It is in fact very possible to get great-sounding drum tracks with only a few choice microphones, and there’s still a respectable place in the recording market for minimalist drum-tracking techniques. Although sonically limiting and leaving a little something to be desired, the one-mike strategy can be just what the doctor ordered, if given the right drummer and the right song. Sensitivity and awareness are key, and drummers that learn to mix by playing have plenty more work in their future, so set up some mikes, mix from the sticks, and give the faders a rest. Also keep in mind that the one-mike method is married to a certain natural, harmonically chaotic vibe. The front-of-kit (approximately 2′ back from the kick and 4′ up), meanwhile, is the punchiest. While stubborn opinions abound on what’s the best way to configure the traditional triumvirate, the basic format is a front-of-kit mike, a hi-hat side overhead, and a floor tom overhead (somewhat near the drummer’s right shoulder). To counteract this, some engineers prefer to measure from the imaginary “center” of the kit. Additionally, trying to replicate certain drum sounds from favorite recordings, like a Metallica album, for instance, won’t work, as they were crafted from many close mikes and samples. The track is muddied with grit; it’s fairly monophonic; and of course, he’s John Bonham and you aren’t. Here are two excellent means to recording with only a pair of microphones: The front-of-kit mike (again, about 2′ back from the kick and 4′ high) is like the Swiss Army Knife of mike placement (minus the worthless toothpick). The major downsides to this format are that the cymbals can easily overwhelm the front-of-kit mike (which is 85 percent of the mix), and that stereo imaging is limited and awkward. Pearl, Solomon Designs, Evans and Impression, 7 Albums Every Drummer Should Own (According to Travis Barker), 10 Essential Tips Every Drummer Should Know, Brain Says: You Should Learn These 6 Drum Fills. Hi, my name is Jake, and I’m a recovering mike-aholic. While options increase greatly as more mikes become involved, the basic capturing concepts of distant and close mikes still work for most setups involving anywhere from three to five microphones. The three best locations for this rather important piece are as a room mike, a drummer’s perspective mike, and a front-of-kit mike. The other popular minimalist strategy, sometimes referred to as the “Glyn Johns technique,” involves a mixture of four to five distant and close mikes. The room position (a minimum of 10′ from the kit) has the most ambience and sounds farthest away. The less microphones used puts that much more responsibility on a solid, balanced drum take, as it’s less possible to polish an erratic and disjointed performance with studio magic. Another song of the time that was captured with a minimalist technique, Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks,” contains one of the single most significant and easily identifiable drum mixes in history, yet it was tracked with only two microphones. Just remember that every room has a character of its own, and different locations will greatly change the gestalt of the drums, particularly the kick and toms. Getting a good drum mix isn’t only up to the engineer, as the drummer plays an even more critical role. A common practice with 1960’s and ’70s rock and jazz is the three-microphone triangular approach. Would that tone work for just any song? Skeptical? Having an artistic plan instead of a “let’s see what comes out in the wash” attitude is a smarter approach to saving time in the mixing room. But his brother Andy is also (or maybe only) credited with recording that song. With a large-diaphragm condenser at the helm, it pretty much has every drum covered. Ok so I need a fairly easy to setup and minimal drum micing solution, for live purposes. Everything else is up for debate and to your taste. Time and experience, along with experimenting, will help you answer how you want to While in a large house, Johns recorded Bonham with two M160 double-ribbon microphones placed approximately halfway up a stairwell in the foyer, compressed to all hell, and affected with a Binson Echorec delay. Adjusting the overhead mic angle is another tool to get your balance right. Thankfully, I eventually saw the sine, and ever since I’ve had a clean track of one to four microphones per session. That said, sometimes there’s a little meat missing from the snare. And yet as epic as that drum mix is, do the drums sound perfect? You want to move the second overhead mic to the place above the drummer’s opposite shoulder that matches the same kick and snare distance. Ribbon and condenser microphones are the best candidates for the leading role in this one-mike show, with condensers typically being more sensitive to higher frequencies (this can be both good and bad, as they are brighter, but can also be on the brittle side). The kick mike, placed about halfway inside the drum (for instance Shure’s Beta 52A or AKG’s D 112), and pointing a little off center, is added as a precautionary inoculation of an extra chest-thumping 50Hz boost and a 2—5kHz clicking attack. The following approaches have differing results, and hopefully their descriptions, along with experimentation, will galvanize and expedite your next recording session. Not surprisingly, someone in the microphone business finally took note and made a mike kit just for the triple-threat vintage approach. Kick (bass) drum. If the ceiling is more than 8′ tall, try out some omni mikes. Make no mistake; minimalist drum-recording setups are not the answer for every situation. Every quarter-inch went to more microphones, and I was one Neumann away from becoming homeless, hanging by an XLR. The engineer on that track, Andy Johns, brother of Engineer Glyn Johns, is greatly responsible for this definitive Bonham sound. Both the distance and the surrounding instruments that may bleed into the target source will often impact the success of these microphones. Because there are two overheads involved, phase cancellation becomes a serious concern.


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