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Tips for Recording Kick Drums

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How to Record Kick Drums
How to Record Kick Drums - youtube Video
Hey, guys. We just completed a day of recording drums all day, just getting little one-shots for this drum library. And while we’re at it, I’m going to give you a little quick tutorial on how to put together some really great drum catchers, different approaches and things that you can do to get different sounds.

So, first thing I’m going to show you is a couple of different outside mic techniques and what’s important to know is that this side here is the resonant head and this side here is the batter head. The batter head is where the drummer is going to be playing their foot pedal. So, this is where the attack is coming from. This is where the tone in the body is
coming from.

So, when you’re doing an outside kick mic, a lot of the times what you’re really trying to capture is a very vivid and focused image of the low end, so the tone, the resonance of the kick. So, here’s a quick way to do that. You use a microphone like a good condenser. I like an M147 and you get about level with the center of the drum and it takes a little experiment, but I find that actually pretty far out. It’s a pretty good space. This is maybe about two feet sometimes even further, but usually about two, two and a half feet out from the drum. That’s where you’re going to get the biggest low end sound.

When you’ve got a full kit in, a lot of times what you need to do is grab moving blankets of some sort, packing blankets, and drape over the kick and the microphone. What this does is it eliminates the cymbal sound from getting directly into the mic, and this gives you just a focused picture of the low end. It’s called tunneling. So, that’s a great way to get a good sub out of a kick.

Let’s say that you want to get more smack out of the overall sounds and you don’t mind getting the cymbals and the snare into the sound as well like if you’re doing like a jazz set up or something like that and you’re using a minimal mic technique. Instead of having the mic here, you might want to actually raise the mic up a little bit higher and have it closer to the kick and aim down and what’s going to happen is that the low end is
going to come off access. So, relative to the low end you’re actually going to get more smack and more punch from the tone. This is a really good technique. The con of it is that you can’t really get the cymbal sound and snare sound out, but if you can get the placement just right where it sounds good for all of those things it’s actually going to be a really great technique.

Now of course, a tried and true rock technique for like solid punch is just to get the condenser real close right up against the head. This is going to give you a good oomph to the tone. It’s going to be shorter decay, the low end isn’t going to extend as far, but it’s going to give you a lot of power in the attack. That’s like a classic rock set up.

So what else can you do? Well, let’s say that you want to get the shell tone that sort of mid-rangey, I don’t want to say clanky because that makes it sound bad, but sort of that like… I don’t know. Jeff, how would you describe the sound that you get when you put the mic inside and aim at the shell?


I think it’s a bare resonant, good picture of the actual shell sound, the timber of the drum.

So, that’s basically what it is. It’s the shell sound. So, what you’re going to do is you’re going to take the D112 or something similar, a large diaphragm dynamic. You’re going to place it right inside just up in the front of the cut away here and you’re going to aim it instead of aiming it forward at the batter head, you’re aiming it directly to the side or maybe 45 degrees off to the side. And the more toward the batter head, the more attack you’re going to get, the more to the perpendicular line, the more shell tone you’re going to get. Anywhere in between is going to give you a mix of those flavors.

Another way that you can approach miking a kick drum is to actually mic both the outside and the batter head, which is going to give you an attack. So there’s a couple ways you can do that. One way you can do it is you can take your D112 and point it forward, or even an SM57, if you want and go all the way inside the kick, right near the batter head, and that’s going to give you a very clickey, punchy attack, very short duration. That’s really good for things like metal records, anything where the kick drum is going to be hitting very quickly.

Another way to do it is to actually go around the other side and mic this side of the kick. So when you’re miking up that side of the kick, the one thing you have to remember is that you have a phase thing to consider now, that the distance between the resident head and the batter side should be equivalent to how far any outside kick is going to be. So, once again, we’re going back to this idea of having the kick out mic actually fairly far from the drum. The important thing is that this is your low end.

This side here is going to give you the punch and thickness of it. That’s what needs to be in phase. The attack is such a short duration, the phase issues are going to be fairly minimal and not something you need to terribly worry about. So remember, it’s not the distance from the batter head to that mic being the same as the resident head to this mic. It’s actually the distance from the resident head to the batter head out, if that makes sense.

So that’s a couple of ways you can mic your kick drum. I hoped you learned something


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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