How Many Microphones Does A Drum Kit Need?

With the development of multi-track recording, at sometime during the 1960s, responsibility for the balance, tone and dynamics of the drum kit mysteriously passed from the drummer to the sound engineer! Using a battery of special microphones, gates, compressors, EQs and a multitude of effects, the kit is broken down into its constituent parts, fed to separate tracks and then processed until often little trace of the original instrument can be heard! The individual tracks are then mixed back together to form a drum kit once more! Processed drum sound is of course all a matter of taste. One engineer’s ‘great drum sound’ is someone else’s ‘pile of crap.’ A reviewer once referred to the meticulously crafted tom-tom sound on a particular Elton John album as being like ‘someone machine-gunning a suitcase!’

Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of working with a number of drummers who have invested time, effort and money into making their kits sound fabulous, often spending hours perfecting and honing the tuning. This has caused me to re-think my own approach to micing a drum kit. Working on the age-old principle that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ I have found myself using less and less microphones. In the end I have come to the conclusion that one, well chosen and carefully positioned overhead can be used to produce an accurate and exciting account of the whole kit, (with the possible exception of the bass drum which may occasionally need a little extra support), leaving the balance, tone and dynamics back in the capable hands of the drummer!!

Here are just a few examples:-       AKG D202E      

AKG D202E  (click to hear)Sennheiser MD21. Sennheiser MD21 (click to hear)

STC4037A

                                                                                                                                                                                              STC4037A (click to hear)

P.S.   If you are really keen on stereo you could go mad and use 2 overheads!          Cascade Fathead 11 Matched pair. (click to hear)

Cascade Fathead 11

P.S.  Here is another!  Sennheiser MD441-U (click to hear)Sennheiser MD441-U

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