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The Beat Goes On: Part 1

I love audio, and if PeeWee were here he’d tell me to marry it. What I love about it, is that there are so many ways to do something. There are very few right or wrongs and millions of opinions. There is a freedom to always push boundaries and try new things. I enjoy those spirited discussions that arise over different microphone types and placements. The people who swear by one brand and swear at another because of something that happened 10 years prior. I am asked all the time why our drum set has 12 microphones on it. Well I will start to answer some of those questions here.  So in the spirit of open dialogue and full disclosure, I thought I would share my latest thoughts on the drum microphones and how we use them at Northview.

Our Mics include:

  • Shure SM91 (Kick in)
  • Shure Beta 52 (Kick Out)
  • Yamaha Subkick (Kick Boom)
  • Shure Beta57 (Snare Top)
  • AKG C451 (Snare Bottom)
  • Shure SM81 (Alternative Snare Bottom – Just depends on what I am doing with the C451 that weekend)
  • AKG C1000 or SM81 (High Hat – with SE Electronics Filter)
  • Sennheiser 421 or Heil PR 28 ( Rack Toms)
  • Sennheiser 421 (Floor Tom)
  • Earthworks SR25 or SM81 (Ride)
  • Earthworks SR25  or Heil PR 30 (Overheads)

Here is where I start to get the weird looks and people start the name calling. I took our overheads and mounted them under the cymbals. Now this isn’t that crazy of a technique. I had thought I might end up with some weird resonance under there but remarkably I get a crisp, clean sound. Since I am already putting individual microphones on everything else, I don’t really need the benefit of an “Overhead” mic.

This individual approach really helps to isolate each piece of the drum set, and in a Live environment I end up with more control. It is also a huge deal for our video guys, gone are the days of giant boom mics in their shots. The drums have a nice clean look to them. I am currently working up another post with audio to demonstrate the audio difference between the Overhead and Underhead approach. About a month after I started doing this, Andrew Stone Production Director for Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK released this blog post and video. I was really excited to see this and thought he did an excellent job explaining it, I encourage you check it out.

What is that thing on you High Hat? – The high hat shield idea I stole from Andrew after he posted his video. I immediately ordered one and put it to use. The #1 complaint I get from the band is bleed on the high hat mic. The SE Electronics Instrument Reflection Filter was amazing. Now there is still some bleed, I mean it’s an acoustic drum set after all. But the high hat sound is much more defined. I highly recommend this approach. 

Why 3 kick drum mics? – Well, when I am mixing, there is this particular sound I want from that drum. You might as well call me Ishmael because that distinct sound is my white whale. For me, the Yamaha Subkick gets me closer to that sound. It adds that the extra boom the Beta52 doesn’t offer. Now I only use it in moderation, it’s not a ghetto blaster, but in our 2100 seat room, our people like to feel that low end. We feed our subs through an Aux (I’m a control freak I guess.) The Subkick is only routed there and not through the mains buss.  Because of the design of the subkick it basically has very little response above 600Hz. This means the bleed from other piece of the kit rarely interfere with it. With that information, I use the subkick to trigger the gates on my other two kick mics through the side chain. The Subkick alone is not enough. The SM91 gives me the attack and the Beta 52 does a good job with the low end, the subkick becomes the icing on the cake and allows my subs to really move some air.

Why a bottom snare mic? – I am a firm believer in the bottom snare and I have no more scientific reasoning other than years of practice. Adding the bottom mic, gives you that snap and crack of the snares. I switch out this mic a lot, trying different mics with different snares. I have pretty much settled on a condenser over a dynamic for the bottom, but that is just my preference. I know a lot of guys that use an SM57 on both top and bottom and get a great sound. When using the bottom mic, be sure to use reverse the phase on it.

Where are the mic stands? – I should really buy stock in LP Claws. If you are not using these yet, you should be! I use two mic stands on the entire kit, one for the Beta52 and the other holds the SE Electronics filter. Everything else is held in place with LP Claws. These really help you keep your drum area clean and easy access to move mics. We also went away from using stands on our percussion setup and went to all Claws, but that is for another post.

Part 2 has the audio files demonstrating the different mics. I have recorded them in different orientations to give a better idea of their sounds and placements.

What drum microphones are in your locker?