3. How Many Microphones?

How many microphones do you need to record drums? In an ideal world it’s great to have a mic (or two) for each piece of the kit, plus at least one pair of overheads, but financial constraints can mean that this isn’t always possible! Also, you can often get a better sound with three good quality microphones than eight average ones, and using less mics will generally give a more natural result, which may be desirable in its own right. The minimum you can get away with for stereo recordings is three microphones, two for overheads above the kit, and one for the kick drum - a lot of great music has been recorded in this way.

Setup with the t.bone DC4000 SET (Bassdrum microphone, 3x Tom-Mics, one microphone for snare and two condenser microphones for HiHat and Overheads)

Providing they’re well chosen, quality models, the only real disadvantage of using a small number of mics is the limit on how much control you have over the sound of the kit. With less mics, the room will have more influence on the sound, as will the drummer’s technique in terms of their ability to balance the individual parts. The lack of separation will limit your ability to equalise or balance anything individually at the mixing stage. On the other hand, by using more mics with characteristics chosen to suit each drum, and placed close to their sound sources, you’ll get a more controlled sound that has the flexibility of being able to be adjusted later on. You can process the individual mics for example, by using noise gates to remove any spill from adjacent drums or cymbals, and then ride the level of the overheads to control the ambience.

In smaller live situations however, a couple of mics will often suffice to bring the drum sound up to the desired level without over-complicating the mix.

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