This post is steered towards an audio nerds perspective of the project where we delve into different microphone techniques for recording drums in the studio. Following our scouting for a drummer, we set up a demoing session in our Neve Studio at SAE to spend some time using various microphones and positioning to give us some inspiration for the kind of drum sound we're searching for.
We have been using a lot of the same microphones for a while now and have a good sense of traditional placement techniques for recording drums, therefore, we wanted to get experimental and find new ways to discover different tones for the drum kit.
I've compiled a list of microphones and their uses below to give you an idea of the equipment we were using:
Our main focus for the session was to experiment with the overheads and room mics, particularly the Peluso SR-14 mid-side ribbon microphone. Moving the room and overheads around the room in different positions allowed our creative minds to find different characteristics in the kit such as darker tones, 'live' feelings and super-wide rooms.
We began with a basic setup, testing the overheads as almost room mics as they were about 1.5 metres from the kit as a spaced pair, and placing the SR-14 in the middle of the two. The SR-14 sounded great on its own, capturing the whole kit and giving good separation. We were not fans of the overheads sitting in the middle of the room, realising that because it's a fairly dead room we were not going to get much out of them.
This is where we got a bit experimental and moved the overheads to the extreme sides of the kit, because why not? We pushed the SR-14 to sit just above the kick, sitting nicely next to our parallel compressed SM-7B. The SR-14 was ok, although, when we turned the microphone to face straight down above the kick, it turned into a darker tone. Kind of like the walls were closer together. We were not that excited about the overheads, but when mixing them together with the SR-14 the tone grew darker again, drowning out most of the cymbals.
Easily our most successful microphone placement of the day, the X/Y U87 overheads above the drummers head gave us the best separation, brightness and balance of the entire kit. This was a technique taught to us by Studio 301 mix engineer, Guy Gray. A random decision that ended up working great was pushing the KM184 room mic straight up and almost touching the roof about 1 metre from the kit. It pulled through a thumping kick and bright cymbals which was surprising.
Overall we finished the session with a great idea of different microphone placement for different variations of timbre. Some of our tracks require a relaxed, stripped back darkness for the drums and others a more 'live' openness, therefore, these techniques helped us a great deal to decide what to place where and why. Now when we track our final sessions we can use our time efficiently.