3 Tips for Recording a Better Stereo Sound for Drums

Tom

Tom

We released the part 3 of our How We Record Drum Covers video on our YouTube channel today. Part 1 was about the basics and the snare. Part 2 was about the toms and the kick. So part 3 was finally about the cymbals and how to mic them.

When mic’ing cymbals the use of overheads is especially important. But it’s important to remember that the overhead mic’s don’t only capture the cymbals but the whole drum kit. I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve found useful when trying to achieve a nice, wide but balanced stereo image on the drums.

3 Tips for Recording a Better Stereo Sound for Drums

1. Use small diaphragm microphones as overheads
I personally prefer using two small diaphragm condenser microphones as overheads. Something like the Shure SM81’s or the more affordable versions we use PG81’s. Doing this will get you a more focused stereo image.

If you’re using mic’s like Rode NT1 (which is a great mic for vocals or acoustic guitar) that have a large diaphragm, you’ll end up having more of everything in both overheads. This will lead to a stereo sound where the left and the right blend together and it’s hard to get a clear stereo image in the mixing phase.

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You’ll find the PG81 peeking from the top right corner.

2. Place the overheads to have the same distance from the snare
It is not enough to have a focused and wide stereo image if it’s all crooked. Snare is probably the loudest drum you’ll have on your drum set and that’s the one you want to be in the centre of your mix. So when listening to your overheads, you’ll want the snare to be right in the centre.

This happens when you make sure the snare is captured at the same volume to both overheads. The easiest way to ensure that is to place the overheads so that they are at the same distance from the snare drum.

Pick up a mic cable and measure the distance from the centre of the snare to the left overhead. Mark the distance by grabbing the cable with you thumb from where the tip of the overhead is. Now move the cable to the right overhead while keeping the other end at the centre of the snare. If your thumb isn’t at the tip of the right overhead when keeping the cable dead straight, the distance is not the same. Adjust the overheads and repeat the measurement until the distance is the same.

Check out the video above from 5:55 on to catch the drift.

3. Don’t place your overheads too low
This one is not so much to improve the stereo image but to improve the overall sound of the cymbals and the drums. You might think it’s better to place the mic’s as low as possible to receive a better stereo sound for the cymbals. But doing this might not give you that bright and clear sound. Instead you’ll end up with a harsh and clanky cymbal sound.

So it’s better to have the overheads a bit higher up. This gives the crashes time to light up before the sound reaches the microphones. Also, you’ll capture the room a bit more which helps you get a more diffused and softer crash sound. Using small diaphragm mic’s will make sure you’ll still have your nice and wide stereo image.

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That’s it. Plain and simple. Like with everything, it’s always good to try it out and find your favorite placement for the mic’s.

Hope this was any help to you. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to hear my thoughts or tips from anything else!

About Tom

Vocals and guitars in MadCraft. Also record, mix and produce music. Make videos. Take photos. Design websites. Chill on social media. Love video games.

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