The Music Espionage

Recording Snare Drum

Recording Snare Drum – Microphone Choice:

Recording Snare DrumMicrophone choice for Recording Snare Drum varies wildly depending on the style of music, the sound of the snare and personal choice. Typically the top of the snare, or batter head, will always have a mic. Dynamic or condenser microphones can be found in this position but be careful not to place a sensitive condenser microphone too close as this will damage the mic. A stereotypical microphone choice would be the Shure SM57, if nothing else it is a good starting point and will be found in almost every studio. As always, experiment with a variety of microphones to find the ideal one for your scenario.

Snare Recording using Sennheiser 421:

[audio:|titles=Snare 421]

Snare recording using Rode NT3:

[audio:|titles=Snare NT3]

Recording Snare Drum – More than One Microphone:

Multiple microphones are often used to record the snare drum. Placing a microphone underneath the snare to capture more of the fuzziness of the drum is commonplace. Again, various microphones can be used but generally a dynamic microphone will be used.

Snare recording using SM57 top only:

[audio:|titles=Snare SM57 Only]

Snare recording using SM57 top and bottom:

[audio:|titles=Snare in phase]

If placing a microphone above and below the snare isn’t enough, experiment with a large diaphragm condenser at the side of the snare. This will capture the attack of the batter head and the colour of the bottom head together and give a more even sound that close mic-ing may not offer.

Snare recording using Rode NT2 on the side:

[audio:|titles=Snare NT2 side]

Recording Snare Drum – Phase Cancellation:

If you were to place a microphone above and below the snare you are liable to have a problem known as ‘phase cancellation’. This occurs when the sound wave from the same source (in this case the snare drum) is 180° out of phase from each other.

Recording Snare Drum

Take a look at the picture. The top sound wave is from a microphone placed on the top of the snare. The bottom wave is from a microphone placed at the bottom of the snare.

Notice how when one wave goes up the other goes down. This means they are out of phase and when they are played together they cancel each other out, which usually results in the lower frequencies disappearing.

To tackle this problem you can invert the phase. This swops the polarity of the microphone; changing the positive to negative and vise versa. This can be done before you record by selecting the invert phase button on your DAW.

Recording Snare Drum

But don’t worry if this was not done during the recording, you can simply ‘invert’ the track, which will effectively do the same job.

The second picture shows the same drum waves after the bottom microphone has been inverted. Notice how the waves are going up and down together.

Some plugins found on music production software will have a phase invert button, which can be toggled on and off. You can switch between the two and hear the difference.

Snare recording top and bottom without phase invert:

[audio:|titles=Snare out of phase]

Snare recording top and bottom with phase invert:

[audio:|titles=Snare in phase]

Recording Snare Drum – Microphone Placement:

At the top of the snare, place the microphone 2-4cm above the rim of the drum and angle it towards the centre of the batter head (where the skin should be struck). Adjust the height and angle to suit your needs. Angling the microphone away from the centre will decrease the attack and adjusting the height will decrease the load on the microphone if the artist is a hard hitter. If you are not getting enough ‘crack’ from the drum, add a room microphone. If it is well placed you will get the more of the desired sound.

Recording Snare Drum

At the bottom of the snare place the microphone about 1 inch below the skin and aim it off axis (away from the centre), as with the top microphone experiment with the positioning to suit your needs.Recording Snare Drum

Recording with two or more microphones will give you choices during post-production stages. For example, you could blend the sounds together or choose one of the tracks and discard the others.

Attempt to angle the microphone so it is rejecting as much hi-hat as possible, because the two instruments are usually positioned so close to each other it can create nightmares when it comes to mixing and the bleed of the hi-hat is nearly as strong as the snare itself. A good tip is to close the hi-hat, in doing so it produces a wave of air, position the microphone so the wave does not hit it.

One of the most important aspects of miking a kit is ensuring the drummer’s performance is in no way affected by the position of the microphones. He should be able to concentrate on his performance and not hitting microphones by accident. A lot of the decisions will be down to the style and feel of the song, how the instrument is played by the artist and personal preference.

Recording Snare

Just Remember:

• A lot or the ‘crack’ of a snare comes from the room microphones

• Position a mic 4 to 8 inches from the snare and aim is at the shell and across the drum

• Elevate the mic about 2 inches above the skin. Adjust inward for more impact and outward for more shell sound

You can read on Recording Drums here.