Micing and Recording Tricks?

AzHeat

Platinum Member
So, I just received my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 and AKG Concert 1 set of mics and started playing around with them a bit. I’ve defi been missing out...Anyway, since I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing, I figured I’d post the question here.

The mics came with mounts for Tom and snare and get the mics pretty close to the head. Manual says to point them toward the center of the drum. Okay there. Problem is, Im not sure what kind of gain I’m to have on them. Drums sound full with higher gain, but they clip. Lower gain won’t clip, but they sound tinny. Am I supposed to turn down the gain on the mics themselves and then boost somewhere else? If so, where? Seems higher gain also pics up surrounding drums more, so I’m thinking lower gain... What’s correct?

Tom mics are picking up some high overtones too, so would like to clean that up. I haven’t downloaded any of the extra plugins at this point, just the controller software.

I also have a non ported head on my bass. Sounds great by itself, but the BD mic is picking up high overtones and extra long sustain there too. Do I need a ported head?

Thanks!
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
-18db is a common gain for mic levels at the daw. The reasoning is to leave a lot of headroom for audio manipulation.

I removed the clip on mics and put them on stands because I was getting a lot of resonance through the clips. I also prefer the sound of mics further away from the head because there is too much low frequency when the mics are close. Most clips don't allow the mics to be moved back enough. And finally, I hit mics and if they're further away, I don't smack them.

I have no idea why they sound tinny at lower gain.

Now you get to experiment!
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Tips off the top of my head:
  1. Check where in the room you want to set up your kit by clicking sticks together and listening to the reflections. Big differences can be heard between different locations.
  2. For initial simplicity and ease of acclimation to the recording process, use the clip-on rim adapters for now. The overheads provide the main sonic image of the kit. Placement of these, combined with where the kit is in the room, will determine the base-level sound of your kit.
  3. Learn the software. Understand how the meters are responding to the input signal. What is the scale being used? In the Presonus DAW Studio One, one of several scales can be used.
  4. The primary mics are the overheads. Where you place them over the kit will define the kit. Placed over the snare & toms gives a much different result than when positioned with the cymbals being the primary target.
  5. The third most important mic placement is the kick drum. Before you buy/build a ported reso head, make a recording with the kick mic in various orientations to the drum. Maybe you’ll find something you really like. After all, you play the drum that way and like it (I assume).
  6. The fourth most important mic is the snare mic. A close mic on a snare adds punch to the overheads. This page has good info, IMO. Very revealing.
  7. Understand how to best avoid latency with your setup.
  8. Moon Gel is your friend. So is gaffer’s tape.
  9. Don’t be surprised at how much difference a different brand/model of drumhead makes to the sound of your kit.
 
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Anduin

Pioneer Member
If you record at 24 bit you’ll have huge headroom, so keep the gain settings (on the preamps) well below clipping and you’ll have plenty of signal to work with in your DAW.

It’s definitely worth spending a fair bit of time trying various mics on each drum and multiple positions for each mic. I make notes and take pictures of mic positions so after I compare short recordings of the multiple configurations I can pick my fave, then recreate it from the pics.

It can be a bit tedious, but it’s worth it to end up with a better sound that you can then pretty much leave in place.

Once you get comfortable with recording yourself you’ll discover the awesomely fun world of processing, mixing, etc.
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
What everyone above said.

My home recording experience is limited compared to others here and I was disappointed at first with just close mics, everything sounded 'small'. it wasn't the great sound I was expecting. But then I found that once I brought overheads into the picture, it brought fullness, size and tone to everything and made sense of what the close mics are actually there for.

As far as gain, bring it up fairly high then reduce it until there's no clipping, i.e. no flashing red lights, and then bring it down some more to allow headroom. Try and hit the drums during the gain staging at the velocity you'll be recording at.

If you've used moongel or tape and there's still some unwanted overtones after recording, there's things that can be done in the post recording EQ stage that can minimise a lot of that, plus most of it won't be noticed if you're recording to a song.

Also, mic angles towards the drums can affect how much the overtones are emphasised, so although the manual says point towards the centre, I would experiment with that a bit.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
The last time I recorded, I went straight from my drum mics into the interface. I did this for everything but my two toms, which to save "room" on the interface, I ran them through my little Mackie soundboard. During the mixdown process, I found that my toms sounded pretty darn incredible as opposed to the rest of my kit...which still sounded pretty good, but those toms are amazing.

Next time, I'm running EVERYTHING through my Mackie before it hits the interface.

Lesson: Pre-amps are really, really important.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
One thing that I didn't learn until I'd been fiddling around with recording gear for a few years: monitor loud, record low! The only reason your tom mics would sound tinny with lower gain is either:

A) The mics sound tinny
B) You're not listening loud enough

I had a Focusrite OctoPre which had essentially the same mic pres that your interface had, and the gain didn't noticeably affect the sound I got out of my tom mics, just that in order to properly hear the things I recorded, I often had to turn my monitors up. And that's fine; that's gain staging!

I try to set the gains on my mics so the signal peaks around -10dBFS in Pro Tools. Since my PT meters are peak meters, -10 on drums usually ends up being pretty close in perceived level as -18 or -16 with something that sustains like guitars or bass, but your mileage may vary.
 

rebonn

Senior Member
Problem is, Im not sure what kind of gain I’m to have on them. Drums sound full with higher gain, but they clip. Lower gain won’t clip, but they sound tinny. Am I supposed to turn down the gain on the mics themselves and then boost somewhere else? If so, where? Seems higher gain also pics up surrounding drums more, so I’m thinking lower gain... What’s correct?
Thanks!
Inserting a compressor will fix your problem and is used for the exact reason your stating. Although another problem could arise from not knowing how to use it. The plugins should have compression settings for drums. You can also research compression settings for drums. Have fun.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
I've played around with things a bit more and got the toms sounding great. Pulled the mics back a bit, pointed the overheads away from toms and snare for less bleed through. Kick sounds better, but could be punchier!

I've used the pointers provided here, which helped. Found some plugins on the Focusrite site, but haven't found out how to phase shift. Not sure if I'm getting any phase cancellation with the overheads, so would like to try that as an option. So far, no success and the manual doesn't have anything about it.

Overall though, big improvement from yesterday, so thanks everyone for chiming in. Definitely helped!
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
This book helped me get off the ground.

I encourage experimentation, too. That’s when you find out what works and what doesn’t on both a practical level and personal level.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
FWIW, I'll share my recent experiences with recording drums in a less than ideal space. I've been struggling trying to get that "sock in your gut" bass drum tone without any processing. I'm getting there. Going into it yesterday, if I got a good bass drum tone, my tom tone would suffer. If I got a good tom sound, my bass drum tone suffered. I did a bunch of stuff to combat the issue. After many unacceptable attempts, I came to the conclusion that it was the way I had the bass drum set up that was making the majority of the plasticky tone.

The clear EMAD 1 I used initially recorded the bass drum way too plastic-ey. So I replaced it with a coated EMAD 1. Tuning the reso head pretty low instead of high like I normally do for live playing helped a lot. An all felt beater did a lot to make it punchier for recording, counter-intuitive to me. I put more cotton shirts inside the bass drum. Any BD resonance was kind of working against me for recording. I eliminated what little wall reflections were remaining, right near my drums with soft fabric.

As per CB's fine suggestion, I put my mic further into the bass drum. That made a big difference. Just for laughs, I pointed the capsule at the side of the shell, and was surprised that I thought it sounded just as good as pointing it at the beater. That's the way I left it. Go figure, I'll wait :)

I went from micing the batter and reso side (I tried 2 different mics and about 3 different positions each on the batter side) to using 2 mics on the reso, (D6's) one inside the port as described above and one outside a few inches away, at a 45 degree angle pointing towards the center of the reso head. That outside mic gives the bass drum a lot of "weight".

I probably did 25 different tests yesterday, and I'm doing it today as well. I think if my room had bigger ceilings, I wouldn't be struggling so much. But I'm determined to make my little room sound fn awesome. There's seems to be an infinite number of ways to place mics, set gains, tune and head the drums...A lot of up and down for 1 guy.

I am homing in on it though. I'm like 90% there.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
As per CB's fine suggestion, I put my mic further into the bass drum. That made a big difference.
And depending on what material is used for head dampening, you can modify the sound even further.



(Notice the primary sonic image of Steve’s kit can be provided by that large diaphragm mic directly overhead of the kit.)

Just for laughs, I pointed the capsule at the side of the shell, and was surprised that I thought it sounded just as good as pointing it at the beater. That's the way I left it. Go figure, I'll wait :)
I think Bermuda does the same. He posted a pic on a different thread.
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
Kick sounds better, but could be punchier!

Not sure if I'm getting any phase cancellation with the overheads, so would like to try that as an option.
You'll be amazed how punchy the kick will sound once you add a compressor to it.

Try this for overheads, it's what I did with mine. Make each mic equidistant from the centre of the snare and the kick drum. It will avoid phase issues.

https://youtu.be/8X_kMItRI2s
https://youtu.be/q2ccgv4jaiE
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
And depending on what material is used for head dampening, you can modify the sound even further.



(Notice the primary sonic image of Steve’s kit can be provided by that large diaphragm mic directly overhead of the kit.)
For my space, losing the large diaphragm condensers were a big help to get me there...I was running 4 overheads, a pair of large and a pair of small diaphragm condenser mics. When I removed the LDC's out of the mix...a lot of the plastic I was getting disappeared. But I still had to tweak my heading and tuning and muffling until I started to like it.

I have less than 7 foot ceilings, so maybe the LDC's are too much as overheads. So I'm down to one pair of small condenser mics as overheads. After I get that all sorted then it's room mic placement time. All these little things combined are the key. Heading/tuning is kind of huge too. It's not just one thing.

To address the question posed, the only trick I can think of is to learn your particular space through trial and error. Having a friend or two helps. One plays the drums, the other guy moves mics to different positions, and the other guy monitors looking for the best sounding placement. If it's just you, you have to do all of that lol.

Then you have to record something (successfully lol) and figure out what it is you don't like. It's an essential skill to be able to puzzle out what is hurting the mix, and do the opposite. Because if you can't do that, (not you personally) it's a waste of time. I really dig the whole process (if I have the time) because I have to puzzle stuff out. If something isn't working I have to come up with a different angle until I hit on something. Tackling the unknown. Being one with the soundwave lol.

It's a lot like electrical troubleshooting, my favorite part of the job.

It's time consuming is what it really is. And challenging. Lot of nose to the grindstone stuff IMO.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
You'll be amazed how punchy the kick will sound once you add a compressor to it.

Try this for overheads, it's what I did with mine. Make each mic equidistant from the centre of the snare and the kick drum. It will avoid phase issues.

https://youtu.be/8X_kMItRI2s
https://youtu.be/q2ccgv4jaiE
Funny! From all I've read here, everyone seems to be grossly unimpressed with any sound shaping on any videos, yet compression and EQ seem absolute necessities! I played around with the Garageband built in compression and it was very mechanical sounding. Finally got the Focusrite compressor to load and I could immediately hear the BD with more clarity. All I've done is turned it on at this point with their defaults for BD. I did however notice mic movement shaped the sound far more with the Focusrite compression turned on. It was kinda muddy and boomy before. Not very pleasant! My kick is open, so it has some sustain, but not what the mic was picking up. At least not from behind the kit. Still not perfect, but a good starting point. I'll play around with the settings a bit more today, but I'm on the right path.

The videos make sense. I saw a couple of others earlier in the day stating the same thing. I bet that'll clear things up. Toms cleaned up nicely with a bit of tweaking, but snare just sounds hollow. I bet this will straighten it out. May well clean up the BD too. So much learning is such a short time! :)

For my space, losing the large diaphragm condensers were a big help to get me there...
I did see a video, maybe it was on Sweetwater and they said small diaphragm responds far better to highs then medium or large and best for smaller spaces and or if trying to maintain their focus on hats and cymbals only. Even more happy about my purchase. The AKG Concert 1 set came with two pencil mics. So far I like them, but have to work through what I feel is phase cancellation. I'll be experimenting with that later...

Then you have to record something (successfully lol)
True that! That'll be my forever challenge. It will certainly help to hear myself play without latency. Hearing myself has already proven I was doing way better than I thought in some areas and definitely sloppy where I didn't think I had an issue. It'll help me clean up. I also like that I can finally put on isolation cans, so I can properly control the song and drum levels simultaneously. I canna feel like I'm actually in the mix now, instead of playing air drums!

This book helped me get off the ground.

I encourage experimentation, too. That’s when you find out what works and what doesn’t on both a practical level and personal level.
Thanks for the book link. There will be plenty of experimentation now that I have audio equipment. I'll be moving the set around the room a bit too. Looks like I'm finally getting the elliptical out of that room, so I can set up more in the middle. That'll go a lot farther when it comes to experimentation and placement. :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I just wanted to mention that last night...I'm pretty sure I got what I was after from my miced drums. My bass drum was holding me up. I got it sorted, pending a posting here for further critique. I think I have it though.

Long story short, it all came down to how my bass drum was set up. The batter can be tuned way lower than I thought with laundry inside. So it needed to be tuned low low on the batter, with a coated head.

I spent a load of time positioning my mics 25 different ways from now till Tuesday and here it mostly came down to the sound I was getting from my bass drum.

Lesson learned here: A bass drum set up for live gigs is set up completely opposite for recording. (the way I like them anyway)
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Funny! From all I've read here, everyone seems to be grossly unimpressed with any sound shaping on any videos, yet compression and EQ seem absolute necessities!
There are two mutually exclusive paths: accurate reproduction of the kit from your room to your monitors (and ear buds, car, etc.) or enhanced audio to provide a unique sound to the kit/music (think 1980s snare drums).

Most drummers who focus on getting a nice tone from their drums don't want a pile of plugins ruining that sound. Example: Billy Cobham's Quadrant 4

Some drummers know what to do when they want an affected tone: think Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight.

Every element in the signal chain affects the resulting sound. Mic type, mic brand, mic placement, room acoustics, mic pre-amps, EQ, compression, etc.

In our little rooms with our gear, it's important to know the qualities and limitations of these variables. That helps us get a sound we're pleased with. This is a lengthy learning process.

When I started down the recording rabbit hole, I practiced & recorded in a 120-year old 15'x20' basement with 6' ceilings and brick walls. After several years I moved the gear to a 25'x50' cement floored room with 20' ceilings (its reverb was perfect, but excessive). Obviously, I changed the signal path (mic placement, EQ, etc.) to get a sound I liked.



I've moved from that room and am now in a 20'x40' room with 9'ceilings and the sound is very different. Back to experimenting with where the kit is in the room, and how the mics are oriented to the kit.

In addition, there are plenty of anecdotes about bands & producers & engineers finding the "perfect drum sound". The drum kit is not the easiest instrument to record.
 
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