Spring is finally upon us, as is April, where we’re refocusing our attention back to a topic we’ve not talked much about since last year - Engineering Drums. This is honestly one of the most difficult parts of any aspiring producer or engineer’s journey, and a topic I know I spent a lot of time and energy researching and learning about.
I realized early on that mic choices make a world of difference, but there’s many problems associated with using more and more microphones on a source, so today that’s what we’ll be exploring further.
Let’s dive in!
Snare Mic Options
Both one of the most important parts of the overall drum kit, as well as being the loudest part (and the bare of my existence when I was first starting out), Snare drums are one of the most interesting parts of any song in general. The overall timbre, tone, tuning, and processing can change the entire feel of a song just by changing any part of it’s overall tonal makeup, so getting this one part of the kit correct can create a domino effect of all the other elements falling into place.
Mic’ing snare drums, as like mic’ing any part of the kit, can be laborious if you’re not experienced, but there are a few basic concepts that can help you on your way if you’re starting out. To start with, your mic choice is obviously important, and whether you’re having a single mic on the top of the snare and bottom, or if you’re wanting to be adventurous and placing a second mic on the top alongside the main mic. For example, it’s not a well kept secret that I love dynamic mics on snares specifically, and the HH1 is my go-to almost all the time; but often, I do like to unscrew the dust cap to expose the diaphragm and electrical tape a second pencil condenser microphone alongside it with the capsules lined up.
Now, having more than one microphone on any source is going to inherently cause some problems, and in particular phase issues, hence I unscrew the dust cap of the HH1 so I can accurately position the second mic alongside it. But the main place where phase issues occur on snare mic’ing is when a bottom mic is in use. Imagine watching a snare being hit by a stick in slow-motion; as the stick hits the skin, the skin on the top moves away from the stick as well as the microphone, and as that air is pushed through the snare, the bottom skin in turn does the same, moving towards the bottom microphone.
Ultimately, this causes the bottom microphone to be out of phase comparatively to the top microphone which can result in a thin and lifeless sounding snare. If you’re struggling to find the body of the snare drum when mixing, always check that you’ve checked the phase of the top and bottom mics - it really is a night and day difference.
Tom Mic Options
Now, as we move into discussing the rest of the shells, it’s important to note that every drum will set up their kit differently; this can cause some real issues when you come to placing mics around the kit below cymbals and trying to eliminate as much bleed as you can do. I’ve not mentioned it before on the blog as it hadn’t yet occurred to me, but one of the best things about the design of every condenser mic that JZ Mics has to offer is the profile and shape of all of them.
Thanks to the design of the V11 being slimline and the mount not being intrusive to the ability to place the mic accurately, it’s become one of my favorites to rely on for mic’ing up rack Toms after seeing Adam Greenspan when he was working on the recent Bloc Party record back in 2021. But its shape isn’t the only benefit that makes it great for use on Tom’s, and if you own one of these incredible mics then you’ll know how amazing they sound on pretty much anything you place them in front of. The V11 is, as many of you know, the darkest sounding condenser we have in our line up, which allows it to capture Tom’s in a very flattering way with very little need to EQ too much in order to make it sit well in the context of the mix.
However, the V11 isn’t the only mic in our line up that works well for Tom mic’ing. The Amethyst as some of you may have seen in the past is my main choice for Floor Toms, which when I first tried it out surprised me! I was expecting the mic to almost be overwhelmed by the volume of both low-end content as well as the actual loudness of the Tom, but to my surprise it has a controlled, well rounded and full bodied sound capturing all the low frequencies in a very pleasing way, and preserving the attack and detail of the stick hits. Of course, the HH1 is a great option for all types of Tom drums, and the V11 shines on Floor Tom as well as Rack as already mentioned, so if you have any of the above then try them out on your next sessions if you haven’t already.
I think Steve's reaction captured in this photo of a recent session I had with Maystones sums up just how great the Amethyst is on Floor Tom.
Kick Mic Options
Lastly, we’re moving onto Kick drum microphone options, and specifically the outside Kick mic choices. Inside mics for Kick drums are plenty already, and most people are well in tune with their own preference usually due to a friend or producer recommending their favorites, however, if you’re interested in discovering more options other than say our HH1 which also works fantastically, then you can click here and watch a great shootout from Sweetwater of almost all the main ones on the market.
However, when it comes to mic’ing the outside of the Kick, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that you’d be hard pressed to find a better mic choice than the V67 and V12; as soon as I tried these for the first time on the Kick, I was never going to go back to using anything else. The V67 is extremely similar to the Amethyst and has the identical capsule within its make-up so unsurprisingly, having already mentioned my love affair with the Amethyst on Floor Toms it does make a lot of sense that the V67 works so well placed on the Kick. The V12 on the other hand, was a bit more of a surprise simply due to how well it captured the entirety of the sound of the kick, from the sub-low frequencies, all the way up to the beater sound and high-end content. I still remember what the drummer who I was recording that day said to me when he heard his takes back: ‘That mic has no right to sound that good by itself, that's outrageous!’
I really can't overstate enough, just how incredible the V12 sounds placed on the outside of the Kick drum.
All of these mics, of course, do share one major benefit that I’ve not mentioned yet, which is their ability to reduce bleed from other parts of the kit making their way into the other recorded elements thanks to their polar patterns being cardioid. This is again, helped by the fact that the design of all the condenser mics being such slim profiles and all having non-intrusive shock mounts such as the new universal Vintage series shock mount we released last year. If you’re recording drums soon and you’re not tried these mics in the positions I’ve mentioned yet, then I urge you to try them next time - you won’t be disappointed!