Friday, June 17, 2011

Mike Terry's tips on Micing Drum Kits

Mike Terry's tips on Micing Drum Kits

First thing first, drum kit preparation.

Drums are very often recorded first; recordings are frequently built piece by piece on top of the drum foundation, so it’s very important that the fundamentals are in place first.

Tune the drums, if this is something you can't do yourself, call someone in for it. This is done all the time, don't feel bad. If the heads need to be replaced, do it, not a time to skimp, get the appropriate heads for the style and get them tuned up.

If you have recorded in this room before and have already found the sweet spot, cool, move ahead. If not, try setting up the Kick and snare all around the room and just listen, you'll find the spot that work's the best. This way, when you do get the mics up, you will have something nice to listen to pretty quickly.

There are many techniques, approaches, even philosophies as to how to properly mic a drum kit, and without going into too much detail of these, work on getting the phase of the mics aligned properly to one another. This is a skill that that takes time and experience, but well worth it.

I start as minimally as possible and add mics as needed and as desired by the band and or Producer, if there is one. Some Producers like to have lots of mics, in order to provide lots of options later on, I'm indifferent on that one, so I'll keep sticking them up until I get lots of smiles.

My first step is to align the overheads with the kick and snare mics, once this is established all other mics can be referenced from these three points. Using the phase switch on your preamp, find the position where you lose low end the most. Move the mics until you have maximum loss of low end (out of phase), then switch the phase switch back the other way and now you will have maximum gain of low end (in phase). It is usually quicker and easier to hear the low end loss rather than the low end peak.

To get things started, I will put up a pair of Oceanus tube mics, set in Cardioid mode for the overheads. Getting a rough position, I will observe the 3 to 1 rule; 1 foot above the cymbals means I need to keep them 3 feet apart. I like to keep them as low as possible and try to maintain the snare drum as the center point; this will help keep the snare mic in phase with both overhead mics. I really like the Oceanus for overheads because it captures a nice balance of the overall kit, and can provide a lot of body to the drums, while keeping the cymbals nice and shimmery, if I later decide to use mics on each drum, it’s easy to go in and filter out low frequency from the overheads, letting them be more cymbal and air mics, which the Oceanus excels at.

Next I always add the snare mic, I want to get it nice and close, yet maintain phase with my overheads, the combination of direct snare and the sound of the snare in the overheads when properly set in phase is pure gold. The one mic I reach to first for this is always the Lauten Horizon, it can take the SPL and it is fat, warm, and almost always perfect once the phase is set. I will usually have to go into the room to raise or lower the overheads in order to fine tune the phase, typical movement is within 6-12" up or down, just move them around, find the low end loss on the snare and switch the phase again, and you should be good. Once the phase is set between the Overheads and the snare, you will not be moving them again. From this point, each additional mic added will be moved to gain phase alignment to the overheads and the snare.

Next comes the kick, this is often times a double mic situation, one for the inside to get the attack and punch, one for the outside to get the body and depth. I start from the outside, and then move inward. Do a little listening while sitting in front of the kick and have the drummer step on it a few times, find a good spot, 3-8" away from the head, and set the mic there. Again, I really like the low end capabilities of the Lauten Horizon, and because it can handle the SPL, it’s a great choice for outside kick mic. Go listen to this mic mixed with the overheads, listening in mono helps. With the phase switch on the kick preamp, find the low end loss, now move this mic forwards and backwards a little to find the point of maximum loss. Once found, flip the switch and now you are ready to move on to the inside mic, I like a Beta 52. Start by moving this mic in reference to the outside Kick mic, the Horizon, once these are locked in phase turn all the mics back on, pan your overheads, and you will have a nice full, well balanced drum sound.

If you choose to keep adding mics, such as close tom mics, reference them to the overheads and move them until locked in phase. If you're adding room mics, reference them to your kick and snare. It’s also a good idea to use gaffers tape to secure your mic stands down, once locked into place; this will insure consistency and eliminate the worry of somebody bumping them out of position.

For more information on Lauten Audio microphones visit

Who is Mike?
Mike is the ears behind Lauten Audio microphones. He has multiple Grammy nominations and has worked in some of the most sought after studios and with some of the most sought after clients in the world. His credits include Foo Fighters, The Eagles, Jessica Simpson, Eric Hutchinson and many more…

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