I won’t lie to you. I’m not a drummer, and I’m not a drum guru either. Which is tricky for me as an audio guy, cos lets be honest, the foundation of a mix is won or lost in the drum and bass relationship. And we weren’t happy with ours…
*aside* In my travels I’ve discovered many church audio guys who think their work begins and ends at the sound desk. Live audio starts at the source (the stage), and if you aren’t spending SIGNIFICANT time there, I would argue you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance of creating a good mix!
Up until very recently, we have been micing up our Pacific Drums CX Series Kit with Shure A98Ds on the toms, a beta57A on the snare, a Beta52 in the kick, with a KSM32 on overheads, and an sm81 on the hats.
I started researching and experimenting with different combinations over the course of about 3 or 4 months (inspired in part by Dave Stagl at Northpoint – who says he doesn’t feel like he is doing his job right if the drum mic setup isn’t always changing!)
I realized that trying different combinations/positions doesn’t cost anything, (especially if you have friends or vendors who will let you demo mics) and the results can be surprising. Seriously – moving a mic an inch away or towards a drum can mean the difference between a great sound, and a RUBBISH sound. There are LOTS of ways to mic a kit, and a lot of good info available online.
I discovered I’M NOT A FAN of the A98Ds, as acclaimed as they are. I found them to be poorly designed (plugs always coming loose, even when GLUED on – and being phantom-powered they make a massive noise when loose) AND they didn’t sound all that great on toms. Move those large diaphragm KSM 32s to the toms though, and you kits sounds like its twice as expensive!
There are lots of opinions around micing snares. I’ve had lots of success with the beta57 on the top, and the A98D on the bottom. (Top gives you that great tone and crack, bottom gives more crack and sizzle). I must add though, having tried half a dozen snares – a snare drum has a personality – you will have to find the one that best fits your style of music, your drummers, your drum mics, and your room.
We added a second kick mic the Beta 91, inside the kick, giving us the kick attack, and tone, leaving the beta 52 free to capture the beef of the kick.
I decided to move the hi-hat mic up to the overhead position – and I haven’t missed it! Hats can be tricky – I for one find ‘splashy hats’ to be one of the most obnoxious sounds on the stage, and although we had a mic on them, we seldom used it in the mix. For the most part now I pick up a drum mix, with crispy cymbals and hats through the overhead very successfully.
Watch out for phase issues when under-micing drums and using open overheads, flip those phase switches and have a listen!
Ok this post is waaaay to long, and I have a lot more to say… (I’d love to post on drum mic compression and gating someday) but for now I’ll just finish by encouraging you to experiment more with your drum mics and micing techniques! You’d be amazed what a difference it makes, not just to the drum sound, but to the entire mix.
P.S. Just a few weeks ago I got to switch the toms over to Senhiesser MD421s. What a difference. I couldn’t possibly say enough nice things about these brilliant, classic mics!