In this installment of Sound Pure Gear Tips, pro audio specialist Marc Kuzio gives us the rundown on an 8-microphone drum setup. Using 8 mics instead of 4 gives you the ability to be more creative with your drum sound. It provides you with additional textures and a wider stereo image.
Here are the mics Marc used in his demonstration, and their placements:
Kick Drum: Audix D6 Dynamic Instrument Microphone placed inside
Snare Drum: Shure SM57 Instrument Microphone on top and Shure Beta 181/C Ultra-Compact Side-Address Microphone on the bottom
Rack Tom: Shure SM57 Instrument Microphone, close-miked
Floor Tom: Sennheiser MD 421 II Microphone, close-miked
Overheads: Neumann SKM184 Stereo Mic Set, spaced pair array
Room Mic: Peluso P87 Multi-Pattern Solid State Microphone
There are aspects of this setup that you could rearrange depending on the genre or the drummer’s playing style. For example, you could swap the close mic for another mic on the kick drum; it’s common to have mics placed inside and outside the kick drum. You also could ditch the bottom snare mic altogether.
The biggest consideration you need to make is the placement of your overhead mics. With a spaced pair, you have the ability to supplement your drum sound with many more channels of close mics. The spaced pair also allows for a much wider pan. It covers the full 3D spectrum, giving a bigger 3D image, wider stereo spread, and a bigger drum sound in general.
When overheads are placed up higher, your drum sound becomes more open, transients become more undefined, and things open up a bit. As they get closer to the kit, sounds begin to tighten up. If your overheads are placed in a crossover arrangement, you’ll probably get too much snare and not enough stereo spread. After considering these factors, Marc settled on a straight down arrangement placed a little closer to the kit, with both overhead mics equidistant to the center of the snare drum. The overheads were also hard panned left and right.
In Marc’s opinion, determining room mic placement is the most fun, creative, and experimental aspect of the 8-mic setup because of how much control you have. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this. In this setup, Marc used an LDC microphone that was voiced a little bit brighter than he would’ve liked. To supplement that, he lowered it down and put it at a bit of an angle to offset cymbal sizzle and hear more body from the kit.
In the context of the mix, Marc recommends using the bottom snare mic as an EQ to brighten up your sound a bit. Add a push of the snare if you want to add space and looseness. You can also play with the fader on the room mic to add life and breath. One trick Marc likes to use is to leave the room mic out for a verse, but as tension builds and the chorus comes in, push the room mic all the way up.