Electronic Insights

Drum Miking 101

Part 5: Multi-Mic Setup

by John Emerich

Over the past few months, we’ve explored miking a drumset in a studio environment by adding microphones one at a time. This article takes all of those concepts to the final stage, as we look at how to handle a fully miked kit that includes room mics. This is the setup most often used for a typical recording session.

We’ll start with four channels. I always begin with the stereo overheads, because they’re the key to capturing a balanced drumset sound. I use a Violet Flamingo Stereo microphone. For the other two channels, I added a Milab BDM-01 on the bass drum and a Violet Flamingo Junior on the snare. We listened to that combination in the last article, and it’s a great four-mic setup that always gives me good results.

Then we added microphones on the toms. A lot of different models work well in this position, but I chose a Violet Globe mic for each tom (photos 1 and 2).

The next step is to place the room mics. I position these about 10′ in front of the set to capture some of the ambient sound of the drums reverberating in the room. Experiment with the distance of the mics from the drumset to achieve different sounds. Measurement is crucial; you must be exact. I prefer to use a long string to make sure each mic is the same distance from the center of the kit. I start by attaching the string to the center of the bass drum. In photo 3, Scotty, my friend and engineer, is holding the string in place. Pull the string tight and pinch it at the point where it touches the capsule of the microphone. Keeping that mark, go over to the other room microphone and make sure it’s placed at the exact same distance. This measurement is key to having an accurate stereo representation of the kit.

The last microphone I add is a Crown PZM boundary model. I tape it to the studio glass on the far wall, which extends the range of the mic to the entire size of the glass (photo 4). I record with this mic because I may decide to use it for an effect when I mix.

As you’re watching and listening to the accompanying video, which is posted to moderndrummer.com, note that we start with just the four basic microphones (overheads, kick, and snare). That establishes the baseline drum sound. I then bring up the tom mics to provide a little more punch and a fuller frequency response from the toms. Next I add the stereo room microphones, which are Sony C-48s. You should immediately hear the difference when the room mics are added; the sound gets a bit brighter and the stereo image is very smooth. The room mics should be blended into the mix to give you a more natural sound.

The PZM taped to the studio glass makes the sound even brighter and a bit more aggressive. With that mic, in addition to the stereo room channels, you now have a lot of choices to work with when you mix the recording. Different combinations can be utilized with this setup to create different effects. As always, trust your ears.