Recording Tips

Recording Drums w/Dynamic, Condenser, & Ribbon Microphones

Recording Drums w/Dynamic, Condenser, & Ribbon Microphones

 

 

The first step in your signal chain is the instrument, the next step is the player, and the third step is the microphone. It’s in this step that we can start to alter, or mold, our sound.

Although there are hundreds of mics on the market there are only really 3 basic types; Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbons. There are also tube mics but in the video I’m only covering the 3 main types we use on a regular basis. The video is meant to give you a simple, side by side, demonstration of how the different mic types sound on drums. The mics are placed side by side about 5 feet in front of the kit.

I think you’ll get a good idea of how the 3 different mic types sound. The better you understand the differences the more you can take advantage of these mics to mold your sound.

Below is a bit more in-depth explanation of dynamic, condenser, and ribbon mics.

Happy recording!
Charlie

Dynamic Microphones

The dynamic is the most common and robust type of microphone. Popular examples include the Electro Voice RE20, the AKG D112, and the ubiquitous Shure SM-57. The durability, form factor, and inherent directionality of the dynamic make it ideal for live applications.

At the heart of every dynamic microphone is an electromagnetic coil attached to a diaphragm. Sound pressure hits the diaphragm, which moves the coil relative to a static magnet, producing a voltage. This configuration is inherently more directional and less sensitive than other types, making dynamic microphones ideal for close miking – especially of loud sources like drums and amplifiers.

Dynamic microphones are inherently cardioid or hypercardioid and most can handle even the loudest sources. Dynmanic microphones also tend to have narrower frequency response than other types (less low end and high end sensitivity). Some models designed for specific purposes (ie: kick drums) can have wildly nonlinear response curves.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones offer greater sensitivity and wider frequency response than most dynamics. This is one reason they are favored as overhead microphones as well as hi-hats and rides cymbals. The increased sensitivity can make some condensers unsuitable for some high SPL applications like drums. Some condensers will feature a switchable pad to reduce sensitivity for high SPL situations but this may not always be adequate.

Condensers can also feature a variety of polar patterns, or may have multiple, switchable patterns. Often they will also feature a switchable high pass filter to eliminate unwanted lower frequencies. Common examples include the AKG 414, Shure SM81, and the Neumann U87.

A condenser element consists of a thin metallic diaphragm oriented parallel to a larger metal plate. When charged with an electric current, these two pieces act as a capacitor. As sound pressure moves the diaphragm, the capacitance fluctuates. This fluctuation creates a current that is converted to the output signal by circuitry within the microphone.

This circuitry and the need to charge the element require all condensers to be powered by either external phantom power or an internal battery. The wide frequency response, variety of polar patterns, and robustness of modern condenser microphones allows for an enormous variety of microphones to suit almost every application.

Ribbon Microphones

The oldest common microphone type is the ribbon. A thin metal strip – the “ribbon” – is suspended between two magnets. Sound pressure moves the ribbon through the magnetic field, creating a voltage between contacts at each end of the ribbon. This offers better high-end response than a dynamic element, but the design’s inherent figure eight pickup pattern limits their usefulness in situations where isolation or feedback is an issue. Many vintage ribbon microphones, such as the RCA 77, are highly prized for their smooth top end and robust bottom.

There are also many modern ribbon microphones, such as the Royer 122, that offer the classic ribbon sound while maintaining performance on par with other modern types. When connecting a ribbon microphone, be careful not to expose it to phantom power. Some older designs may be damaged by its presence. Most contemporary ribbon microphones have protection built in – some even have preamps requiring phantom power, but the safest option is always to keep ribbon microphones isolated from phantom power entirely.

For drums, the ribbon microphone’s figure eight pickup pattern limits its usefulness for most close-up applications. However, the smooth top end and full bottom of many ribbon microphones can be ideal for overheads and especially room miking.

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Recording Drums w/1 Microphone

Recording Drums w/1 Microphone

 

 

I know what you’re thinking. Do we really need to talk about recording drums, or any instrument for that matter, with 1 microphone again?

Yes.

Capturing any source with one 1 mic allows you to really learn about what you’re recording. Especially on a drum set which has many different parts. By focusing on using 1 mic you’ll learn to get the most of each mic you put on a kit.

In short, you’re multiple mic setups will become more effective by understand how to use only 1 mic.

This video is an excerpt from one of my Live Broadcast Seminars. I’m going to use a single Audio-Technica AT4047 to capture our drum sound. The big focus will be on using mic placement, specifically the height, to act as a natural eq.

Find some time this week to pic a microphone out of your mic locker and try this out in your recording space. I promise you what you’ll learn will make your recordings better!

Happy recording!

Charlie

Posted by studioadmin in Recording Tips, Video Posts, 2 comments
Rock Drums Sounds with 5 Mics!

Rock Drums Sounds with 5 Mics!

 

 

Over the past couple of months I’ve started doing a lot of live streaming seminars. I love going live because I can interact directly with other recording enthusiasts that are watching….in real-time!

One recent seminar was on the topic of capturing a full rock drum sound with only 4-5 mics. Not just drums on their own though.

That’s too easy.

Since the ultimate goal is for the tones to work in a song, we used a full blown rock track to test our sounds.

Before you watch the video I want to reiterate my stance on minimal micing….

I am not a hard core minimal micing setup only fanatic. However, I ALWAYS start with some sort of minimal mic setup. No matter what style of music I’m recording.

By making sure that I’ve captured my drum sound with only a few mics (3-5) I’m ensuring that the drum sound will be full and have good depth. Then I listen to the drums along with the music to find out what other mics I need to add to make the sound work for the song.

Sometimes I don’t need any other mics. Sometimes I need a few spot mics to make sure certain elements will fit. Sometimes it all just needs to get miced up. It ALL depends on the song.

Since my core overall sound has been captured with only a few mics I know the kit will sound full and cohesive and not fall prey to the “spot miced” drum sound.

Happy recording everyone!

Charlie

p.s. We’ll be releasing a full schedule of live streaming seminars very soon! Check out the events page to stay informed!

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Simple Room Micing Trick

Simple Room Micing Trick

 

 

There is simply no better way to add depth, space, and sometimes excitement to your drum sounds than using room mics. Can you say Led Zeppelin?

However, I realize that not everyone has the space to really explore all the cool room mic possibilities. Yes, you could use reverb to simulate a room sound and it would work nicely, but…..

There is nothing cooler, and more realistic, than the feeling of an actual mic capturing the drummers performance in the room.

Today I want to show you a cool room mic trick that can work in ANY size room. Small or large.

On a recent Live Streaming Seminar I pulled out an old trick I used to do in my first studio that was considerably smaller than my studio now. Actually it was smaller than my current control room!

Best of all this trick used only 1 microphone so all you need is a single condenser (you could try a dynamic mic too).

So watch the video and then go grab a mic and experiment!

Happy recording!

Charlie

p.s. I’ll be doing a part 2 with concept soon!

 


Take your drum recordings to the next level!
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The Art of Recording Drums Vol. 1 by engineer/producer Charlie Waymire

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Behind the Scenes with Chad Smith

Behind the Scenes with Chad Smith

Yesterday we posted video of Chad & Kevin tracking “Eagle Eye”. Today we bring behind the scenes footage from the session.

As far as sessions go it went pretty smooth. Working with professional musicians like Chad & Kevin make my job as an engineer pretty easy. Kevin and I had talked quite a bit in the weeks leading up to the session so I had a pretty good idea on what type of tones they wanted.

We decided to use a vintage Rogers Holiday kit restored by a good friend of mine Kurt Berger and drum whisperer Chris Heuer. It is a truly amazing drum set. I love all of my kits but that kit just has the “it” factor. It really is amazing.

Kevin brought his Mark Bass rig which is a piece of cake to record. Although Kevin could make any bass rig sound good the Mark Bass is bad ass.

All in all this was a really fun day in the studio. Tarja joined us via Skype from Buenos Aires and stayed on for the entire session. Once we’d get a track we would also send them an MP3 to listen to. This is one of the great ways that technology has made our lives better. It was an international session!

Tarja is a wonderful person and an amazing artist. Check the new album out at www.tarja-theshadowself.com. Links to purchase the album are below.

Anyway let’s get to the video! I’ll post a full list of the mics used and a few photos below too.

Enjoy!
Charlie

 

 

The Brightest Void
Tarja CD DigipakTarja 1LP+DownloadTarja iTunes

 

Microphone List

  • Kick In: MXL A55 kicker
  • Kick Out: Studio Projects CS5
  • Snare Top: SM57
  • Snare Bottom: SM57
  • Snare Side: Cascade Fathead II
  • Hats: Audio-Technica ATM450
  • Rack Toms: Heil PR30
  • Floor Toms: Audio-Technica AT4047
  • Ride: Audio-Technica ATM450
  • Overheads: Audio-Technica AT4060 Tube Mics
  • Mono Room: Cascade Knucklehead Ribbon Mic
  • Stereo Rooms: Audio-Technica AT4080 Ribbon Mics
  • Stereo Wide Rooms: Audio-Technica AE3000
  •  

    Posted by studioadmin in News, Recording Tips, Tracking, Video Posts, 0 comments
    Why It’s Important To Know Your Mics!

    Why It’s Important To Know Your Mics!

     

     

    When I start preparing for a session the first thing I do is talk with the artist and find out what they are looking for sonically. We’ll talk about their music, their influences, what albums they like and I’ll ask them for references of other artists that fit their music. I’ll also talk with them about what type of recording they want and whether it’s a modern sound vs old school sound, dark or bright, etc..

    Based on their answers I start putting my tracking sheet together and make my initial decision on what my signal chain will be. My first decision is usually what microphones I’ll use to fulfill the artist’s sonic vision.

    Before the artist even arrives at the studio I’m able to make quite a few microphone decisions simply because I know my mics….really well.

    My goal is not just to record a good sound. My BIG goal is to record the “RIGHT” sound for the music. I’m able to do this because I’ve done my homework and spent time getting to know how my mics react in any situation on any source.

    So, are you getting the right sound for the music you’re recording? Check out this video to find out why it’s important to know your mics and know them well.

    Happy recording,

    Charlie

    p.s. do me a favor and leave a comment with your experiences with you microphones. What you use, your method for learning how they sound, etc. I would love to hear from you!

    Posted by studioadmin in Recording Tips, 0 comments
    Building A Drum Sound pt4!

    Building A Drum Sound pt4!

     

     

    In our final installment of “Building A Drum Sound” I’m replacing the mono overhead with a stereo spaced pair.

    This isn’t your typical spaced pair however. I approach my overheads a little different than the norm. Actually I adapted this from a setup that I saw George Massneburg use. It’s not the same, but definitely inspired his setup for sure.

    This is something that is easier to explain in a video so I’m not going to try and explain it here. You will notice however that the overall drum sound will definitely open up now. We’ll actually have a real stereo image!

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini series on Building A Drum Sound and I always love hearing from you. Especially about your recording endeavors.

    Happy recording everyone!

    Charlie

     

    p.s. I’ll be conducting a drum recording master class this coming Saturday at 12pm pacific time. It will live stream from the Ultimate Studios, Inc YouTube channel.

    Hope to see you there!

    Watch Building A Drum Sound Part 1
    Watch Building A Drum Sound Part 2
    Watch Building A Drum Sound Part 3

    Posted by studioadmin in Recording Tips, Tracking, 0 comments
    Building A Drum Sound pt3!

    Building A Drum Sound pt3!

     

     

    So far we’ve captured one heck of a sound with only 4 mics. It’s mono but it’s really good. It’s full, it’s big, it’s punchy. It totally works.

    For the record I love a mono drum sound. It’s tight, focused, and punchy. It also leaves a lot of room in the mix for other elements such as guitars, keys, vocals, etc..

    However, mono can become a little stagnant as far as modern music is concerned. A lot of music can really benefit from a stereo image or left/right movement from the drums.

    So I’m going to use the tom microphones for two things: Attack/presence and stereo image.

    The spot microphones on the toms will definitely help them cut by adding attack. It will also give them more clarity and a little more body.

    By panning the mics slightly to the left and right the drums will start to get a bit of a stereo image. This is a really neat setup. The grooves will be tight, focused, and centered while the fills will have left to right movement. It’s cool!!

    Enjoy “Building A Drum Sound pt3” and I’ll see you in the studio!

    All the best,

    Charlie

    View “Building A Drums Sound pt1
    View “Building A Drums Sound pt2”

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    Building A Drum Sound pt2 Is Up!

    Building A Drum Sound pt2 Is Up!

     

    In “Building A Drum Sound pt1” I focused on getting a complete drum sound with only 2 microphones. A mono overhead and a mic in front of the kit.

    Those 2 mics produced a very nice, full, and accurate drum sound. They work on their own but they also give us a strong foundation to build a full, modern, punchy, rock tone.

    So now that we have a strong foundation we’re going to add spot mics on the kick and snare to help give our drum sound some punch, presence, and a bit more clarity.

    With the ribbon mic supplying our low end and body of the kick, we’ll place our kick mic well inside the drum. This will help give the kick some much need punch to cut through the mix.

    Although the overhead mic captured a wonderful snare sound, adding a mic to the top of the snare will help with articulation and, like the kick, help the snare cut through the mix.

    Remember, the first two mics are really important. Without them our spot mics will sound small and lack any sense of space or depth.

    Last week I challenged you to pick two microphones from your mic locker and record the best drum sound possible. Now I want to you take those two microphones and add a mic on the kick and snare. Send me a message and let me know how it goes!

    Enjoy “Building A Drum Sound pt2” and I’ll see you next week for part 3!

    Happy recording!

    Charlie

    Posted by studioadmin in Recording Tips, Video Posts, 0 comments
    Building A Drum Sound pt1

    Building A Drum Sound pt1

     

     

    “I put a mic on every drum. Why doesn’t it sound good?”

    I’m sure at some point we’ve all asked ourselves that question. I know I have! Either it just didn’t sound good or it was completely the wrong sound for the music. Building the “right” drum sound is about more than just setting up mics on all of the drums.

    The drum set isn’t a collection of different instruments. It’s one instrument made up of different pieces.

    This is a very important, and often overlooked, aspect of recording a drum sound that has body, depth, and punch. For this very reason I always get the majority of my drum sound from as few mics as possible.

    Even if I’m setting up 20 mics on a drum set the majority of my tone will come from 3-5 microphones. This is how I make sure that I’m capturing the drums as one instrument as well as getting a nice, full tone. From this point on I let the music tell me what mics I need to add to achieve a sound that works for the song.

    In part 1 of “Building A Drum Sound” I’m going to show you how to capture the drums with only 2 microphones. I’ll explain what mics I use, where I positioned them and why I chose them. Then you’ll hear those mics with our song to see how they fit.

    My challenge to you this week is to pick 2 microphones out of your mic locker and get the best drum sound possible. This is also a great way to experiment and learn how your mics sound!

    I’ll see you next Tuesday with part 2. Happy recording!

    Charlie

    Posted by studioadmin in Recording Tips, 3 comments