Miking Drums


Active Member
Ok, so I get to the venue today and to my suprise, there is a drum kit that is a part of the show. It's very quiet(for drums.) I've never miked a drum kit before so I figure this is a good educational experience. So my question is where are some good spots to mike the drums? Right now I just stuck a mike in front of it, so it looked like I did something.
online you can find hundreds of articles and most of them are literally copies of each other :)

best sound I've gottenyet? (ok, only mic'd for recording twice...and keep in mind, this is for recording, thought it should give a good sound no matter what) one mic on each drum, one on each cymbal. Condensors sound great!

kick: put it just in the hole, well a few inches in if oyu can, but keep it a ways away from the kick head, and point it close to the beater. if there is no hole in the front head, then just stick the mic about 1 inch away in the middle of th heading pointint towards the beater

toms: somewhereon the rim, almost touching but not quite, pointing to about the center of the head. Some peopl ehave them at the rim but over the head, at a 90 degree angle to the head, almost touching it. Never tried that.

Snare: I'd say mic the tom of it, same as toms, and this one, the best sound I ever got was with a cheap, old condensor.

cymbals: (including hi hat) put as close as possible, on a boomstand, so the mic is right over the cymbal. I put them so they were at a 90 degree angle or so to the resting positin of the cymbal, about halfway between the bell and the rim. Then I put them so they were a few inches above however high the cymbal could hit. On the hi hat the same thing except a little closer to the outer edge.

If you cannot get each drum mic'd individually, that's cool. Minimum for a show I'd say is three-four mics. One on the kick, then two over head, about a foot over the cymbals at most, and a little out, so you can get the sound from all the drums. If you have four mics, then the next one should go around the snare and hi hat. You can positin it so you get both in theres omehow. Five mics? depending on how many toms you mic, on a two tom set but it on the most used tom, on a three tom (or more) set, put it between the two most used toms, about a foot away/above, poitning towards the middle of them .

good luck!
umm how many mics are you planning on? im not a sound guy but a drummer. when we mic a kit for our muscial we used 2 over heads. one near the snare and hi hats. if you can mic bassdrum, snare.hihats and an over head. place the overheads back, so not directly over the kit but like in line with the drummers ear. he is going to play how it sounds to him therefore the sound he wants is the sound by his ears and thats what you want to pick up.(make any sense?)
The first reply had it down close, but let me clue you in a little better.

Kick: get a kick mic like an AKG D-112 (lots of attack) or a Shure 52 (lots of body) and get it inside the kick if you can. The closer to the beater the more attack (smack or click) the closer to the front head, the fuller the sound. P.S. You can get away with a regular dynamic mic like an SM-57 or 58 (actually the same capsule in a different case).

Snare: Just use a Shure SM-57, it's the industry standard. If your finger was the mic it would be just over the rim (first knuckle) and pointing roughly at the center of the drum. Try to aim it away from the floor toms if possible.

Toms: More 57s if you got em, Senheiser 421s are good. There's also lots of cool little clip on mics that get good sounds. Where you point them depends on if you want more body or attack and depends even more on the tone of the drum itself. You can change it a lot just by moving the mic and leaving the EQ alone.

Overhead: You can actually skip the snare and tom mics if you have a properly positioned overhead. In the studio I've gotten a really good sound out of just a kick mic and an SM-57 overhead. To position it, think of your finger again, more or less directly over the toms (maybe a little toward the player) about 2 to 3 feet up and pointing right in between the rack toms (the small ones).

A lot of people will tell you that a condenser mic is best for overheads and they'd be right if it was a rock show or studio. But in your case when you're just trying to fill out something from the pit, less is more... way more. A condenser mic will give you a truer sound, but will also tend to pick up the brass and whatever else is close by. There's feedback issues as well. A 57 in the air isn't going to be as sensitive, or give you big boomy toms, but it will pick up the transients and help blanket the attack of the hits and the sizzle of the cymbals across the room.

And last but not least, for a theater application it wouldn't hurt to buss whatever drum mics you do come up with and insert a comp/gate on the subgroup. Try somewhere a little heavier than 2:1 with a fast attack and release, hard knee and just roll the threshold down till you're getting 3 to 6 dB reduction, compensate by turning up the output a little and you're there. You'll loose just a little bit of punch but will have much more control over the group. Then gate down as much as you can to keep the rest of the pit from bleeding in.
It is also fairly normal to double mic the bass (kick) drum and the snare. An Audio Technica D-112 and a Shure 91 make a pretty good sound together. The Shure doesn't get much low end but it does get the slap out of kicks pretty well. That is also assuming you have a hole in the bass drum. I would put the 91 1/2 way inside the hole. If possible get the height about 1/3 of the way up the bass drum. Also as I said double micing the snare isn't an odd practice. If that is the case once again 57s are normal to use for both top and bottom. The idea in double micing is you get the actual snare on the bottom and you get alot of brightness out of that mic. I don't think simply micing the bottom would work well but I've never tried. I've also heard things about hitting the polarity (yell at me if I've get the wrong term) switch to invert the phase has been done on the bottom mic.
If you bottom mic a snare, you MUST invert the polarity (a polarity switch inverts polarity, not phase, otherwise the argument that it should be called a polarity switch rather than a phase switch would be rather silly :eek:) of the bottom mic.

Otherwise it and the top mic will cancel much of each other, since the signal hitting the bottom mic is of the opposite polarity of the signal in the top (the heads are moving away from the top mic when the stick hits the drum, while they are moving towards the bottom mic).
All good advice--there are so many different ways for drum kits depending on sound you want, the type of music being played, the overall sound of the kit (some well tuned kits can carry very well in a small venue) and the size of the venue for the system you have and so forth... So most sound guys eventually come up with their preferred ways to mic and which mic's to use where for various situations and music styles. Some times--you can mic a drum kit to the hilt with top and bottom snare and toms and hats and 3 mics in the kick cause that is what a group wants...and in practice never use but a few of those mic's overall..

One tip/trick/thing I did not read so far however is to watch your placement on toms and snares and cymbals--because you A) do not want your mic hit by a wild stick all the time (can crack the head off of a 57 or 421, or ruin a condenser--and it sounds awful in your mix) so ask the drum tech or drummer (makes em feel important ;) ) if the placement is clear for them to play--some drummers play on the sides or go crazy and hit far up on a snare. Now also watch the placement on toms and overheads in reference to the cymbals--they move and I have seen beginner folks mic too close to the cymbals (when you want a good 1 or 2 feet over them depending on the spread and sizes) or they will mic right under a cymbal edge on a rack tom--and when they get hit hard they can move up or downward and crash right into the tom or cymbal mic..plus you can get some bleed thru on the ride. So when you place your mics--move the cymbal up and downward to check that you are clear...

Just a little tip you pick up from some 18+ years experience with tours and bands of all kinds... :lol:

What nobody has mentioned yet, although Wolf alluded to it, is to start minimal. Don't go overboard to begin with, just try a mic in the kick and a pair of overheads. In many cases, depending on the style of music, this will be all you need.

If you're not getting enough snare, then add a snare mic (after experimenting with where exactly you place the overheads).

A carefully placed snare mic will perfectly pick up both hat and snare, so that's one less you need to worry about at first. If you choose to add a hat mic, it should be because you have a specific reason for needing it, not because you think you ought to.

Only start adding tom mics, hi-hat mics, and bottom snare mics as needed. In jazz, you'll often just use the three mics; in hard rock, you'll go for a more mic per drum approach. At perhaps the most extreme, on Metallica, Big Mick uses Shure SM-93s under each and every cymbal on the kit (he found that under-mic'ing the cymbals eliminated much of the bleed he'd get if he were to top mic them all.

Thanks for all the tips and tricks all! I wish I had condensers and SM57s, etc. I'll see what I can do with them tomorrow.
AVGuyAndy said:
Thanks for all the tips and tricks all! I wish I had condensers and SM57s, etc. I'll see what I can do with them tomorrow.

What??? What kind of equpment do you have then?
Good points there Andy. One great thing folks can learn from Big Mick--especially if folks ever get the chance to meet or work with him, is that he is not afraid to try and DO new or different or "odd" things for mic'ing.. He likes trying new mic's..he likes to change positions around--especially if something isn't working for him--he will think about it and try something else immediately. Never be afraid to try something different for mic'ing...or using different mic's for things..especially if something else isn't working for ya.. That is a key attitude to have in live sound, and will always keep you thinking and not "settling in" to a routine that gets old... Same goes for lighting--some excellent shows can be done with minimal lighting as well...

So many folks get stuck in their ways of robot-speak that goes "grunt...must have D-112 for kick..nothing else will do...grunt" that they have no idea what other mic's out there can do--especially for various tonal qualities you may want or NOT want for a certian style of music you are being asked to mix. Sometimes you get a kit that you have to EQ the life out of just to get the right sound...in those cases you may want to check the type of mic you are using. Typically when I get a drum kit I have never heard, I like to listen to it while they set it up and (hopefully) tune if I have the time.. Given a style of music that is going to happen, I may already have 2 or 3 choices in hand for a kick or snare mic or whatever etc... But take the time to listen to the quality (or lack thereof ;) ) of the instrument you are mic'ing.. Make your mic' choice fit the instrument better--and the mix will go a lot smoother and cleaner overall.. Don't make the instrument sound like the mic you are using...let the instrument sound like the instrument it is supposed to be, and pick the best mic's you have available that will do the job...


School has(had) a bunch of SM58s. The new AV paraprofessional lost/broke a few. She also has them hidden so I have no clue where they are. I own 3 Nady SP5s, not great but the price was right. We also have a bunch of old EV 635As. I think I will try and use a pair of those as overheads. And we have a ton of unopened Audio-Technica wired Lavs, still looking for a good use for them. Then there's our wireless mics, etc.
Not to discourage you or anything, but I'd advise against mic'ing a drum set with your lack of microphones and processing. Compression and gating is a must when mic'ing drums. They're loud, they'll bleed into each other, they clip easy, etc. It usually does more harm than good. But if you're drummer is using jazz rakes or brushes, this may not be problem. If there is no way of getting out of mic'ing it, try mic'ing the essentials. The kick should be the first thing you mic, but let me advise you that without some decent subs and a proper mic, you'll run into problems. The bass drum has such a high impact and low frequency sound to it, it makes it difficult to capture that sound with general purpose mics. You'll have a hard time setting the gain, it will clip easy. And because of the poor gain levels you'll be receiving, you won't be able to output much to your mix. On top of it all the tonal characteristics of your mics will make the drums sound muddy through your mains.
Well, for this show (which has long passed, feels like it anyway) the drums weren't used much. And they were placed almost directly in front of the FOH speakers, so not much happened there. And I do have compression and gating. (Belongs to me, not school :) )
Easy Drum Miking

Those are some good tips. I've spent over a year working on mic technics for LIVE TV recording, one thing I've learned, is sometimes drummers will leave some ring tone in there TOMs, which sounds terrible. You should correct this if you notice it. Most of the time drummers are very receptive to your comments, just walk up and tell them you can hear some ringing in the mics, and most drummers will listen and retune to ensure this is handled. If they resist, it's on them.

Jonathan G. Phillips
TV audio engineer
There are a couple of GREAT articles in "Recording" magazine (June 2005) that covers good, great, and the best way to mic drum kits. They also discuss great ways of mic-ing guitars, pianos (both grand and upright), several horns, and vocal.

The best part of this article is that the prices of the mic's that they use are within reach of the average sound tech. This is definatly an issue to buy two copies of and put one in a safe location. If you do not mic live instruments often, this will make you look - and more importantly sound- like a pro.
If that's the issue about the Mackie ONYX reviews in it, I think I read it.

I find placing the mics under the cymbals gives it a nice sound, and helps the mic live longer :) , he doesn't get smacked around as much.

The Guest is right, if you're mic'ing the individual drums, you really need to gate them, and in general add some comp., so you don't get any bleed from other drums, and levels don't get out of control. Also, I find if you add a little reverb to the snare and kick, it makes for a killer sound.

Also, don't know if it's been mentioned, I run all drum inputs into an old Mackie and mix those how I like, then run it to my main board, that way I 'm not pulling umpteen faders down if I think the drums are too loud.

I know this post is old, but didn't see it till now

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