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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Single Mic Drum Recording

Complexity - Simplicity image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Sometimes we get caught up in a complex technique simply because we can. The technology that's available to almost anyone today offers so many choices that we want to use them all - sometimes even at the same time.

Then sometimes we use a technique because that's what everyone else is doing, or even worse, because that's what you're favorite engineer, artist or producer does. The problem here is that each situation is different. The song, arrangement, players, environment, and signal path means that what works great for someone else may not work in your situation.

And then again, sometimes the simple, old-school way can work best.

Take drum recording, for instance. Back in the very old days when a 4 input mixer was considered "large format," placing a single mic on the drum kit was the norm. The drums were considered a single instrument, not a number of individual units (as is thought too many times today). They used a recording technique then that can still work surprisingly well today - using just a single mic.

Here's how it's done:
1) Place a mic about 3 feet directly in front of the drum kit at height of around the drummer's eyes. 
2) Aim the mic down at the snare. 
3) If you want more bass drum and less cymbals, lower the mic. 
4) If you want more room ambience, move the mic backwards a couple of feet at a time until you get the right blend. 
5) Add a couple of dB of compression to both tighten the drum sound and even out the balance between drums.
This technique will work really well with any kind of mic, but the better the mic, the better it will sound (no surprise there).

Give it a try; it really works, especially if you're looking for that classic 50's sound.

You can read more about drum techniques like this in The Drum Recording Handbook and The Recording Engineer's Handbook. Check out the excerpt section of my website to read more.

Next week we'll look at another classic method - this time using 2 mics.

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4 comments:

Jef Knight said...

There was a time when I was pretty good at micing drums and getting a great sound. That time was known as "the 70's & 80's".

But I came to realize that there is a great deal of difference between K.I.S.S. (dumbing it down) and a simplicity that contained both complexity and elegance.

And that's when I switched to digital drums and samples... ;)

Cheers

Sculley said...

"Then sometimes we use a technique because that's what everyone else is doing, or even worse, because that's what you're favorite engineer, artist or producer does. The problem here is that each situation is different. The song, arrangement, players, environment, and signal path means that what works great for someone else may not work in your situation."

This comment couldn't be more apt to my situation this week. If it isn't in one of your books (I've got three) it should be. Valuable advice.

Bobby Owsinski said...

I'm pretty sure that statement is in some of my books, Sculley. Can't remember which ones at the moment......

Anonymous said...

Great post, and really valuable information. I've wrote a post about the same topic weeks ago:

http://emilianocaballero.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/less-is-more-in-case-of-fewer-mics/

Hope you like it,

EMiliano

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