I want to record drums by using the least number of microphones while still getting an acceptable sound, in terms of dynamics, stereo image and tone.

How would one go about this?

I have heard about the Glyn Johns technique or the George Massenburg technique. Which one works best in what circumstances?

7 Answers 7


If you really want to you can use a single microphone. A cardioid condenser just above the head of the drummer gives a good sound, then just filter out a little low mid to make the bass drum sound a bit cleaner. If you want to use two microphones add a cardioid dynamic mic to kick, and check the phase (use invert) if the bass drum sounds louder with the phase inverted, then leave it on. If you have three microphones then choose two condensers and place above the drummer as a stereo pair, and add the bass drum mic. There are so many different configurations, you could use kick and snare/hat pair, single omni in front of the drum kit, m/s again in front.


Tons of great ideas already, but in the end it all comes down to what you consider a satisfying result - and how many/ what kind of mics you have to work with.

It's not just the mics, of course - it's also very much the room.

If your room is fairly live without being ringy of resonant at certain frequencies (at the position of your mic/mics), you can use fewer mics, at slightly greater distances, than if you were to close-mic the kit.

If yours is a woofy, thuddy, carpet-clad hell of a drum-room, then close micing with a big bag of mics may work out better.

Sure, to be able to emphasis certain characteristics of certain parts of the kit (kickdrum thud of boom, snare crack, hi-hat presence or volume) you need more mics, usually. But to get a nice, live, rock n' roll sound, I would use 3 mics:

  • Pair of condensers or ribbons as overheads, adjusted slightly for what you want to hear more or less of. Don't just think "stereo = symmetrical" alignment here - who cares!

  • Cardioid or multi-pattern large diaphragm positioned in front of the kit, somewhere around where your head would be, if you were kneeling in front of the kick-drum, looking over it. Experiment with distance, elevation, pickup-pattern here. If the room tone seems to add something nice in this position (use your ears), try omni or fig8. Use a good mic in this position ( I like a Lauten Oceanus) and the overheads are merely stereo-icing on the cake.


I would go for a 2 Microphone setup. Get the best pair of condenser you can achieve.

The following technique was used in early rock and roll and really worked for me a couple of times. The idea of this technique is to record the drums in mono with a strong snare and overheads to establish the rhythm. Your kick drum will lack sub frequencies with this technique.

you will position the condensers so that one is over the head of the player and one is in front of the drum set. so they are orthogonal to usual overheads. try to align them so, that they are on a line between kick and snare. then just point the microphones right to the snare and make sure, that the distance of both microphones to the snare is the same.

If you have the right room, this will give a decent and very acoustical sound.

alternatively, instad of positioning the condenser over the player, you can hang one microphone into the middle of the drum set, positioning it somewhere between snare and kick. this will give a more dry sound, but often creates phasing issues comapred to the other version.

good luck experimenting, and dont forget to improve the room you record in!


It really depends on the type of music, the type of drummer, the type and size of kit and more so, why? Are you trying to mimic a certain area of recording, worried about phase, only have 3 mics? You could try a spaced pair or XY as overheads and maybe another mic on the kick if it's an important part of the sound. I've had great results doing that You could also try an MS a few feet in front of the kit. Probably won't get as much cymbal but the stereo image should be really tight.


As long as your over head is well aimed, I use a earthworks qtc50 BBC style (omni directional) many good recordings were made with 2/3 mics. if I were limited to using only 3 mics I'd use a mono omni directional overhead, one for kick (try an re20....seriously) and one between rack Tom's or rack to floor depending on which is played more well aimed high quality overhead will get most of the details. If you can only use one high quality Mic....... Make it the overhead. Hope that helps. There are no right or wrong ways of doing things if you get the results you are looking for


Use the best 3 mics you can obtain/afford (rather than buying 6-8 crappy mics) Put one out in front of the kik. How far out depends on how "roomy" you want it but don't stick the thing inside! Only mic the inside when you have enough mics to mic the outside as well. For more of "thud", just put it an inch or two from the front head, dead center. Position the second mic directly above the snare, about a foot higher than your crash - this will get your hat and rack tom as well. The third mic can be placed to the drummer's right, about shoulder or ear height (when seated), and slightly behind, aimed in the general vicinity of both the floor tom and the ride symbol.

Not saying this is the best/only way to go, but it's worked well for me.

  • i mean cymbal, not symbol
    – Guest
    Oct 20, 2013 at 3:38

I would definitely use a stereo overhead setup. most likely two cardioids in XY. I tried also an MS (mid/side) setup for overheads which is nice to work with cause it gets you the option of mixing a mono mid to a stereo side signal... bass drum should also get a mic. audix got a really good one not too expencive. thats the minimum of microphones to get a decent result out of a (rock/pop) recording session I guess...

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