Stereo pair overhead

Sometimes we don’t want to mess with setting up 6 or more mics on a drum kit. Wouldn’t it be cool to put up just 3 microphones and still get a good sound? Well, the method described here worked for me and it might work for you, too.

Over the top of the kit, place two small-diaphragm cardioid condenser mics. Angle them 90 degrees apart and space them about 7 inches horizontally. That microphone angle and spacing results in a natural, unhyped stereo spread of the kit between your monitor speakers. You can make the drum kit sound wider by angling or spacing the mics farther apart, and vice versa.

Put that stereo pair at about drummer’s chin height over the drummer’s knee, or over the snare drum rim. That’s as close as you can mike a kit overhead and stay out of the drummer’s way.Try to keep the cymbals low. By miking fairly close to the drums, you can get a tight sound without much room reverb.

Stereo pair overhead

Finally, try a little EQ on the stereo pair to control the balance between the toms, snare and cymbals. A narrow cut around 150-250 Hz reduces the snare drum volume, while a narrow boost around 80 Hz makes the toms sound fuller. A broad shelving filter at 5 or 10 kHz can bring the cymbals up or down in the mix without making them sound too bright or dull.

EQ used on the overhead mics

As another option, try two large-diaphragm condenser mics overhead in the same arrangement. LDC’s tend to have better bass (more extended low-frequency response), so they may not need any EQ to capture a full tom sound.

A cardioid dynamic mic goes in the kick. I mounted one on a boom on a desk stand and shoved it through a hole in the front head. The mic was about an inch from the beater, giving a tight, non-boomy sound. Of course you can vary this distance to taste.

Kick drum miking

If you don’t have a mic specifically designed for kick drum, try some EQ: A cut around 400 Hz removes the papery sound, and a boost around 4 kHz adds some attack. Try reversing the polarity of the kick-drum track (relative to the overhead pair) and see if you get a deeper bottom end.

Give this simple miking method a try. It ties up only three tracks and can give a surprisingly good sound.

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A member of the Audio Engineering Society, Bruce Bartlett is a recording engineer, microphone engineer (, and audio journalist. His latest books are “Practical Recording Techniques 6th Edition” and “Recording Music On Location”.

Originally posted 2011-04-23 23:58:08.