Recording Drums 

 

This is a subject akin to serious religion.  For some, "the drum" really means "the kick drum", an obsession often seen in big rock concert sound, dominating most of the event's sound check (...hey, what about the vocals?).  In this case, the RM1 is out.  Don't put it in front of a kick drum.  The diaphragm will probably only take one good kick before it's permanently stretched out of the gap or even broken.  This is not a "kick drum microphone".  

However, the RM1 will pick up a typical drum kit with strong and mighty report, accompanied by quick and sweet high frequency detail from cymbals.  The example below here shows one way to get a pretty nice overall kit sound using the RM1 as a central element.

The main  idea here is that when you listen to a drum kit, you hear the power of the kit in its center (from toms, snare, kick) but you hear spatial information more from the high end of the cymbals and upper-frequency harmonics of the "tubs".  

Both examples here use the RM1 signal (mono, of course) right up the center, thus establishing a strong center-image like you normally hear it.  

In the first example, a pair of good condenser mics (AKG C3000b and Audix VX10) are use far left and far right in the mix, with all the bass and low-mids taken out, to establish the stereo spread of the "hardware" at the top of the kit.  A supercardioid, gated, is used on snare (Audix OM5, hiding behind the tom) and an industry-favorite kick mic, an EV RE20, is used on kick, gated also.  Both snare and kick mics have the low end and low midrange rolled off so as not to interfere with the main RM1 signal.  These are used in moderation to provide any additional detail and impact needed.  They're also good clean sources for reverb if you want that.  What amazed me is that, although the RM1 picked up all the very-low-frequency of the kick, the addition of the RE20 gave the illusion of more impact.  This is because the RM1 is way removed from the kick drum's presentation of mid and high harmonics, which are very directional in front of the kick itself.

Here's a snapshot of the mics use on top ("Tommy G's drum kit").  The RM1 (a pilot-run prototype, actually) was aimed at the snare, hoping to pick up most of the kit.  The "ball mic" shown by the congas is not used.

 

A nice little drum-gymnastics exercise was played by Boston-area great Marty Richards (thanks Maaty, wikkid awesome) who commented "Hey, a Don Henley snare".  Here's the mono signal direct from the RM1 only:

 

 

Next, here's what the left/right "hardware" mics sound like by themselves with all the low info taken out:

 

 

Finally, here's the composite with the Left/Right high frequency pair and kick and snare also added in:

 

Recording Drums Take 2

We finally got three RM1's free to use from the pilot run of 20 (lots going in and out all the time) and repeated the above exercise.  The example is actually part of the drum track from a new song for Big Red Sun's third album-in-progress.  Tom Greeley at the wheel.   First, here's a photo of the setup for the top of the kit:

Again, the philosophy:  You basically hear drums in mono, not like the video-game cartoon pan-a-rama drums you get with typical drum machines.  The "gut" and full power of the drum kit is right up the middle.  That's how you hear it in real life.  BUT, the hardware tends to have more space, especially on the high end. SO, here's how we recorded this kit (same as the first one above):

RM1 panned center, no EQ (shown far right in the photo, about 50" off the deck)

Left and right RM1 panned hard right and left with all the LF and MF dialed out with channel EQ. 

A touch of kick for definition from an RE20, LF cut out, just ticks.  Because the main RM1 mic is up in the air, it doesn't get the kick definition you need for modern recording.  Actually, if it were further away (as in the "Loveswords" recordings, you hear it all.  But the "definition" really comes from the MF and HF off the kick head, which is down on the floor and has a strong directivity, like a big loudspeaker.

A touch of snare for definition, from an Audix OM5 vocal mic, chosen because of its excellent rejection of surrounding sound sources.  Like the kick, no low end, just a touch of bap--bap.

That said, here the basic passage with the center RM1 in mono, solo'd:

Here's the panned left and right RM1's with HF only in solo:

Here's just kick and snare in solo, as described, same levels used in the composite mix:

And, finlally, here's all these mixed at the same levels heard on the above clips as a final stereo drum mix:

Compare this composite to the one in the first example and pay special attention to the differences to the stereo high-ended condensers compared to the RM1's.  The same EQ was used in both cases.

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