PA for Micing Drums!

Jeramie

Junior Member
I have never mic-ed up my drums! We usually play smaller venue's (about 50-150 people). Currently we use a Mackie system! 8 channel mixer and 2 Mackie loud speakers. Works great for vocals but now I want to mic my kit. I have a TAMA Super-Star custom 6 piece (10,12,14,16,22 and 14" snare) and a CAD Drum-mic Pro kit that comes with 4 Dynamic mics, 2 Condenser mics, and 1 Bass drum mic. I know they are probably not the best mics for drums out there but that's what I have to use for now. I was thinking on buying a Mackie 1801 powered sub for some bottom end from the bass drum. Our singer thinks we will mess up the loud-speakers running anything but vocals through the loud-speakers. Should I use a separate PA system for my drums or get a bigger mixer and run the vocals and the drums out of the same system? Or am I Totally on the wrong track all together? And will I need some kind of compression pedal or box?
 

BradGunnerSGT

Silver Member
You left out a few crucial pieces of information here: what are the power rating for the speakers and the amplifier you use for your current PA? What other instruments are there in your band, are they amplified as well (i.e. electric guitar or bass through a combo amp). What style of music does your band play?

In general, you will gain a lot of complexity by having a separate PA just for your drums. Adding other instruments to your current PA will not "mess it up", unless you are pushing the amps and speakers at a higher volume (i.e. power) than they are rated for, or trying to push really deep frequencies through a pair of 8" or 10" speakers. If you are using a small all-in-one mixer+amp to drive a pair of 10" speakers (like most small PA's designed for singer-songwriters who use just vocals and acoustic guitar) then adding in a *very* little bit of an overhead mic to bring out the cymbals and a tiny bit of the attack of the drums might be OK, if that's what you are after.

For smaller venues, 50-150 people, you probably won't need a mic on every tom and the hi-hats. A kick, snare, and overhead mic should do you just fine, and don't think that you have to have a huge sub to make your kick sound better, unless your band is really loud.

It really depends on what your goals are. If you normally play at a small venue and are friends with the manager, ask them if your band can come in during the day or on an off-peak hour and set up like you normally do, then ask a friend to play your drums along with your band and sit out in the audience area to listen to the balance of the instruments. If the guitarists have long enough guitar cables, have them stand out there too, so they can hear what the problems are, if any. After deciding where to go (i.e "everything sounds fine like it is", "we really to upgrade the current PA", or "we just need to add in a overhead mic"), then go back to that same venue and set it all up again and sound check it really well until you get a feel for how it sounds.
 

Jeramie

Junior Member
In the band we have two acustic guitars for rythum, Electric guitar for Lead and a Bass. Most of the time for small venues the Acoustic-Electric's use small 50watt to 75watt combo amps. The bigger shows we play they bring out the Mesa-Boggies and Vox half stacks. The bass uses a Randall with two 15's - 300watts.

The mackie's are SRM-450's and they each have there own amp. 300W Class D, Fast Recovery LF amp/100W HF amp.The mixer is unpowered. The only thing we run threw the PA is the vocals. I was thinking on the Mackie SRM1801 18in 1000W Powered Subwoofer (Mackie Active electronics provide total system optimization, including precision crossover (125Hz), and tuning filters for accurate bass response). It's supost to be a good match to the SRM-450's.

We play Rock! We get compliments all the time that are band is not so loud that people have to go out side to talk to one another when we play. But at the same time we are loud enough to where you really can't hear the bass drum at all. So really what I want is for the Audience and the Band to hear and feel the Bass drum. And A kick, snare, and overhead mic sounds about right! But, will I need some kind of compression pedal or box?
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
The Mackies are low cost workhorses for bar bands. But pretty much at the limit of what you would run everything though, even with subs. You wont' "wreck" them, but you can muddy up the sound. Adding a sub to run the kick though will help. Maybe a taste of guitars/keys to help even things out. But I wouldn't try to do the small amps or modelers through the PA with that light of a set up. You're better off trying to get a good stage balance, and then maybe "help" the kick and maybe the snare a bit with the PA.

I would add that I'm not a fan of half (or full) stacks for gigs smaller than Filmore like ballrooms. The last two times I used my 2-12 cab was opening for AWB and Lenny Williams at two different large outdoor festivals. Most times (indoors or at street festivals) a single 12 cab is more than enough. But I've had decent PA's to play though in all these situations so I was only balancing on stage.

Research "aux fed subs". In this application (you're mixer may or may not have an easy way of doing this) Instead of running everything through the whole system you use an aux bus to feed only those instruments (kick, bass guitar, maybe keyboards) with low end content though both the sub and (though the regular main bus) into the main PA. This keeps the vocal mics and any mics on the guitar amps out of the subs. Very common practice in the midrange pro SR arena as it really cleans things up and limits stage noise from all the vocal mics from getting into the subs. Which also makes the power you drive the subs with more efficiently used.

Also, look up Dave Rat. Besides running a varsity sound co, he tours with folks like the Red Hot Chili Peppers where he champions a dual PA approach. One PA plays the music (including subs) and a second PA is just for vocals. No matter how great your PA is, L' Acoustics, d&b audiotecnik, Nexo or whatever, there is still going to be intermodulation distortion. Dave has found that audiences respond better when the vocals are very clear and not muddied together with the rest of the band's sound. I know of some small bands who have set up similar oriented systems. Something like dual 18 subs with dual 15 tops for the band and dual 12 tops for the vocals. Of course that's still a bit larger set up than the OP is talking about.
 

Kg_lee

Senior Member
I have spent about $6000 in speakers to mic my kit properly for a small club. That doesn't include everything else that makes the system work. I have about 9k invested in what I use.

Your over all mix will be more pleasing to listen to if mic'd and mixed correctly. If your mix is clear even though you are louder than normal it will not annoy people.

You should put a compressor on the main speakers it's extremely important especially with drums. I compress my main speakers and my kick drum for added protection.

In your situation it sounds to me you might not need quite the gear I have. If your looking for some low end and drums in the mix you'd be surprised what just overheads do. I'd say get the sub, mic the kick and compress it and run overheads. That should do the trick. I'd also add some bass guitar to the mix.
 

Jeramie

Junior Member
I have spent about $6000 in speakers to mic my kit properly for a small club. That doesn't include everything else that makes the system work. I have about 9k invested in what I use.

Your over all mix will be more pleasing to listen to if mic'd and mixed correctly. If your mix is clear even though you are louder than normal it will not annoy people.

You should put a compressor on the main speakers it's extremely important especially with drums. I compress my main speakers and my kick drum for added protection.

In your situation it sounds to me you might not need quite the gear I have. If your looking for some low end and drums in the mix you'd be surprised what just overheads do. I'd say get the sub, mic the kick and compress it and run overheads. That should do the trick. I'd also add some bass guitar to the mix.
What do you use for Compression? And how do you set it up threw the PA and Mixer? I will need to go and buy Compression box or pedal! I have a small budget so something afordable for now. But need to know what to buy and what kind.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
No, no, no. Why does every bar band PA person think they need a compressor? Compression is a studio or varsity sound thing. Not for PA's that are barely louder than the stage. And never, ever strap a compressor across the mains of a small PA. That will only make it feed back.

You probably want limiting, so you don't blow things up. But that is a different beast. I sometimes use a compressor on the bass guitar to control the level when the guy starts in with the slapping and popping. On the kick drum I sometimes use a gate to control boom or keep it from feeding back into the drum monitor (especially where a large drum monitor with sub is involved). Compression helps level things when you are blasting a large audience in an arena or something.

Think about what a compressor does. Above some threshold, it reduces the gain. In proportion to how much above the threshold the sound level is. All well and good. But below that point, it increases the gain in proportion to how much below the threshold the level is. Meaning that while the sound is loud, it is turning it down. You may as well just set the level correctly. When the sound isn't loud, it turns things up. What happens when you arbitrarilly turn up a PA system? Yep, feedback.

Compression levels and "tightens up" the sound of drums on recordings and is very popular for that reason. But live music lives on dynamics. If you squash the dynamics down with compression, you've taken all the life out of the performance. This is done in large concerts to keep things at a loud level most of the time. Producers think that keeps the excitement up. Just like on records and radio stations.

In a smaller venue, what happens is that you can still hear things off the stage, but the volume in the PA is going up and down inversely to the sound from the stage. The worst is when you strap a compressor across the main buss of the PA. Every time you hit the kick, the vocals dip down. Pumping in and out.

If you set the thing up subtly enough that this doesn't obviously happen, you may as well not bother with it. To use compressors, you have to have individual ones on each channel. And setting them so that the bleed from other things on stage doesn't cause them to pump, often requires gates. The whole thing is an art best left to folks trained and experienced in doing it. Not for a bar band PA.

If you are interested, spend some time on the ProSoundWeb reading and searching. The folks there are very helpful to well phrased inquiries. But be careful, they are pretty intolerant of folks that post newbie questions in the pro section (ask things in the Lab Lounge section) or ask questions without searching and reading the existing threads. Most questions, like applications of compression in live sound, have been discussed to death there and the threads are still around for new folks to read.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
What Aeolian said!

I don't think overheads are necessary, or even a good idea. Your cymbals will bleed into the vocal mics somewhat.

The toms get lost first, but to mic the toms you'll definitely want to have a gate on each tom channel, or else you'll hear the toms vibrate from the amps on stage. You might buy a four-channel gate/comp unit, they're not too expensive.

Gating the kick is good, too, since those low frequencies can feedback in a hurry if they ring out for too long.

You could also try a hi-hat mic, but it may not be worth it.

A subwoofer is definitely the way to go if you're going to mic the kick and toms. You won't get much low end out of your 300W Mackie boxes, and if you try, it'll mess with the presence of the vocals.

It's good that you guys don't play so loud that the crowd can't socialize, but also consider that if the sound is well-balanced, people won't mind if it is a bit louder than normal!
 

jim_gregory

Senior Member
For small bars I just run a kick mic and single overhead(sometimes) through the main system. Works fine but I don't go for a gut rumbling thump. Don't need it and don't want it. The overhead gain is set way low as well. I considered a powered sub but frankly at the small joints I play there is no room for anything else. But I own the PA and what goes through it is up to me. I don't have to argue with singers. You could certainly get a powered 15 or 18 and a small mixer and pipe the drums through it but really it's hardly necessary and will increase your setup and breakdown time considerably.
 
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