To counteract this, some engineers prefer to measure from the imaginary “center” of the kit. The engineer on that track, Andy Johns, brother of Engineer Glyn Johns, is greatly responsible for this definitive Bonham sound. The following approaches have differing results, and hopefully their descriptions, along with experimentation, will galvanize and expedite your next recording session. Both can sound great, but there’s an interesting balance of power between the two methods. Every quarter-inch went to more microphones, and I was one Neumann away from becoming homeless, hanging by an XLR. The kick mike, placed about halfway inside the drum (for instance Shure’s Beta 52A or AKG’s D 112), and pointing a little off center, is added as a precautionary inoculation of an extra chest-thumping 50Hz boost and a 2—5kHz clicking attack. That said, sometimes there’s a little meat missing from the snare. And yet as epic as that drum mix is, do the drums sound perfect? A common practice with 1960’s and ’70s rock and jazz is the three-microphone triangular approach. Because this isn’t a pristine controlled recording situation (it’s the exact opposite of the close-miked Steely Dan tones), it’s only recommended for folks that can go with the flow and embrace the dirt. The front-of-kit (approximately 2′ back from the kick and 4′ up), meanwhile, is the punchiest. San Francisco mastering engineer Michael Romanowski (Dredg, Badfinger, Super Adventure Club), a regular practitioner of minimalist drum miking, is always amazed at how people will plug in a lot of microphones and not know what they are going for, noting that “paying attention from the start makes mixing super easy and with little to no fixes. Would that tone work for just any song? What you want to be "on-axis" is dependent on what you choose as the focal point for the overhead mics. Kick (bass) drum. Although sonically limiting and leaving a little something to be desired, the one-mike strategy can be just what the doctor ordered, if given the right drummer and the right song. Not surprisingly, someone in the microphone business finally took note and made a mike kit just for the triple-threat vintage approach. The close mics on the drums to achieve more stereo control when the drum setup, mic placement, or room are problematic. Back when I was a junky I’d do anything to get my next mix. Yours truly was only so lucky to stumble upon this method during a late-night epiphany fueled by spontaneity, impatience, a lack of preparation, and a need to record immediately. While standard professional drum-recording scenarios involve at least eight or nine microphones, history has colorfully proven that quite the contrary can also be just as kosher. One mic up top, over the snare, pointing at the center of the snare head. The two main positioning strategies to maximizing auditory potential are either with both microphones as distant-mikes, or with one as a distant-mike and the other as a close-mike. But his brother Andy is also (or maybe only) credited with recording that song. Surprisingly, many engineers, both amateur and professional, don’t always have a planned outcome. Overhead Mic Placement: The Mic Angle and Your On-Axis Focal Point. With one distant and one close-mike, stereo imaging is stymied, but there’s more control over the tone of a specific drum. That said, here are some suggested steps, setups, and treatments to make the most out of a minimalist recording setup. The ideal mic setup (and room) would consist of really nice overhead and room mics. We currently just mic the kick but the issue is the room we often play in is very live, so we get alot of natural cymbal reverb. Having an artistic plan instead of a “let’s see what comes out in the wash” attitude is a smarter approach to saving time in the mixing room. If budget and time allow, these variations can really lead to outstandingly large and live results. Prior to plugging anything in, the most important thing to do first is figure out where in the room the drums sound best. The drums sound active and lively, and even the kick comes in surprisingly nice and strong. The mic of choice for most recording engineers when recording a kick drum is a … One mic out front of the kit, ~5 ft away, roughly even with the top of the kick drum. Skeptical? Minimalism wasn’t an edgy alternative back in the 1960’s when the art of recording drums began to take shape – it was the norm. According to Johns, it was the first time Bonham was actually happy with the drum tones (and rightfully so. KEEP THAT RATIO! The height of the overheads (anywhere from 30″—60″ from the snare) should be positioned with consideration to the height of the ceiling, the distance between drums and cymbals, and the drummer’s sensitivity to dynamics. A lot of people just throw mikes up and say, ’We’ll fix it in the mix.’” Well, why bother repairing if it’s possible to get it right from the downbeat? You want to move the second overhead mic to the place above the drummer’s opposite shoulder that matches the same kick and snare distance. All have a character of their own, and experimentation is the best way to learn about them. Additionally, trying to replicate certain drum sounds from favorite recordings, like a Metallica album, for instance, won’t work, as they were crafted from many close mikes and samples. With two distant mikes, it’s possible to get more of a stereo image of the kit. Ribbon and condenser microphones are the best candidates for the leading role in this one-mike show, with condensers typically being more sensitive to higher frequencies (this can be both good and bad, as they are brighter, but can also be on the brittle side). Check out this free download of “Smoke Signals,” a tune recorded on a jazz kit with only an iPhone and its internal microphone (disclosure: there’s also a programmed kick on the downbeats): Because most entry-level audio interfaces come with only two XLR inputs, learning to milk two mikes is a very valuable money-saving skill. The other popular minimalist strategy, sometimes referred to as the “Glyn Johns technique,” involves a mixture of four to five distant and close mikes. Starting with the simplest setup possible, it doesn’t get much easier than a one-mike operation. While the idea of moving drums around isn’t a holiday for most, enjoying the subtle differences of playing in various areas of a room can really affect a performance, and will certainly affect how the drums sound. The less microphones used puts that much more responsibility on a solid, balanced drum take, as it’s less possible to polish an erratic and disjointed performance with studio magic. While in a large house, Johns recorded Bonham with two M160 double-ribbon microphones placed approximately halfway up a stairwell in the foyer, compressed to all hell, and affected with a Binson Echorec delay. 20x14 bass drum 14x14 floor tom 12x8 tom 14x5 snare Of course, it all depends on the sound you want for the genre you're playing, and your reasons for picking a minimalist setup. Setup. And if the drummer is tracking with the band in the same room, switch them out with hypercardioid condensers for the most isolation possible. With the four-track recorder as the standard medium of the time, it limited engineers to very few microphones on the drums. The Glyn Johns 3 mic drum setup (sometimes with 4 mics) on Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" is Internet audio folklore. Both the distance and the surrounding instruments that may bleed into the target source will often impact the success of these microphones. A few other basic starting blocks for various scenarios are to have the overheads in XY position (angled at 90 degrees from each other), two drummer’s perspective mikes (one near each shoulder, using the head as a baffle, and from here on out referred to as “double parrot”), or to have a stereo pair as room mikes. Time and experience, along with experimenting, will help you answer how you want to As rich as they can sound, their natural yet lively chaotic ambience simply won’t work for every song or band. The track is muddied with grit; it’s fairly monophonic; and of course, he’s John Bonham and you aren’t. While options increase greatly as more mikes become involved, the basic capturing concepts of distant and close mikes still work for most setups involving anywhere from three to five microphones. Make no mistake; minimalist drum-recording setups are not the answer for every situation. If the ceiling is low, it’s best to work with cardioid condensers, as ribbons by nature work as figure-8 pickup patterns and will catch a lot of unwanted reflections from the ceiling. But the drummer’s-perspective position might just be the most realistic. They sound huge!). Any one of these microphone placements would work for a one-mike drum recording setup. Break out the measuring tape and adjust the overheads so they are equidistant from the snare. Check out “Steve Zissou’s Underwater Party,” a two-mike production, with an Audio-Technica 4033a condenser at the front of kit and an SM57 on the snare: The drummer’s perspective mike (placed relatively close to the drummer’s head, but not so close as to catch any teased hair head-banging) sounds very similar to the front-of-kit position, except that there’s a little more of the high-end stick attack and a lot less kick drum.