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Do you record your toms with one or two mics?

Asked 1898 day 20 h | Viewed 5133 times | Updated 1898 day 20 h |

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Gravatar photo Justin Vencel

I've been recording drums for a while and I can't seem to get the tone I want from just a single microphone.

I'm wondering, how do the rest of you out there mic your toms?

Do you use one microphone or two?  Top and bottom?  Any other interesting toms tricks for us?

4 Answers

  1. Answered: 1898 day 19 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar phototheDAWstudio

    I always use one mic following the same guidelines as on the snare, "just over the lip and pointing towards the center of the drum". There are a few other aspects that are key to getting that great tom sound. The mic used, the processing applied to the track, and the sound of the toms in the overheads.

    You can get by using Shure SM 57s on Toms, but I always find the sound to end up kind of weak. Sennheiser 421s give you that industry standard chunky tom sound along with some of the newer audix mics. You can use a condenser like an AKG 414 to get that crisper jazz toms sound, or my personal favorite is to use another kick mic on at least the floor tom, but all of them if you can afford it.

    The processing of a tom track depends on how well it is recorded. If you use a great mic and mic pre you don't have to do much of anything for it to sound great.If your recorded tom track is lacking the first thing to do is pull out the mids. Be brutal and start EQing out a lot of the mid range. Move the frequency around until the tom starts sounding tighter. The second thing to do is compress the crap out of it. A thicker and slower compressor always works well like an LA 2A or 1176 plug-in (or hardware version).

    Lots of engineers stick to the idea that overheads are cymbal mics and the close mics pick up all of the drums. I was taught early on by a wise engineer who challenged me to get a balanced sound of the drums in my overheads and then add in the close mics for support. This technique has become more popular in recent years as roomier drum sounds have become more popular. I have mixed records where the overheads and room mics are the majority of the sound. So next time you set up your overheads listen to how the toms sound.

    I hope this gives some good ideas on how to make your toms sound better.


    • Excellent points Ben. I've always done the mic on top, over the lip, mic on the bottom with the phase flipped. I do agree with your overhead mic point, it all starts with the overheads. (Unless your really going for that in-your-face metal/rock sound). Great points about scooping out the mids, that happens when kids bring in their cardboard-box drum kits.

      Justin Vencel | Nov 13 at 02:11

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  2. Answered: 1898 day 0 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoMix Master

    Some purists will insist on a top and bottom mic, but in my experience, mo' mics=mo' problems.  The biggest problem is phase.  Not only on the individual toms, but for the kit as a whole. Drums make a lot of noise and every drum is picked up by every mic, at slightly different times, which adds up to a whole lotta phase cancellation when there are up 20 (yep I've seen it done) mics. 

    That being said, I'll usually start with the standard 421's.  If the drummer comes in with a Neal Pert inspired kit with 5 or 6 toms, and you run outta 421's, I'll put 57's on the higest racks, 421's on the middle guys, and an RE20 on the floor.  If there are mic's a plenty and the drummer is somewhat in control, I'll put 414's in cardiod (never had success in hyper card.) on 'em all. 

    Condensers tend to react a bit "quicker" and are not always appropriate.  And if the the rare luxury presents itself, and the drummer is in control, AKG C12A's are truly awesome.  Also:  I find that using coated heads makes a tremendous difference when recording.  Nice fresh ones!

    • I honestly have not had too many chances to experiment with different drum heads. The projects never seem to have the budget for that.

      Justin Vencel | Nov 20 at 06:11

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  3. Answered: 1896 day 14 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoBrian Zieske

    I love AKG451's or 414s on the tops of the toms, I nearly always use a bottom mic on the Floor.  I like condensor mics particularly when recording drums to analog tape.  Plenty of transient response which translates as attack of off tape.  Don't forget to flip the phase mic of the bottom Floor mic.  

    When recording to pro Tools I tend to use more tubes and ribbons to smooth out the transient response of drums.  

    • I really like the idea about ribbons on drums. I just talked with a bunch of vendors this weekend and pretty much all of the them have a new ribbon out or a mic coming out soon.

      Justin Vencel | Nov 15 at 09:11

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  4. Answered: 1892 day 3 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    are your toms tuned? are they sufficiently dampened? if so, then is just trial and error for dynamic mic placement.

    • I totally agree with your point. If the source is goes your recording. Assuming that your drums are properly tuned -- are you saying depending on the amount of dampening on the toms, this may determine if you use one or two mics on them?

      Justin Vencel | Nov 20 at 06:11

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