The Music Espionage

Recording Toms

Recording Toms – Microphone Choice:

Due to the range in the tone of toms, microphone choice will vary. When Recording Toms typically a drummer will have three toms – high, mid and low, but you will find drummers who will have less or more. Often a lot more!

Recording Toms

Using the same make and model of microphone on each tom, may not capture the wide range of frequencies produced across the drums effectively. If you are recording a drummer with several toms you may find it better to use overhead microphones to capture the toms rather than mic-ing them up individually and then blend and pan the tracks together in post production.

Recording TomsGenerally, dynamic microphones will be tasked with the job of capturing and Recording Toms. The Sennheiser 421 and the Shure SM57 are widely used to fulfil this roll. However, don’t be scared to try a condenser if you’re finding it hard to capture the sound you desire.

Using a kick drum microphone, like the AKG D112, on the low tom will produce a big sound as it is specifically designed to capture the frequencies a low tom will produce.

Most microphone manufacturers will produce a ‘drum mic kit’ containing clip on microphones, a pair of overhead condensers and a kick drum mic. The quality and price does vary wildly and most engineers will choose other microphones for the job.

The two audio clips below are raw recordings of four toms, the first with Sennheiser e604, which is a specialist drum microphone for snare, toms etc. The second is with three Shure SM57 on the hi, hi mid and low mid toms and an AKG D112 on the Floor/Low Tom.

Recording Toms – Microphone Placement:

Microphone placement can be thought as similar to the snare, which can be true in some cases, placing a microphone 3-4cm off the rim of the drum aimed at the centre (where it should be struck) or aimed away from the centre to reduce attack. But there are other ways you can capture this part of the instrument.

Recording Toms

Using one microphone between two toms placed at the top of the drum could bring a nice balance to the kit and if the drummer has a million and one toms can save a lot of headache when you come to mix the track.

If you want to isolate the toms more you can take the back head (resonant) off and place the microphone inside the shell. This will help a lot with bleeding from other areas of the kit.

Recording TomsThe specialist drum microphones will usually clip onto the rim of the drum. This can be a very practical way of recording, as you don’t have to spend hours attempting to thread microphone stand legs around the drum kit. The negative to these is the freedom of movement. There are slight adjustments you can make, such as the angle of the microphone and some offer a height adjustment, but these can be limited.

As with all microphone placements, experiment with what suits you best. There are no rules saying a particular instrument should have ‘this’ microphone and it should be placed ‘here’. Find what suits your needs and your own preference to sound, but bare-in-mind what will sound best for the song!

Just Remember:

  • You get more attack and less thump with a small diaphragm condenser than with a dynamic mic, but both work well.
  • Your tom mics also pick up a lot of snare so be careful with gating.
  • Use some tape or moon-gel to dampen the toms so as to stop them ringing out when they are not being played.
  • Toms sound much better when they are tuned and not flappy.