Miking the Whole Drum Kit - dummies

By Jeff Strong

When you are recording, you want to have at least one (but preferably two) ambient microphones on the drums, if for no other reason than to pick up the cymbals. Assuming that you use two microphones, they are called overhead microphones, and as the name implies, they are placed above the drum set.

The most common types of mics to use for overheads are large- and small-diaphragm condenser mics because they pick up the high frequencies in the cymbals and give the drum set’s sound a nice sheen (brightness). You may also want to try a pair of ribbon mics to pick up a nice, sweet sound on the overheads.

To mic the drum set with overhead mics, you can use either the X-Y coincident technique or spaced stereo pairs. Place them 1 to 2 feet above the cymbals, just forward of the drummer’s head. Place X-Y mics in the center, and set up spaced stereo pairs so that they follow the 3:1 rule (for example, the mics should be set 3 to 6 feet apart if they are 1 to 2 feet above the cymbals).

This counters any phase problems. Point the mic down toward the drums, and you’re ready to record.

Overhead mics capture the cymbals and the drums.
Overhead mics capture the cymbals and the drums.