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.
Toms often help determine the sound of a record. If they are big, the record results in a big sound; this can also be problematic if the toms take up too much room and make it difficult to fit them into the track among the other instruments. Similar to other drums, the toms need to sound great on their own acoustically before microphones are placed. This will result in a better sound. The standard microphone used on toms is the Sennheiser MD421, but you are not limited to using only this mic.
Some points to consider:
Classic Method: Place the mic 2 or 3 inches over the head and above the rim, positioned at a 45 degree angle and aimed at the center of the head. This will get the most attack. For less attack and more ring, try pointing the mic closer to the rim. Try placing the mic underneath the ride cymbal, approximately 3 inches above the rim but still pointed at the center of the head. This positioning is designed to increase the sound rejection of the rest of the kit.
If you’re tracking in a great-sounding room, or if you want to add some depth to the overall drum sound, set up a few room mics. They give an overall feel of the kit and help to add an authentic sound and space for the listener.
Some points to consider:
Place a mono mic in front of the kit, about 6 to 12 feet away. To emphasize one part of the kit or another, raise and lower the mic accordingly. Use your ear to taste. Place two mics in an XY, mid-side, or Blumlein pattern, far from the kit. Place two or more mics around the room as spaced pairs. Use any combination of the above techniques, listen for the sound you want, and experiment accordingly.
One last tip, invest in either gaffers tape (a little difficult to find) or moon gels (much easier to find). Gaff tape is more cloth-like than duct tape and therefore produces a more pleasing sound when used to deaden drums, and many prefer it to moon gels. Either way, have something available to deaden a drum if it’s producing an annoying ring.