DIY Drum Micing On The Fly

Micing an entire drum kit can seem like a daunting task. Multiple tracks, multiple mics, miles of XLR cables, monitoring, getting the right tone. The list goes on and on. It wasn’t always like that. In fact during the early 20th century, engineers at the time, would use a single microphone to record entire bands. It wasn’t until the 50’s and 60's when we saw huge innovations in the recording world. Today we are looking at how to get a decent sound out of your drum kit on the fly.

Last Resort: Use Your Phone

The microphone on your phone is great for making calls and taking quick voice memos. It’s also great for making quick music memos (In fact there is an app called Music Memos.) If you are trying to jot down a quick beat your phone is a great tool. Just be aware of where you position it. Because of the loud dynamics of a drum kit, it might be better to place the phone on the other side of the room. Then, when you have access to a proper recording setup, use the memo as a reference, and re-record.

One Mic Setup

An ideal one mic setup for drums would be a condenser omnidirectional microphone with a 10db pad. Ideally you would place the microphone in between the snare and the toms a foot or so above the bass. This will give you a nice slap in your recording. Maybe you only have a sm58 laying around. If that’s the case, don’t fret. Place the mic above one of the cymbals and boost the gain a hair on your preamp. You should still be able to get a decent sound!

Two Mic Setup

Lets say you have a condenser for vocals or acoustic guitar, and a SM57 used for bass, or electric guitar. These two mics can be great for a a drum sound. If the condenser is omni, set it up using the above steps. Then place the SM57 above the snare. You’ll get a punchy sound, your producer should be able to work with. If you don’t have an omni, use a cardioid placed on the side of kit about 5.5 feet up. Then mic the snare with the SM57. Remember to check your phasing. Also keep in mind that the most important drums to capture are the kick and the snare. Cymbals and toms will bleed through, but if you have to prioritize go with the kick and the snare.

While not ideal as say, a full 4–5 drum mic kit, you can definitely get a decent sound from just a couple of microphones. Even cheap mics are a viable option for the DIY sound engineer. What do you think? Have any DIY drum micing hacks? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow us for more music news.

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