One the most common mistakes I’ve seen in the miking of certain drums – such as djembe or any other drum with a strong low end – results from the misconception that one microphone alone on top of the drum will do the trick. Unlike the typical one microphone method of miking toms in a drum kit, miking just the top of most other drums will not necessarily get the best sound for the situation. Using only a top microphone will give you plenty of “slap” but not enough of the bass. Most of these drums are usually played slightly off the floor that makes it easy to put another mic directly up into the drum from the bottom. A Sennheiser 421 microphone or an AKG D112 works extremely well for this.
For the top of the drum, the 421 works well but any good condenser microphone also works well. Ideally, if tracks are available, I always put the two microphones on two separate tracks. That way, in the mix, I can balance the two microphones to my taste. During recording, I EQ the bottom mic by taking out a lot of the mid-range and highs, leaving a very muddy track when you hear it by itself. However, when you add this muddy track to the top microphone you end up with a crisp, fat drum sound. If you don’t have enough tracks, EQ the bottom mic similarly, record the two microphones to one track balancing them according to the situation.
Karen Kane has been engineering and producing music since 1974. Her credits, profile and other published articles can be seen at her website: www.total.net/~mixmama.