Low-Dough Drum Miking Shootout & Tutorial

Miking

A stereo bar allowed us to mount these Karma K10 overheads in XY configuration from a single stand.

Philosophy

A musical engineer will make choices based on what the music needs, how the drummer plays, and how the kit sounds. A mike you don’t like may not be a lousy mike; it may just be the wrong mike for that particular situation. As popular as the Audix D6 bass drum mike is, it won’t complement a light jazz drummer. That mike works great for rock and metal styles that desire a very hyped low end with a lot of attack. Similarly, a flat Earthworks omnidirectional TC30 condenser microphone may not complement a metal drummer who doesn’t want a true picture of his kick’s sound, but instead needs a hyped sound that will cut through the din of 7-string guitars chugging away. These are both great mikes but can easily be misapplied.

You can indeed get a good drum sound from either the KAM Instruments or the Karma Microphones drum-miking kits. They offer different overall sounds, the KAM being clearer and the Karma being fuller. Individually, the Karma K10 overheads and the KAM ST2 and BD2 instrument mikes are standouts offering great value, especially for novices just starting out.

I think the overall drum sound I got from each kit was surprisingly good, and believe it or not, in some cases better than tones I’ve received when recording in pro studios using $15,000 worth of boutique microphones in a custom room – mind you, by a mediocre engineer on a mediocre-sounding kit.

Don’t just take my word for it; check out the video at drummagazine.com and see if you agree. As always, let your ears decide.

Miking

The KAM BD2 targets low end.

Low-Dough Tips

1. The number-one thing you can do to create a quality recording is to make sure your drum kit actually sounds good. That’s it. Do that and you’re halfway there.
2. You can protect your snare mike from accidental hits by duct taping a common fork or spoon over the capsule. That’s usually enough to deflect the damage.
3. Since clips that mount on your drums’ hoops receive vibration as you play, they can loosen up mid-performance, causing the mike to slide down onto the drumhead. If you clamp them crazy tight, you might damage them. Instead, try putting a rubber washer from your local hardware store between the mike and the clip to help keep them from loosening.
4. Make test recordings. Listen carefully for any problems and make adjustments, then repeat. Don’t skip this step; you may encounter permanent problems later that could have been easily solved earlier.
5. When mixing, don’t touch your channel EQ until after you listen to the overhead mikes, since they usually add brightness and attack to the drums. Some engineers EQ individual drums while listening to the overheads to keep their adjustments within context of the overall drum sound. When EQ’ing, it’s often better to cut frequencies than add them to avoid a harsh-sounding mix. Need more lows and highs? Try cutting the midrange and see if that works.
6.Reverb adds a sense of ambience and space to the sound of a recording. Long reverbs work better for slower songs and shorter ones for quicker tempos. Most beginners overdo the reverb level. A little reverb can make the kit sound like it’s in one environment and tie the kit’s sound together, but overdoing it will make your drums sound distant and washed out.
7. Lastly, don’t clear the room. Furniture, bookcases, and carpets can help to tame a lively room by absorbing and dispersing sound waves.

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