Sometimes less microphones yields better results
Often people ask me how many microphones will I use for a drum recording, and it seems that the general consensus is the more microphones the better.
But I have often found that the contrary is true. Indeed, the more microphones that are added to the mix, the more potential for phase issues and greater difficulty in mixing that occurs.
Recently I was tasked with recording a great rock tune for a guitarist. It had a real Led Zeppelin vibe going on but with a modern edge to it. So I decided to try something different. Rather than use loads of mics for a very modern, over produced sound, I opted for a very old fashioned sound as used by the likes on John Bonham back in the late 1960s/1970s.
And more specifically, I went for a method that is often credited to long time Led Zeppelin engineer Glyn Johns. Without going into too much detail (you can look it up if interested), the method basically uses just two overheads, a snare and a kick mic. One overhead is directly above the snare. The second one is equidistant from the centre of the snare, but is dropped down and positioned just over the floor tom looking back at the snare drum.
The snare and kick are positioned in a pretty standard way but the key to this sound is to get a great, natural kit sound from the overheads initially. Once this is done, you bring in bass and snare only as you need them to add punch and clarity.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Glyn Johns worked with Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, and many more.[/pullquote]
The result was awesome. A really big, roomy, natural sounding kit sound that harked back to the power and presence of John Bonham in Led Zeppelin. And the beauty of it was that it was also very easy to mix.
Of course, it was crucial to set up big drums and tune them correctly, but once that was done, the recording process was easy.
And it just goes to show that sometimes loads of fancy equipment actually gets in the way of getting a great drum sound for a particular track. And if I get to play like John Bonham for an afternoon, then it’s even better!
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