The Music Espionage

Recording Drums with Two Microphones

This is part two of a four-part tutorial dealing with recording drums with one, two, three and four microphones (Part 1 – Recording drums with one microphones, Part 3 – Recording drums with three microphone and Part 4 – Recording drums with four microphones).

Following on from the first tutorial where we used just a signal microphone on the whole drum kit; here we will expand this to use two microphones. Obviously this will open the number of possibilities and need you to think about what you want to achieve from the recording, the nature of the style of music and finally the performance style going to be employed on the drums. For example a Jazz genre will have strong emphasis on the hi-hat and snare, so will be important to focus on this and would be pointless to place a microphone on the ride or toms for example. Moreover, if you want a solid rock track you are going to need the kick and snare to shine through and be the main backbone.

Now that we have developed the number of microphones, the places you could locate these is endless. We will show you three useful methods, but these can be slightly altered to better capture the genre and style that is right for you. Remember, this is by no means a set-list of rules to follows that will make sure you record great drums with just two microphones. Or any number for that matter. More importantly than any crap written here or any other site is to use your ears!

Variation One:

This first method highlights the kick drum and makes use of a technique from the first tutorial to create a wide, central image of the drums. First place a standard dynamic microphone on the kick drum. This could be the classic large diaphragm dynamic AKG D112 or something a little more advantageous such as a Shure SM57, this microphone will often give more attach with shaper overtones. To clearly isolate the kick will need to be inside the kick, positioned on or off axis to the beater. Remember on axis to the beater will result in more attach and upper mids from the beater slapping the skin, Off axis will produce a more rounded, boom tone. For more information on recording the kick-drum click here to read the full tutorial.

Here is just the kick drum recording. A low-pass filter cut everything above 1kHz to focus in on the lower bass and a slight boost at 100Hz to emphasize the punch. Yes there is bleeding, but this does add to the overall sound…trust me.

[audio:|titles=3 – Kick Drum Recording]

The second microphone in this set-up was placed at the front of the kit, about five feet away. This is pretty much the same as variation one in ‘Recording Drums with One Microphone’ tutorial. Using a large diaphragm condenser, such as a Rode NT1 or NT2, allows you to capture great detail but also achieve a balance spectrum of the whole kit with just one microphone. Remember the height of microphone will regulate what parts of the kit shine through. So because you already will have a lot of kick it would probably be best higher to focus on the snare, hi-hat, ride and cymbals.

Here is the example of these two microphones together.

[audio:–-Variation-1.mp3|titles=5 – Two microphones – Variation 1]

Here is the EQ applied to both tracks. Applying a High-pass filter on the ambient microphone track will reduce the amount kick, which you already have on the other track. Moreover, we applied slight boost at 1kHz to help the snare ‘snap’ ring through, also boost at about 12kHz to give the kit a little more clarity and crispness.


Variation Two:

The second method is to create a solid stereo image of the drums, for example trying to envision the sound from an audience’s perspective. Looking at the drums, place a large-diaphragm condenser on the ride cymbal side and a different model large-diaphragm condenser on the hi-hat side. We used a Rode NT1 (more information click here) and also a sE Titan (more information click here). Start with a location of about four to five feet away, this greatly depending on the amount of the acoustical space you want to capture, also need to consider the height of both microphones. The dissimilar microphones will give a really nice character spread from each side of the kit, if you get this right will sound great in mono playback and even better as a stereo image completing one another.

Here is an example of these two microphones. The first few seconds is just the NT1, placed near the ride cymbal. After the drum-roll the second microphone in introduced. You can really hear the stereo image and the full spread created.

[audio:|titles=8 – Two Microphone Variation two]


Variation Three:

Firstly place a microphone on the kick-drum, again this will mostly likely be a large-diaphragm dynamic, but as stated you could try a small or even a condenser microphone placed slightly of the kick. The second microphone placement is the classic overhead, however only one. We started with this microphone in front of the kit looking down, mainly pointing at the snare and hi-hat. However we found better balance by re-locating this to behind the drummer, pointing over his shoulder. This achieved a nice balance of snare, hi-hat and toms on the fills

Here is the example of these this method. EQ for the kick-track was very similar to variation one method above. The second microphone had a high-pass filter to decrease lower frequencies from the kick, also slight boost around 8/10kHz to add more air to the sound.

[audio:|titles=10 – Two Microphones Variation Three]


Here are the other tutorials that are related:

Part 1 – Recording drums with one microphone

Part 3 – Recording drums with three microphones

Part 4 – Recording drums with four microphones