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I just got an 8-track (a Zoom R16) to start recording band rehearsals, work on original material, and get some quality versions of some of our tunes. At the moment, we're all in the same room, doing one take recordings. Bass, Drums, and Guitar.

As a guitarist, I have a good feel of how to mic my amp, and our bassist is going DI. What I'm unsure of is how to mic a drum set. I currently have a bunch of cheap dynamic mics and 1 condenser. How many mics do I need to put on the kit? Where? What kind of mics? What kind of patterns? If I go back and record individual instruments, would I mic the drums differently?

I know shopping recommendations are off limits, but are there any absolute industry standards like the sm-57?

I don't have a ton of money to spend on mics.

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4 Answers 4

Disclaimer:Most of my experience is from live work but the principles are the same.

How you mic drums depends on how many channels you have got available and what the drum kit is. As an example the last time I miced a drum it was a 6 piece and I had the following channels; kick, snare, Hat, Tom 1, Tom 2, Tom 3, Tom 4, Overhead Left, Overhead Right.

If I'd wanted more flexibility with the sound and had the equipment available I might have added another mic to the kick - one inside the shell, the other in front of it. This gives flexibility to balance the click and the boom on a per song basis. The other additional mic I might have used would have been on the underside of the snare so that more rattle could be added if needed. Obviously with only 8 channels of input and needing to record multiple instruments in 1 take you can't do this, but you can see how you could change things if just recording drums.

You have an 8 channel sound card so assuming guitar and bass are mono that leaves you with 6 channels for the drum kit. As a minimum I'd mic the kick and snare with dynamics, and use the condenser as an overhead. Once you've tried that and see how it sounds you could try adding more mics in such as for toms or the high hat.

As for how to position the mics it's a bit of trial and error, obviously one thing to make sure is they don't get in the way of the drum sticks or get hit by cymbals. With the kick how the mic should be positioned depends on if it has a hole in the front or not. If it does then a dynamic mic places on a jumper or duvet inside the drum can work well. With the other drums I tend to aim the mic at the point where the stick will usually hit the skin, but pointing it away can give a less clicky sound. The best thing you can do is try various positions around the drums and see how it affects the sound, and see which sound you prefer.

Obviously doing multiple instruments in the same room you will get some spill into other mics (in the same way you do when mixing live) which isn't ideal. One thing you might consider is moving the guitar amp into another room and using headphones so you can hear yourself. This in conjunction with DIing the bass means the only spill will be from one drum mic into another which is always going to happen, but at least you won't be getting guitar bleeding in as well.

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These two questions should help you out a bit:

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You can get an amazing nice natural sound using 3 mics on a kit - 1 in front and two overheads, however if you take this approach you'll definitely want isolation from your other sound sources.

Check out this page on wikiaudio. It has some common placements using 1 - 4 mics. Alternatively, if you opt for a higher channel count Shure has a great guide to placement for kit and percussion.

When doing your placement make sure you consider the phase difference created of the signals you'll be picking up (Google this if you're not already all over it). Its a really easy way to make a wicked kit sounds hollow and weak. One of the most effective ways to set your placement is to grab a set of headphones and a long cable, get your drummer playing and move the mics around on a loose stand. When you find a sweet spot lock it off and move to your next mic. Keep repeating this until you end up with the sounds you're chasing. Your ears are your best tool.

Also, one thing to consider that is perhaps more important than your mic selection is going to be the space you're recording in. No matter how good your mics are and how perfect a placement you have if you're in a 'acoustically challenged' room its going to sound sub-par.

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There are a couple of options.

First, you could try it with a mic on the kick, snare and one or two overheads and see what it sounds like. You probably won't get a really great sound off the toms, but it might be good enough.

The next step up would be to mic everything - in addtion to kick, snare and overheads you'd need one mic per tom, and another for the high hat. Some people also like to mic the underside of the snare for a bit of extra bite.

Keep in mind that you can probably get away with mixing down live if channels start to be an issue - so for example, you can combine snare and high hat on one channel, and all the toms on another. Worst case, you could mix the drum into two channels.

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