Recording Toms


Senior Member
Ok I've done quite a bit in studios over the last 20 years or so, as a both an occasional tech (assistant) and musician, done lots of recording in my own little studios over the years, I know what mics I need, already have pretty good gear (Sennheiser, AKG, Makie etc.) and know about gates/compression/reverb etc. After all I run an AV production company for a living.

But just was planning to do some recording in a couple of months time and I had a thought... Why do we usually mic the batter heads on toms?

As I've now taken up drumming and have done a lot of reading around the subject (natch) I have more of an understanding of how the drum actually works. I was thinking that when playing live, the main sound the audience hears is the one produced by the ringing of the reso head right? So why don't we normally mic that rather than the batter?



Senior Member
Good question, but I think the true drum tone comes from the relationship between the 2 heads. Since the sound is being generated on the batter side, I think that's the best place to capture it as opposed to getting unwanted ring/after tones that may come off the resonant head. All that being said, it makes you wonder why we don't mic kick drums on the batter side, huh?

Just one man's thoughts... I have nothing to support any of that. :)


Platinum Member
Part of the reason concert toms were so popular for a while was it allowed the engineer to put the mic in the drum rather than on the batter side.

I think putting mics on the batter side really came from drummers who wanted to capture the kit from their perspective; the way they hear it sitting on the throne.

I think a mic at the bottom might give too much resonance and not enough attack. But who knows. There are no rules. Try it and see what happens. Maybe you'll start a new trend!
Or maybe you'll hate it and go back to way everyone else does it. heh.

Bruce M. Thomson

Gold Member
I am not a fan of micing the toms, that was sort of a real 70's thing; very bland.
Overheads work best, slightly panned laft and right with one mic for the snare and hi-hat and the mic for the bass drum around 3 feet back. This adds quite a bit of depth and a fuller deep bass sound plus allows the drums to sing in their full glory.
Here are 2 links to help out. They are basic but the idea is to have much of the kit coming through the overheads and then tune in the snare/hi-hat and bass drum mic's in to the mix.
This set up is what John Bonham preferred. Listen to the mix first from the overheads only to get the best sound and adapt your playing, the other 2 mic's will then be easier to blend in. I also do not concern myself with any bleeding into other mics, it actually will give recordings a more dynamic impression rather than a muffled lifelessness.





Platinum Member
Micing from the top gets the attack and some sense of tone. The rest is eq and sustain though time based effects (including compression decay). What a drum really sounds like is captured by overheads and "room" mics. Or in the old days of Rudy Van Gelder, a mic pointed in the approximate direction of the drummer.

Modern production and mixing doesn't want the natural sound of any instrument. It depends on capturing the "effect" of that instrument and fitting it into the fabric of the overall sound. The effect of drums being percussive and time based.


Silver Member
I was thinking that when playing live, the main sound the audience hears is the one produced by the ringing of the reso head right?
"Main" sound is kind of vague in meaning, but I'm not sure you can easily quantify how much sound the audience hears from each head. It might well vary from spot to spot in the audience.

How about three mics per tom, one at each head and one for the shell. Catch the full sound of the drum that way.

Or else, one mic on the batter is good enough because once you record, equalize, and process the sound, it doesn't really matter where the mic was.


Platinum Member
I've thought about drum mic'ing quite a bit but confess that I have no clue how it all works, but what I will say is that the worst drum sounds I've ever heard come from Steve Albini's purist notion that only room mic's should be used to capture a true drum sound. Rubbish.