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Drum recording equipment and basic setup

Listen to these very short recording of drums.

Drum recording 01

[audio:|titles=Drum Rec 01]

Drum recording 02

[audio:|titles=Drum Rec 02]

List of mics

Among the cheapest mics were used to make the recording.

Here is the list :

  • Sm57 (snare)
  • Beta 52 (kick)
  • Pg 56 – 2 in number (one for each tom)
  • Pg 81s – 2 in number (left and right overhead mics)
  • Pg 52 (floor tom)
  • Two condenser mics for the ride and hihats. (battery powered condensers available were used)

The pg series mics come as a drum kit of 6 mics.
For each extra tom, add one more pg56 or SM57 to the list.

Phantom power and battery powered condensers The two overhead mics – pg 81s – need two preamp ins with phantom power.

For ride and hihat condenser mics,

  • We can use phantom powered condenser mics if the audio interface or mixer has the provision.
  • Else use battery powered condenser mics.
  • There are external preamp boxes like Audio Buddy which have preamp ins with phantom power available.

Basic mic selection logic

  • SM57 can be used for toms and snares.
  • Mics which are good with the low frequency can be used for the kick drum and floor tom. So you can use the same mic for kick drum and floor tom. Try to get at least a Shure Beta 52 for the kick drum, because anything lower than that may not perform really good with the bass frequencies.
  • Condenser mics for the high frequency elements
    • overheads which take in all the cymbals and the whole sound of the drum set.
    • The hihat and ride – both elements whose higher frequencies are of interest to the engineer and listener.

Improvements are possible if there are options available and  within our budget. For example :

  • Condenser mics powered by preamp phantom power is preferred to battery powered condenser mics. So if you sound card, audio interface or mixer has the provision to add four condenser mics (2 for the overheads, one each for hit hat and ride cymbal), you have made the process better.
  • Better preamps can make the process better because mic and preamp is the entry point for the sound source into our system. Recording with a focusrite audio interface who makes good preamps or using a dedicated preamp will be better than recording with a generic sound card.

Can we use an SM58 or SM57 for kick drum micing?

SM58 and 57 are

  1. physically rugged
  2. can deal with high SPLs (sound pressure level)
  3. it has a good presence frequency emphasis, which helps the drum click to get through.

These features are good for a kick drum mic.

But a low frequency response is the main problem in using an SM58 or 57 as kick drum mic. These mics are made to work well in close range and adjusted so that the proximity effect does not boost the bass frequencies. When the sound source is not close to the mic, it will sound thin.

We can still use this mic because

  1. some songs just don't need a too bassy kick drum
  2. if you need bass boost, we can do it with some of the effect plugins
  3. we can add sine or other waves along with the kick drum. Using a gating device, we can set it so that the bass wave is generated in the right proportion, each time the kick drum hits.
  4. Use a sample triggering program. I use Drumagog.
    1. Choose your kick drum sample or make one
    2. Open an instance of Drumagog (or other plugin) as insert effect in the kick drum channel
    3. Load the kick drum sample in Drumagog
    4. If you want the kick drum sample to replace the recorded drum, insert drumagog on the kick drum channel and load the sample to be triggered each time there is a kick. In this case, we are using the kick drum track just for the information on when the kick sample is to be triggered. The sound from the recording is not used.
    5. If you want the sample kick drum to be added to the recorded drum, duplicate the kick drum channel and add drumagog on the new track. Then play the sample along with the original recorded kick drum.

SM57 for snare – Shortcoming as advantage.

Many high budget projects where expensive condenser mics can be used still use SM57 for recording the snare.

The ‘disadvantage’ of a dynamic mic over condenser mic is one main reason for this selection.

A little bit about how a dynamic mic and a condensor mic is built and functions.

Dynamic mics use a diaphragm with electric coil, which when moves in a magnetic field produces the electric signal that we record.

A condenser mic has a condenser, with a very light leaf for one of the plates of the condenser. When sound waves reach the leaf, the distance between the condenser plates vary and an electric current is produced, which we record.

The diaphragm of a dynamic mic is heavier than the leaf of a condenser mic. The heavy diaphragm has much more inertia to move when compared to the light leaf of a condenser.

Therefore the condenser records very subtle movements while the diaphragm will not move as much to each nuance, and will smooth out the details in the recording.

When recording with an SM58 dynamic mic, the inertia of the diaphragm therefore acts as sort of a compressor, that naturally smoothens out the tranients in the signal, making the snare sound more ‘thick’ or substantial.

That is an advantage in using SM57, dynamic mic, for recording snare, thanks to its ‘shortcoming’ when compared to a condenser mic.


The mic side needs an XLR female jack. The audio interface can have XLR, balanced TRS or RCA jacks.


  • 1 Kick mic stand, the rod to attach the mic should be long. Usually they have a short rod to keep the mic on. Ask for a long one, the rod of a straight stand (usual stands used for vocals, snare…) will do. This is important for us because we plan to use the mic inside the casing of the drum. A longer rod will help us keep the kick drum mic close to the skin – 2 to 3 inches from where the batter meets the skin – which is better for us when using a single mic. Even small changes in positioning can make a lot of difference in the low frequency capture.
  • 4 straight stands. (Snare, Floor, Ride, Hat)
  • 2 boom stands for the overheads.
  • First and second tom mics should have clips to attach to the toms.
  • Remember to get enough holders to place the mics on the stand.

The drummer needs to have a pair of headphones, preferably a drummer’s headphones since they keep the drum sound from masking the clicks. If monitors/speakers are available at the site, they can be used for general listening without headphones.

That is all we need to start with…