Most home-studio spaces havesome acoustic gremlins such as fluttering echoes or sharp reflections.Hey, it’s not like you spenttons of bucks transforming your room into a pristine andharmonious acoustic environment that would give Abbey Road a runfor its money. No matter—you canprobably find at least one spotwhere the kit sounds ballsy, dimensional,and well-balanced. Movethose drums around the room,record them with a good large diaphragm condenser positioned afew feet in front, and listen carefullyfor where the kit sounds best.Pay attention to details, such aswhether quick or quirky reflectionsare boosting undesirable high endon the hi-hats and cymbals, oradding slapbacks that mess withthe drummer’s groove. Judge your mono recordings against professional drum sounds you dig, andwhile you may not be able to nailthose tones in your space with yourtools, you can at least determinewhat you may be lacking in resonance,attack, and shimmer as comparedto the pro drum tracks.When you discover a position thatdelivers a reasonably exciting tonalbalance—freeze! It’s time to startputting up more mics.
Even in this best possible position,the sound of the kit will likely continueto suffer somewhat from thesound of your room. But you candiminish any sonic ill effects by positioningyour mics close to the sourcesound (toms, snare, hi-hat, etc.). Tryputting the kick mic inside the kickitself (or right near the outside head),as well as placing mics no more thanan inch from the snare and tomheads. This strategy should serve upbeefy impacts and resonances, andminimize problematic room reflections.Rather than position over heads way over the cymbals (where reflectionsmay add energy to frequencies you don’t want to hear), try placing agood large-diaphragm condenserabout a yard from the front of thekick drum, and at a height between the drummer’s chest and head. You’lllose a stereo overhead perspective,of course, but you may gain a clearand clean cymbal sound that you canblend into the drum mix without worrying about ugly signal bleed or phasing problems.
Of course, if you’re going to stick amic right on the source, you shouldbe sure the mic can deliver all thetone you desire. I like to put a small pillow into the kick to dampen anyringing that detracts from a strongthud, and use something like an AKGD112 that can capture a sharp attack and meaty bass frequencies.
For the snare, I typically dampenany ringing with Moon Jellies—small rubber squares that can beplaced in varying quantities atop the head—and use a Shure SM57 forits classic sound, as well as its abilityto capture a good crack. Iwant more fullness and “boom” onthe tops, of course, so I’ll usually gofor something like SennheiserMD421s. If I mic the hi-hat, I oftenput an AKG C451 right off the lip ofthe cymbals because I like to hearthe tip of the sticks cut through the mix like a machete cutting through underbrush. Depending onwhat you’re going for, room andoverhead mics should deliverdynamic interest and a...