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Another Mono Drum MicSometimes more can indeed be more
The Multiple Mic Approach
Like every rock music fan, some of my favorite drum sounds are those '70s three-mic drum sounds pioneered by Glyn Johns. Unfortunately for a lot of contemporary rock projects--where drums have to compete with walls of guitars--as much as I would like it to, this more simplistic approach to miking doesnt always work. I sometimes find that the only way to get the individual clarity and punch out of each drum component is what I call the '80s multiple mic approach, where more is more and if youre lucky, bigger is better. The drawback here seems to be a lack of realism that the simpler, more phase-coherent setup delivers. But lately, Ive taken this entire thing one step further by adding yet one more mic.
The Mono Mic
If you ever had the experience of capturing a great drum sound with just one mono overhead, youll understand the great clarity and richness a wonderful U47 or U67 can deliver. This is the sound of many recordings of the '50s and '60s. You can almost see the color of the calfskin drum heads; theres just something so realistic about this. The lack of other mics in close proximity yields a phase-coherent, clear signal.
Heres the tricky and creative part. The placement can vary from a few inches above the kick to a few feet in front of the kick. After I size up whats missing from a multiple mic setup, Ill set the mono. Sometimes I need a taste more punch in the kick, sometimes its that organic wood tone from the toms, sometimes I just feel like I dont get that ?picture of a drum kit in a room.
When I feel like Im missing just a bit more crack from the snare or perhaps a bit more knock in the kick, Ill place the mic an inch or two over the kick drum, but aiming at the side of the snare and adjacent to the rack tom. Its tough to get the balance right, but when it is right you can almost turn off the individual mics and use this mono mic exclusively. Engineers like Chad Blake and John Paterno have made some pretty stellar records with this setup, along with perhaps another mic on the kick and snare.
Engineer Daniel Mendez uses a variation of this. He places a U87 on the beater side of the kick drum, underneath the snare but facing up in the air. This captures the bottom and side tones of the snare as well as an adding an interesting woody character to the kit. A healthy compression scheme makes this work extremely well.
In the instances when Im missing that overall drum picture, Ill use the mono mic about 2-5 feet in front of the kit at a height of 3-6 feet. As it has for the last 30 years, a U47 tube is amazing in this spot. I have had great luck of late with a 4050, 4060, or Shure KSM44.
If you are missing the air and honesty to the cymbals that close mics cant deliver, try your mono mic very high up over the kit, perhaps 7-12 feet in the air aiming down at the snare and rack toms. Cymbals need room to develop; otherwise, youre only capturing one part of the real sound. I find that the drums sound a bit safe with my multiple-mic setup, and if I need a bit of ?trash in the sound, Ill try the mic somewhere near the floor but aiming up at the snare. Usually, a really bad sounding mid-rangy dynamic works great here. Again, lots of radical compression is needed to make this work. This seems to be a job for the Spectrasonics 610.
Monoing the Mono
Now, I know what youve all been saying: ?Youre just adding one more mic, and there will be even more phase problems! And youre correct. Heres how I try to minimize the problem: After Ive got my close mics balanced and phase checked, Ill then add in my mono mic. Ill listen to all my mics combined in mono, flipping the phase and checking for any cancellations. Then, Ill move the mono around a few inches or so to get the clearest, fattest and most honest overall tone, once again flipping the phase switches on all the mics.
Well, because were just adding ?more and its realism and punch were after, I actually dont do much processing at all. If anything, I might add a touch of low end. Or, if its snare crack Im after, maybe Ill add a touch of mids. But what might work really well is compression. My favorite all around for this is the El 8 Distressor--its fine-tunable attack and release settings are perfect to dial in just the right crack factor. As we all know, tempo does change the way you set your attack/release controls, so this box is perfect. At other times, when I just want warmth, Ill use something more subtle, like an LA2A or perhaps a Summit TLA100. Another trick is to do some subtle expansion of this mic triggered from the kick or the individual mics.
This might not be the trick for all of you, but in times when the 57, 87, and 421 setup leaves you a bit empty just try adding yet another mic. Sometimes more can indeed be more!
Related Keywords:Drum Mic, Glyn Johns, miking, drum, U47, U67, recordings, M147, snare, 4050, 4060, Shure, KSM44, Spectrasonics 610, Distressor, Summit TLA100
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