Microphone Placement for Kick (Bass) Drum - dummies

By Jeff Strong

When recording a kick drum, most recording engineers choose a dynamic microphone. In fact, you can find some large-diaphragm dynamic mics specifically designed to record kick drums.

No matter where you place the mic, you can reduce the amount of boominess from the drum by placing a pillow or blanket inside it. Some people choose to let the pillow or blanket touch the inside head. Some prefer to keep it a couple of inches away from the inside head, but it might be beneficial to let it touch the outside head.

That said, you can place your mic in several ways:

  • Near the inside head (left illustration): If you take off the outside head or cut a hole in it, you can put the mic inside the drum. Place the mic 2 to 3 inches away from the inside head and a couple of inches off center.

    This is the standard way to mic a kick drum if you have the outside head off or if a hole is cut in it. This placement gives you a sharp attack from the beater hitting the head.

  • Halfway inside the drum: You can modify the preceding miking technique by moving the mic back so that it’s about halfway inside the drum. In this case, place the mic right in the middle, pointing where the beater strikes the drum. This placement gives you less of the attack of the beater striking the head and more of the body of the drum’s sound.

  • Near the outside head (right illustration): If you have both heads on the drum, you can place the mic a few inches from the outside head. If you want a more open, boomy sound (and you have the drum’s pitch set fairly high), point the mic directly at the center of the head.

    If you want less boom, offset the mic a little and point it about two-thirds of the way toward the center.

    You can place a mic in several places to get a good kick-drum sound.
    You can place a mic in several places to get a good kick-drum sound.

If your drum sounds thin after trying these mic-placement approaches, you can try these two things:

  • Tune the drum slightly up. In your quest for a deep bass tone, you may have tuned the drum too low. (This is especially common if you have a large bass drum.) In this case, the drum’s fundamental tone may be too low to be heard clearly. Raising the pitch a bit usually solves the problem.

  • Create a tunnel with acoustic panels. Putting the mic in the tunnel often helps if you have a room that’s too dead. Place two of the panels on their sides (reflective surfaces facing in) with one end of each panel near the outside of the drum.

    Angle the panels out so that, where they are farthest from the drum set, the distance between them is just under 4 feet. Then lay the other two panels (reflective surface facing down) across the side panels to create a tunnel.

    You can also place a piece of plywood on the floor under these panels to further increase the resonance. Place the mic halfway into the tunnel, facing the center of the drum.