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Mic Positioning: Kick and Snare

Mic Positioning: Kick and Snare

Note: when placing drum mics, it’s important to remember that sticks and hands and cymbals will be falling very hard near them, so make sure your mics aren’t in the way of the player or a rogue ride cymbal. This article breaks down mic placement to the individual drum pieces. Remember, these are just guidelines; always defer to the judgment of your ears. When recording drums, try to get your hands on the best-sounding kit you can for your style of music. Get new heads and pay attention to the tuning. If it doesn’t sound good from the get-go, it’s not going to sound good at the end.


The kick drum is the heart of a song; its pulse drives us to move. It’s important to get the right sound out of the drum for the style of music you’re making.

Some points to consider:

  • If possible, use a mic specifically for kick drum — try an AKG D112, a Shure Beta52, or a mic that has a frequency response which favors bass tones, such as an Electro-Voice RE20, or a Sennheiser MD421. You should only be using dynamic microphones inside the drum.
  • Have a hole in the front head that’s big enough for a mic to fit in. If there’s no hole, your options are much more limited.
  • Have some sort of padding in the kick drum or available to be placed within. Even if you don’t use it for playing live, you’ll need to deaden or pad the sound a bit in the studio. A pillow or packing blanket will work fine.

The techniques:
Place a dynamic mic inside the kick drum, about halfway in the shell between the beater and the hole, pointed at the beater. For more attack from the beater, move the mic closer to the beater. For more boom and bass, move the mic farther from the beater. Place the mic just inside the hole; this will give the bassiest tone. If there’s no hole, place a mic just a centimeter or two from the front head. If you still want attack, try placing another mic on the back head with the beater, same distance from the head.

Use a large diaphragm condenser as an outside kick mic. This will give you more boom from the drum. Place it six inches to 2 feet from the drum head, moving it according to the amount of bass you want. You will get more bleed from the rest of the kit with this method, but use a low pass filter to cut out the higher frequencies. Place a subkick (basically a speaker woofer with the lines reversed so that it takes in sound instead of producing it) on the front head to give more boom and low end. Set up a key gate with a signal generator producing 50Hz which is triggered to open by the kick mic. This will give the super low 808 sound. This is a great live sound trick as well.