How to Record Drums with One Mic?

While working in a studio with access to no more than one microphone, you might give up on expecting to produce good quality sound when recording your drums. However, if you are in possession of a strategic mic placement, and follow the proper techniques in the recording procedure, you will not have to struggle to get great output. Many mics have the capability to produce amazing drum sound and hence a good recording. We will elaborate on some of the key techniques and tips on how to record drums with one mic.

You can also read: How to Play Steel Drums?

Single Microphone Soul

Let us talk about the single microphone soul technique of recording your drum using just a single microphone. You start with putting the plugs in your ears, and moving around the kit while the band’s drumming is in his or her action.

As soon as you hear a specific cool sound, you can try to place the microphone precisely in that position and figure how it works. If you do not like what you are hearing, try to understand what is it precisely that you do not like, and how you can change the position of the mic to make it sound better. 

For instance, if you feel like the sound you hear has a lot of crash cymbal, you can try to move it away from your microphone or vice versa. It is not too difficult, is it?

You can also use the single mic soul method by placing the microphone between the kick and the snare drum. This will allow the mic to hear the drum’s sound and record it pretty clearly.

When you add a little more compression to it, at, for example, 2:1 or 4:1, you will be glad to catch the perfect kick and snare output. This is also likely to allow you to pick good amounts of highs as well. If this is not working out, you really have to move again and try to find the perfect spot where you can find the desired balance. 

Single Overhead

This is another technique whereby you can, once again, move the mic depending on the sound you hear. If you realize that the drums are sounding too far apart, you can simply try to lower your mic and take it closer to your drum kit. However, you must ensure that you do not allow the microphone to get into the way of the drummers’ capacity to play. 

Centering on Top of the Kit

This technique can be best imagined through an equilateral triangle. In this case, the base of the triangle is the full width of the kit. Then, you must try to visualize these sides of the triangle moving upwards over the kit and coming directly to the middle of the kit.

This is the place where you should position your microphone straight down, facing towards the drum. In this position, the height of the position should be same as the width of the system.

Furthermore, you can try to begin with a cardioid pattern. You can of course try other pick up patterns that work for your specific microphone. The most important thing is balancing the key. 

Three Feet and On the Axis

This is the method whereby you should position your microphone around 3 feet in front of the drum kit, as well as maintaining a height of 3 feet. It must also point between the cymbals and the toms, and towards the direction of the snare.

It is not super complicated to adjust either, especially if you are thinking about the kick drum balance. When you desire for more kick, you should simply lower the mic a little. And, for a little less kick, simply raise the mic higher. 

Three Feet and Angle of 45 degrees

This is almost same, with a slight variation, to the method depicted above. The only difference is that, instead of point the head of the microphone towards the entire set of the drum 3 feet high, you are allowed to position it around 3 feet in the front with the height adjusted to just enough to point towards the center of the snare at an angle of 45 degrees.

You can use the exact technique even in the case of the kick drum balance. When you desire for more kick, you should simply lower the mic a little. And, for a little less kick, simply raise the mic higher. 

‘In the room’ sort of sound

When you are trying to get as much drum sound in the room, as possible, you should simply get a microphone and position it at an approximate height of 5 feet. It should be around 8 feet to the right in the front of the drum.

This will create a much smoother balance, sounding as natural as possible and you will be able to hear more sound. This will also allow the room to sound better and the kit to feel powerful.

Over the Head of the Drummer

When you are attempting this technique, you place the mic over the kit and approximately evenly with the top of the head of the drummer. Depending on how far the angle can go, you should ensure that the microphone is facing the entire drum kit without being too harsh towards the cymbals. 

How to Record Drums with One Mic
Photo by: Tyler Rutherford

Concluding Remarks

Now you are well-equipped with the key techniques to record drums using one mic. Of course it is wise to remind yourself that recording with a single mic will not produce the same width of sound that you can expect from a traditional setup with multiple microphones.

However, you will be rewarded with extremely focused and superb quality sound when you are attempting to record with only one microphone. You should try the methods mentioned in this guide to find the punch in the sound that you desire.

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