Snare Drum Recording Tips

The snare drum is one of the most important elements in contemporary recorded music. It helps anchor the song in so many ways.

The standard mic for snare is the workhorse of all mics, the Shure SM57. Tune the drum right and put a 57 on the batter head and you’re 80% there. Just like that. 🙂
Great Mix Recording
If you have the room, use a 57 and a pencil condenser together and you’ll get a great sound. If you aim the mic at the center of the drum you will get more pop/snap and if you aim it towards the rim you will get more of the tone of the drum. You can also put a mic aimed at the bottom head of the snare drum. This can be either a dynamic or a condenser.

Two big issues arise with micing a snare. Having enough room to actually place the mic where you want, without getting in the way of the player, and keeping bleed from the high hat from getting into the snare mic. Sometimes you can fashion a piece of cardboard to keep the HH sound from getting into the mic or a piece of foam. All you can do is work with what ya got.

What are YOUR favorite methods for recording the snare drum?

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Overhead Drum Microphones

Recording engineers pick microphones depending on many different reasons, such as: • what you’re recording • where you’re recording • available mic selection •

For overhead mic-ing you can’t go wrong with a good pair of pencil condenser mics. A favorite ‘go-to’ mic that I like to use is the Neumann KM 184. You can purchase a pair of these in a great protective case that allows you to keep all your mic assets together in one place, always a good idea.

A good rule of thumb for mic-ing overhead drums is to place the mic as a spaced pair either approx. 18 inches above the cymbals – or – spaced equal distance away from the snare (use string to measure this to be sure). If you have a hard hitting drummer who favors a certain cymbal you may want to position that mic even a bit further away. 😉 There are many angles to choose from to position the mics, this will depend on which cymbals you are trying to highlight, or if you’re just trying to get a general capture of the whole kit. Don’t be afraid to experiment & play around with positioning your mics to find the places YOU like to record from best!

*An extra option is putting a ribbon mic up in the middle of your spaced pair, with a little tweak on the upper end of the EQ on the track to add excitement to the mix.

Always be sure to test all mic levels individually before you start recording. Different mics are more sensitive than others so settings for one may not work the best for another. Keep in mind… any time you spend checking/setting the best levels… will equal time you save in editing & trying to fix tracks that have peaks in them.

Which are YOUR favorite microphones to use for overhead drum mic-ing, & why…?

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More Drum Mic-ing Tips

When tracking drums it’s a good idea to take pics of the kit throughout the process so you’ll have a visual reference later on. Sometimes things can get moved & switched around, & if that happens be sure to list that info on your track sheet. These small details can be easy to forget when you move on to the mixing process however,
it will help you to pin point any trouble mic’s if issues arise. 😉

Send in pics of your recording setups & I will post a gallery of them at some point.

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Mic-ing up the DrumSet

I thought as long as I was discussing drum sets I would continue with various mic-ing techniques. I will preclude this with indicating that this pretty much pertains to the genre of pop, rock and most country.

Lets start with the kick drum. There is a plethora of good mics for kick drum. Some of my favorites are the EV RE20, AKG D112, Shure Beta 52, 91, Beyer M88, Neumann U47fet, U87 and the Sennheiser 421. I do want to say that the use of a speaker woofer as a microphone is very cool. You can buy a manufactured one or make one yourself. I’ll tell you how later on. Anyhow, use a dynamic mic inside the shell pretty close to the batter head aimed at the beater for more of a click/snap or halfway between the center and the edge of the head for more tone. I also have found that the Shure 91 placed on the “pillow” works extremely well. If you have a speaker/mic place that as close as possible to the resonance head, like 1 inch. (Hint, you may need to change the phase in mix to match the other mics when mixing.) I also like to put a mic about 2 feet in front of the kick drum. Use a nice large diaphragm condenser for this. Something else I like to do is create a tunnel from the kick drum towards the room. I take a heavy packing blanket or heavy comforter and place it over a couple of mic boom stands. This does a few things. It directs the sound of the drum towards the outside mic and it also helps keep the sound from the toms and cymbals from getting into the kick mics.

Feel free to comment & let me know if you have any questions or tips of your own.

Drum Kit Mic-ing

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Smart Studios Documentary

Currently in production is a documentary about Smart Studios – one of the Midwest’s music industry’s best kept secrets. 😉

This is the story of Smart Studios, Midwest music, bands, old vans, clubs, records stores, shit food, beer, guitars, weather, sound, people, flyers, cassettes, labels, radio stations, VHS footage, trucks crashing into buildings, the guts of Wisconsin, the glory of american rock, New Orleans Take Out, confessions, pizza, analog, cotton mouth, candles, tambourines, razor blades…

Tons of music… Interviews with members of – Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Killdozer, L7, Die Kreuzen, Tar Babies, Mecht Mensch, Poopshovel, Appliances, Spooner, DCFC, Garbage, Freedy Johnston, Ivory Library, Go Motion, Singing Irishman and more!

Want to submit something?

Please send photos, video, stories, etc to Wendy Schneider via email:

For more info you can check out the Facebook page

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