  and welcome to the DSA Forum.  Great post! You've provided some good information and based on the experiences you mentioned, it should be useful to many DSA readers.  Cool

To further clarify my previous posts, I use close mic'ing for live performances because of bleed and feedback problems experienced when using other methods.  However, the minimum mic'ing for recording does yeild me a big drum sound if the drums sound good in the room when you play them without the mics on.

If the room is super dead, then close mic'ing seems to work better for me. 

I haven't experienced phasing problems using the Heil PR30's in a sort of slight variation of the AB placement instead of the XY placement.  But, I understand that it does happen in a lot of rooms with condenser mics.

I believe the readers should note your roll off points, since you have apparently spent some time experimenting with those settings. 

Great information..........thanks for sharing, and please add more comments that you think would be helpful.   Wink

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Ken Sanders
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2010, 02:33:53 AM »

Thanks Ken!

I also wanted to mention that when I began close- micing my drums, I also changed the heads to thicker, less resonant ones.

For no mics (usually the case when I play live) or the single mic, I use emperor batter heads and ambassador resonant heads on my toms. When I'm (close) miced in my little home studio, I change these to pinstripe batter heads and emperor resonant heads, and I usually don't need any muffling.

When we use the Zoom digital recorder with the built in mic for our band rehearsals/jams, we put it fairly close to my drums (about 3 feet in front of the kit) to get a good balance between the guitar & bass speakers and me (we don't bother to go through the mixer for these recordings), plus the room is on the small side, so I haven't been able to experiment with anything like an AB mic array from 6-10 feet away. Oddly enough, using the thicker heads helps in this situation too; the drums sound a bit thin and gutless with the thinner heads recorded this way.

Back in 1981 or 1982 I was working as an assistant engineer at a 24 track studio here in Toronto, and there was one time when we had a drum set miced with a normal close set-up for the bass drum, snare, and hats, but instead of an overhead we put up a pair of Neumann U-87's about 12 feet apart, 4 feet off the ground, 10-12 feet in front of the drum set. I remember it was a great sound. That studio was sort of in between, as far as "deadness" goes.

Another memory from the past was a time after that when I worked for a big commercial sound manufacturer. We had a pretty big warehouse with lots of space, and for a while I had my drums set up there and did a bit of recording. That setup was also close-miced; I didn't think to try any other setup, but the thing that really struck me was how much the large warehouse opened up the drum sound, even though they were close-miced. The volume of the space you're in has such a huge effect on how the heads vibrate!!

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KenSanders
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2010, 08:25:51 PM »

Thanks for the additonal information, which I found interesting and helpful.  I'll offer a couple more things too.

The most significant thing I have to add is that mimimal microphones recording captures the natural sound that your drums are making in the room.  So make sure the drums sound good (to your naked ears) in the room first.  Then start finding the best microphone placements to capture that sound.

Some folks have asked me about the Heil PR30 (dynamic) microphones opposed to consenser microphones, such as the studio veteran Shure SM81.  The Heils have a 1 1/2" diamphram ( Shocked oh yeah!) but they behave like condenser microphones ( Cool cool). 

Perhaps I am able to get great coverage with these Heil PR 30's in the AB placement, without phasing problems, because of these unique factors.
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Ken Sanders
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2013, 03:24:10 AM »

Just a update, I still use this method a lot in the work I have been doing in Nashville.  They sure can't replace your sounds when you record this way. Grin
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Ken Sanders
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