I always watch when they're miking the drum-sets at shows I go to. Most of the time the bass, snare, and all of the toms are have their own mic. But what about cymbals? They tend to be a lot louder and sound different when miked from different places, so I imagine the miking would have a big impact on the recorded sound.

What's the best place to mic the cymbals from? above, below, from the side? What about hi-hats? Do they usually each get their own mic? I would guess you would mic them from above, but I want to get some advice for getting the best quality from someone with experience.

  • Mike is a name, mic is a recording device.
    – BenV
    Dec 16, 2010 at 18:14
  • That's debatable. (I prefer "mic" myself.) Sep 17, 2011 at 19:39

2 Answers 2



The regular way of micing cymbals on (R'nR) drumsets is by using OverHeads (OH) Usually a set of 2 comdensator microphones.

It depends on how many cymbals and their placement, how you best place the mics.

The exact placement is highly a matter of engineer preference I think: I'll describe what I do.

With a standard R'nR kit, I usually place the 2 mics roughly 50 cm apart, 2 mter high. I place them above the rim of the toms facing the audience, point them backwards roughly at the snare, slightly outwards. This way they're pointing away from most of the instruments & monitors. Some prefer them very close together, some more pointing to the cymbals...

I place them so high because that way, I can use them as 'natural reverb' channel of the rest of the kit, giving it more air. This depends on stage volume: I mic loud bands closer(lower).

If there is only one Ride & one other cymbal, I tend to place them closer & more direct. I even dare to skip one OH to make the looks cleaner on a small kit.

If you've channels to spare, a separate condesator mic is placed close to the bell of the Ride cymbal, sometimes underneath. If you have a lot of channels to spare, you mic every cymbal separately, but that's more Metallica-level.

My preferred pattern is Hypercardioid.

Microphones with large membranes are used sometimes, but I prefer small membranes (KM184).
Another favorite on riders is the AKG 414

As a basic starting point for equalising:, I turn up the Hi-pass filter to 400Hz.
Afterwards I sometimes tweak the high mids to remove 'tube-like' sounds, the high shelf turned slightly up.


I usually place condenser mic roughtly 5 cm above the HiHat, pointing to the bell.
Roughly the same EQ as a starting point. The high mids of an HiHat sound totally different from other cymbals.

  • In many live situations, there's enough bleeding thru the other mics on the drum kit that you can get away without overheads at all, especially in smaller club-type settings.
    – chris
    Dec 23, 2010 at 18:24

You can also try an xy overhead mic arrangement, with two matched small diaphragm condensor (SDC) mics in an XY arrangment like so: http://www.wikirecording.org/XY_Stereo_Microphone_Technique . To go with this approach, you'd also want to pic up a stereo mic bar - google "stereo mic bar" for an idea, they can be had for under ten bucks.

There are some good, affordable SDC mics on the market that can be picked up new or used that will work great for this. The same mics will also work for a spaced stereo pair arrangement like jan suggested. These are probably the two best starting points for the novice with a low budget home setup.

I mic directly above the kit, in the left-right center, over the back edge of the crash cymbals (nearest to the drummer), about 2 feet above the cymbals. You get a nice stereo image of the entire kit this way, not just of the cymbals; typically your mix only needs a bit of additional mic'ing on the snare and kick to get a full sound, and the majority of your drum sound will be from the stereo pair. You'll want to adjust the positioning of the stereo pair a bit if you find that one of the mics is aimed straight at something and is getting overloaded, for example you might get overwhelmed by a hi-hat or floor tom.

Lastly, for the low budget home recordist (like myself), you'll probably notice a much bigger improvement in your drum sound by upgrading your cymbals and replacing any old heads on your drums. The classic new band mistake is to go into a studio with an entry level drum kit, with three year old heads on everything, and entry level, beat up cymbals, and tell the engineer "We want the drums to sound like John Bonham."

  • +1 Good addition from a recording point of view. My answer was solely about micing live shows.
    – jan
    Dec 23, 2010 at 16:09

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