Thursday, June 10, 2010

Drum Mics, Ambient Mics, Room Mics...etc...

Hey all. SORRY it's been FOREVER since I posted last. Got a new job working for a studio here in town, so I've been doing a lot of work since then. My last podcast was a while ago as well. I figure I'll make a new one soon, hopefully corresponding with this post. That might be nice.

This post will be somewhat short, but it has a good point to it. It's about DRUM MICS and setting up for getting good drum sounds. Obviously we've got all your details about tuning the kit and whatnot...that's an invaluable skill that you should know how to do and know how to do WELL.

I get a lot of questions from friends, fellow engineers, etc., about "drum mics." Other than kick drum, there really aren't "drum mics" that are often used, you know? It's not like "here's a TOM mic," it's like, "okay, I use THIS mic for toms." Anyway. Some of the most popular mics you will almost ALWAYS see on a fully mic'ed kit will be as follows:

Kick - akg d112, akg d12, shure beta 52, audix d6 (metal), RE20, MD421, FET 47
snare - sm57, km84, re20, various...
toms - sm57, md421, akg 451, 441, various clip on mics...
overheads - km84/km184, akg 414s, u87s, C12s, royer r121s, various condensers / ribbons
room - rca r44, u67s, u47s, C12s, 414s, various condensers / ribbons.
hat - km84 / 184. shure sm81, akg 451.

That is almost ALWAYs what you will see used in a pro situation. However, many times drum sounds are captured with just a few mics. A lot of Zepplin drum sounds (Bonham drums have been coveted by engineers for decades) were cut with just two or three mics. The drumkit was incredible, as was John Bonham, and the room was amazing, and so where the mics and preamps. Most likely they were cut with U67s or U47, all set up 5-15 feet away from the kit in various places...look up some of the Andy Johns / Glenn Johns techniques. They're pretty impressive.

So when I get the question "what do I need to get a good drum sound?" I will tell you, it's not cheap. It's one of those instruments that really shouldn't be compromised. Using drum triggers and samples works, but it never sounds as realistic, dynamic, and lively as a kit mic'ed. At the minimum, I'd say get yourself a GOOD pair of overhead/room mics, a good kick mic, and an sm57 for snare if you don't already have one. That'll cover MOST genres and MOST applications. You can always play with reverbs and whatnot later if you don't have the space / money for room mics...that will SUFFICE. It won't be Bonham, but it'll do well.

I'd say for a lower budget, get a good pair of LDC or SDC mics for overheads, a D112 for kick, and a 57 for snare. Now that'll run you about $750-$2000, but if you want good drum sounds, you'll be happy. I suggest getting something like 414s, 214s, KM184s, or some other condenser that can be used on other things like acoustic guitars, pianos, and if you get a pair of LDCs (recommended) then you can use them on vocals as well. This is what I call "maximizing gear utility."

More soon...