Miking The Kick
The best way to find the perfect spot is to listen in the control room while your assistant moves the microphone around. As the drummer plays the kick drum, you listen for the sweet spot – you will know it when you hear it. When you hear it, tell the assistant to stop. That is the best starting point.
For a heavier rock sound, you might put the microphone a few inches from the inner head, then baffle off the kick drum. For a more jazzy sound, you might leave the front bass drum head on, then place the microphone a short distance from the front head in a more open environment. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good kick drum sound. It carries the downbeat of the music. This is what people dance to.
Miking The Snare Drum
A loud snare drum’s high transients mean that a dynamic microphone may work best. Start by aiming the microphone across the drum head toward the center of the drum where the stick meets the head. Keep the microphone about an inch above the rim. Maybe aim the microphone off-centre to eliminate some of the click and to coax more of the tonality from the drum. Listen and move the microphone to suit your needs. Aim the snare microphone off-axis to the high-hat to minimize leakage.
When I worked on Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, Tico Torres would remove pockmarks from his snare drum skin by slowly moving a lit portable lighter above them. The heat caused the pockmarks to recede, reviving an otherwise dead drum head for one more pass.
Miking The Tom-Toms
Dynamic microphones work well on close-miked tom-toms where the player hits hard. Condenser microphones sound good on less aggressive styles, as they capture the player’s rich subtleties and dynamics. Close-miked condensers may overload…
If possible, use the largest capsule microphones on the lowest tom-toms. Pull the microphones back some to capture resonance from the tom-toms that may be lost with close-miking. The farther away they are, the more the rest of the drums affect the sound, picking up more of the bulk of the drum, rather than the initial hit.
To get a larger sounding floor tom-tom sound, place foam pads under the feet of the drum. The tom-tom won’t lose as much low resonance through the floor.
Lower the ringing in the toms by tossing a handful of cotton balls inside the toms. Ringing decreases depending on how many balls are tossed in. Even properly tuned toms can ring out. Try hanging the drummer’s stick bag off of the side of the floor tom to reduce rattle.
Tim Crich wrote the bestseller Assistant Engineers Handbook. He has over 20 years of experience in the recording studio, and has worked on records by Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, KISS, Billy Joel, Bryan Adams, Cher, Bon Jovi and many more. This article is excerpted with permission from his new book Recording Tips For Engineers, available through www.musicbooksplus.com. For more information, see www.aehandbook.com.