The Music Espionage

Recording Kick Drums


The secret to Recording Kick Drums and making it sound amazing is simple. Make sure you have a great sounding kick! This is where listening carefully and doing all you can to get rid of those rattles is imperative. Recording Kick Drums really depends on what sound you desire for each recording and this will affect how you set up the placement of the microphone and what microphone you use. The kick drum is often overlooked and somewhat forgotten about when recording, but it can define the feel of a song. Would ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele sound right with a sharp, clicky kick drum? Probably not. It’s the boom and depth of the bass that drives the song.

Recording Kick Drums – Microphone choice:

Typically, a large diaphragm dynamic microphone would be used to close mic the kick. The AKG D112 is a common choice and can be found in most studios. However, if you want a bit more attack and sharper tones to your click try a small diaphragm dynamic like the Shure SM57.

The first audio clip is of an AKG D112:

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-D112-off.mp3|titles=Kick D112 off]

The second audio clip is of a Shure SM57:

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-SM57-off.mp3|titles=Kick SM57 off]

 

Recording Kick Drums

Recording Kick Drums – Ambient Microphone:

Recording Kick Drums - Two Microphones

Another technique to try is to place a large diaphragm condenser microphone, like the Rode NT1, about 1 meter back from the drum. This can often add power and colour to the recording. If you place your hand in front of the drum, while the drummer hits quarter notes you should feel a strong shockwave radiating outwards. Normally the best place to locate the microphone is at the point just before the shockwave disappears. This method is really good if the recording space sounds great, because there will be a great deal of spill from all other elements. If you do want a close, tight sound, this this methods may pose problems later in post-production.

This audio clip is of a AKG D112 Close to the skin and a Rode NT2 mixed in:

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-with-NT2.mp3|titles=Kick with NT2]

recording Kick Drums

Recording Kick Drums – Back Microphone:

Want more attack to the kick? Try placing a microphone at the back of the drum aimed at the point where the beater strikes the drumhead.

This audio clip is of an AKG D112 mixed with a Shure SM57 placed o the front of the batter head

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-SM57-with-beater.mp3|titles=Kick SM57 with beater]

Recording Kick Drums - Back of Kick

 

If you want a sharp clicky kick drum, try sticking a small coin to the beater and drum head, but this could lead to damage.

As always, if you have the time to experiment with different microphones, go for it! The only real thing to remember is that the kick drum produces a large Sound Pressure Level (SPL), so placing a sensitive ribbon or condenser microphone inside the kick drum will result in the microphone breaking.

Recording Kick Drums – Microphone Placement:

 

When Recording Kick Drums Microphone placement is just as important as microphone choice. The difference in sound can be vast.

Placing the microphone close to the drum skin and aimed at the centre (On Axis), where the beater hits, will pick up the attack of the kick and produce a sharper sound.

AKG D112 on axis:

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-D112-on-axis1.mp3|titles=Kick D112 on axis]

Placing the microphone close to the skin but away from the centre (off axis) will give the kick a more rounded sound and a bit more boom and reduced attack.

 

AKG D112 off axis:

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-D112-off.mp3|titles=Kick D112 off]

Placing the microphone further back in the drum shell will present more boom and punch from the kick but will reduce the attack the further back it is.

AKG D112 back:

[audio:http://www.themusicespionage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kick-D112-Far.mp3|titles=Kick D112 Far]

Recording Kick Drums

Just Remember:

As with any recording, allowing time to listen to each microphone before recording it will allow you to make small adjustments to the placement and achieve the sound you desire from your recordings. And finally a few tips to note;

  • Kick drums are loud so it is usual to use a dynamic microphone such as the AKG D-112 (The Egg).
  • Use some damping, such as pillows or blankets, inside the kick drum so as to reduce boominess (unless that’s the sound you are looking for).
  • Make sure the drummer plays at the level they will play with the full band (good monitoring is needed here).

You can found more on Recording Drums here.