Unlike most instruments used in live performances, a drum set consists of many pieces, each designed to produce a specific and unique sound. For this reason, it’s also one of the most challenging instruments to mic, as the process involves using different microphones and cleverly choosing the right type and position for each one.
You need to ensure each part of the drums delivers the right feel to the audience while maintaining balance and harmony with other parts of the set and other instruments on stage. If you’re scratching your head over which mics to use and how to place them, then look no further.
Here’s a simple step-by-step tutorial on how to mic a drum set for outstanding live performances.
1. Use Only Quality Mics
- You shouldn’t go for mediocre mics if you want to give your audience a great show. Whatever the type of mic and its position in the drum set, make sure you only use microphones that guarantee high quality and reliability. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a major band or label to purchase them. Nowadays, you can find different top drum mics at affordable prices.
2. Set Up the Overhead Mic
- The overhead mic is what makes your drums “one” to your audience. Its purpose is to catch the sound of the entire drum set with the same tone and basic frequency balance. Getting its position right is paramount, as your overhead mic will change the sound captured by the other drum mics, and you need to make sure the final effect is the desired one. Its position should range between 18 inches and 1 foot directly over the drummer’s seat.
3. Choose the Right Position for the Kick Drum Mic
Your kick drum is another crucial component of your set. Its beat is what gets your audience moving. When choosing your kick drum mic, it’s advisable to select a large diaphragm dynamic microphone, as you will need to generate significant sound pressure. There are different positions you can choose based on the outcome you’re looking for:
- just inside the hole
- further inside the hole if you need more attack
- outside the hole if you’re going for a more full-bodied tone.
4. Select the Type of Snare Drum Mic
Snare drums contribute to the beat and set the tempo for the rest of your band. When miking this drum, the first step is to choose between two types.
- A cardioid dynamic microphone is the best choice if you want to produce a close, dry sound.
- A hyper-cardioid dynamic microphone gives the snare drum better isolation from the rest of the set.
5. Position the Snare Drum Mic
First of all, you should choose whether to mic only the top of the snare or use a mike for the bottom head too. The second option adds a rattling sound that nicely complements the more dominant sound of the top head.
In either case, the top mic should check all the boxes on this list:
- it should be placed around 1 inch above and inside the rim of the drum
- It should be pointed at the snare drum at an angle ranging between 30 and 60 degrees
- It should be positioned in a way that prevents the drumsticks from hitting it.
6. Decide Whether to Mic the Hi-Hat Drum or Not
Many choose not to use an individual microphone for the hi-hat drum, as its sound can generally be picked up effectively by the overhead mic. Yet others want to add that extra crispness to the sound by including a dedicated high-hat drum mic.
In this case, you should use a small diaphragm condenser microphone and place it 3 or 4 inches above the high-hat drum. You can use different angles.
- Pointing it directly down to the top hi-hat cymbal is a very effective way to catch the sound of the sticks, but you will get a lot of bleed from the snare drum.
- Pointing it towards the outside of the drum can help you reduce the bleed.
7. Mic the Toms
Toms are great for adding color and playing fills, it’s important to mic them properly. For the choice of the type of mic (cardioid vs. hyper-cardioid), you should make the same consideration you made earlier when you want to mic the snare drum. For the large toms, make sure you use a microphone with high sensitivity to low frequencies.
As for the position, placing the mics at a 45-degree angle and between 2 and 3 inches above the rim and over the head will give you more attack. In contrast, pointing them closer to the rim will give your toms more ring.
8. Miking the Cymbals?
While the overhead mic is usually enough to capture the sound of the cymbal enjoyably, you can choose to add a dedicated mic to each cymbal. Use a small condenser mic, place it between 3 and 4 inches above the cymbal, and ensure it’s not in the way of the drumsticks.