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Tips for Recording Snare Drums


Hey guys, I’m going to show you a couple of things about recording some snare drums that you might find useful. There’s a lot of ways to record a snare drum when it’s in a kit and I’m going to show you some basic ones, and maybe some more interesting things as well. So basic thing is you take something like a dynamic microphone. This is an Audix I-5, it’s really good, but the most common one is an SM-57. And basically, you’re going to try and get it pretty close to the snare to minimize your bleed. But the angling, and where exactly, relative to the snare, is going to be important. Your strongest attack tone is right over the center of the snare. But you can’t really put a mike there, because the drummers going to hit it with a stick. So that’s not going to be good. What you want to do, is you want to try and back it away from where the drummer is swinging and aim at the center. That’s going to give you a good punchy attack sound. That’s pretty much a fail safe technique. It works best most of the time and it works second best the rest of the time. So it’s a really good way to capture a snare drum.

Let’s say you want to go for something a little different. Let’s say you wanted a very soft attack. You wanted a lot of tone, you wanted very little punch to it. If you were doing something, like maybe an Al Green style record or you wanted that kind of R&B-ish, sort of like old throw back R&B-ish thing, then you might actually send the dynamic microphone straight across the head. That’s going to minimize the amount of attack energy getting into it but you’re still going to pick up a lot of the tone of the drum. That one, that’s a character technique, I would reserve myself on that one. Okay. Another way to do it is to actually point straight down at the rim. This is going to give you the most tensed sound of the drum. The greatest point of tension in the drum is actually right at the edge of the rim. And so you’re going to get a very… How would you describe it?

Very open, loose, a little bit trashy, a bit metallic.

It’s going to give you the rim edge and tonal tension sound; all right. So let’s say you wanted to get something that was a little more Hi-Fi-ish. Dynamics, by the way, generally tend to be best, so there’s nothing wrong with doing that. Sometimes you can get a slightly more Hi-Fi sound if your drum kit can allow for it and minimize the bleed, with something like a C-414 and , positioning it over the drum, facing directly down usually about maybe six to eight inches off the head; that gives you a really nice defined sound. Now, of course, if you’ve got a high hat, you’ve also got to make sure that you’re getting the level of the high hat correct, so you need a drummer who’s really good at controlling his own internal dynamics. You’re not going to be able to do a lot with this afterwards.


So now let’s talk a little bit about the underside of the snare. Let me angle this down a little bit. The underside of the snare is where all the band and rattle is. It’s going to give you all the brightness of the snare. And so, a common thing that I see, and this is not something I’ve ever personally subscribed to, is you might have your dynamic up here and similarly, with the same distance from the opposite head, you’ll have your other dynamic here. I find that this tends not to sound particularly good. The reason being, is that if you have your mic’s positioned like this, the distance from each head is a timing error. You’re going to get phase cancellation from both heads. What you want to do, is you want to pick the important head; which in this case is going to be the resonant one, and you want to get the same distance from your top mic, to the resonant head. You want that distance to be the same distance from the bottom mic; so it’s going to look like your mic is pretty far close to the floor. Which seems a little weird at first, but it actually is going to give you the best sound. Using a dynamic, like a hypercardioid, something like a Sennheiser 451, is a really good choice for this because it has a very narrow pick up pattern and it’s going to reject the most kick drum when you’re recording it. Of course, it’s just the snare bands that you’re getting, so even if you do get too much kick drum, there’s nothing wrong with using a high pass filter to get it out. If your only options are say, something like another 57 or I-5 or maybe RE-20, or something like that. Or, you could use another C-414, which does have a hypercardioid mode.

There’s one other thing I want to point out about snare drums. On the side of a snare drum is actually a sound port, this little hole, right here. This can be really cool to mic up. A KM-84 or another small diaphragm condenser, pointed right in front of it, maybe like, an inch away, is going to give you a lot of low end out of the snare. So instead of having the EQ in all that low end to give you that big powerful thump in the snare, you can just blend a little bit of that mic signal right in and that’s going to give you a whole lot of bottom. All right guys, hope that you learned something. Take care.


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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