Drums with 1 mic - dynamic or condenser?

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TTBZTTBZ Frets: 889
edited January 7 in Studio & Recording
I'm recording some live rehearsal room demos with my band soon and on my recorder (zoom h6) I'll only have one XLR input left for drums. I've seen this video and whilst we don't exactly play that sort of blues he gets a pretty good sound after compression and treating the lows and highs differently, plus mixing in some room (I'll also be using the mid/side capsule on the zoom for room sound)



I have an MD421 I could use as per the vid but would a cardioid condenser (sennheiser MK4) be better with its wider Freq response? Or will the sensitivity just pick up too much spill from the other instruments?

I know neither is ideal (I always like to record drums with 4 mics, Glyn Johns/recorderman style) but we just need some quick and dirty demos to put together teasers etc.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 21329
    I would use a condenser, but if you are tracking the entire band at once then you will pick up other instruments with it.


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  • andy_kandy_k Frets: 41
    I have done similar 'live' sessions, but always tried to get a stereo pair of the drums, recorderman, johns or spaced, but once did try just a 58 over the front of the kit-which worked fairly well.
    It all comes down to trial and error--if you have time, setting up one mic to get the best overall sound is good, but you will always just have a mono track to play with, which worked ok when we were ALL mono recording, ie early rock n roll, Beatles etc etc.
    These days, we can work miracles in a Daw, duplicate and flip tracks to create stereo effects etc, which can work well to create a spread, but you will miss the drive and punch that come from a kick and snare at the centre of your mix, but then we can cheat with stuff like Trigger to generate separate sample tracks of kick and snare, which is what I would try and allow for in a limited recording session.
    It takes a bit of work afterwards to get these tracks from a full drum track on one mic, but it can be done.
    It will take a few goes to get a good result, which is how I approached the problem, but even a really bad drum track (sounding) can be improved on, the choice of mic depends on how you want to capture that drum track--a broad accurate mono recording, or a more focused kick and snare , which will make generating sample tracks easier.
    Good luck.
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  • MusicwolfMusicwolf Frets: 238
    Since getting my Zoom Livetrak at Christmas I record all of our rehearsals as a matter of course.  As these are just so we can assess progress I no longer bother with the Glynn Johns / Recorderman approach, even though I have the available tracks.  Last week I just shoved a boundary mic inside the kick drum and pointed an old C1000s at the front of the kit (roughly where you would place the first mic in the Recorderman approach).

    The results were surprisingly good.  As Octatonic suggests, there was loads of spill but you will always get that recording this way regardless of the number of mics used.
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13933
    Not really answering the question, but why not grab a cheap 4-channel mixer so you can at least mic the kick separately and get a stereo pair going?
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 889
    edited January 7
    octatonic said:
    I would use a condenser, but if you are tracking the entire band at once then you will pick up other instruments with it.

    Do you reckon a dynamic would help with that spill at all or will the difference be negligible in a small room? If so I guess I'd benefit more from the "bigger" sound from a condenser. I'm just trying to avoid phasing issues. Guitar will be SM57, bass will DI and vox will come from the PA.

    These are just for rough teasers at the minute. We'll record something more proper with isolated instruments when we can afford to. We just need to get something quick and half decent sounding to send on to the promoter asap.

    @andy_k check out the end of the video - he duplicates the single mic track and blends with mid/side room to balance it out.

    @digitalscream - just money tbh. and I'm a big fan of keeping it as simple as possible.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 21329
    TTBZ said:
    octatonic said:
    I would use a condenser, but if you are tracking the entire band at once then you will pick up other instruments with it.

    Do you reckon a dynamic would help with that spill at all or will the difference be negligible in a small room? If so I guess I'd benefit more from the "bigger" sound from a condenser. I'm just trying to avoid phasing issues. Guitar will be SM57, bass will DI and vox will come from the PA.

    These are just for rough teasers at the minute. We'll record something more proper with isolated instruments when we can afford to. We just need to get something quick and half decent sounding to send on to the promoter asap.

    @andy_k check out the end of the video - he duplicates the single mic track and blends with mid/side room to balance it out.

    @digitalscream - just money tbh. and I'm a big fan of keeping it as simple as possible.
    Yes, a dynamic mic will help with spill but it will introduce a bunch of other problems as well- proximity effect, sensitivity issues.
    Dynamic mics work really well for close mixing individual elements of a drum kit, which is why you see them on kick, snare and toms.
    It is rare to use dynamics as overheads, except as an effect.

    If you are using the H6 why not mount it on a stand over the kit and use the onboard stereo XY mics as overheads?

    I've never heard drums from a single mic that are approaching anything that can be considered 'OK', even if you have a £2k Neumann U87.
    Personally, even when using minimal mic setups I still mic the kick, snare and overheads.
    I often also add a slammed (compressed) mono room mic too.
    The the very least I'd mic the kick and have stereo overheads.

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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    Plenty of people get cool drum sounds from one mic:


    Personally I'd probably go with a dynamic rather than a condenser so as to try to avoid the cymbals dominating everything. Worth experimenting with different placements eg. by the drummer's right knee.

    Why are you worried about picking up spill from the other instruments? If they're all in the same room, spill is part of the deal, and the only way you'll get a good recording is by making that work for you.

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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 889
    @Stuckfast I was thinking more about potential issues with phasing weirdness. Perhaps unnecessarily then. 
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    I wouldn't worry about it with only a couple of mics in play.

    Of course when you have more than one mic picking up the same sources, those mics combine and the sound of the guitar or drums from all the mics is different from how they sound on any one of the mics. Phase issues tend to arise when you have several mics all on the same source, so you sometimes find for instance that the 'chunk' of the snare drum goes missing when you bring up both the snare mic and the overheads. But in your case the sound on each of the individual mics will be so different that 'phase' between them is a pretty nebulous concept in the first place. If they don't sound good together, move them around until they do.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 21329
    Fewer mics reduce phase issues.

    But I disagree that there are 'plenty of people' doing one mic drums.
    Daptone do, although a lot of the time it is two and that is a very specific sound.
    In the professional recording space it is usually a minimum of 4 and for good reason.


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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    True, but this isn't the professional recording space. All I'm saying is that one mic should be able to capture a drum sound that's OK for demo purposes.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 21329
    Sure, but imho having a couple more channels (which the H6 will allow for) will give a much better result.
    Daptone track to tape and somewhat specialise in that sound.
    I don't want to give a false impression that one mic drums will give anything other than a very, very basic level of quality.

    That said, I did something a while back where I copied a one mic drum recording onto three tracks and isolated the kicks and snares with strip silence and then sample replaced them.
    That afforded a much better sound- if the OP wants to entertain that sort of thing then it can work ok.

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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 4359
    edited January 7
    How well a 1-mic drum recording sounds is mostly about what else is going on with the track.

    I mean, sonically it'll sound as good as the player makes the drums in the room sound at the place you put the mic. In isolation, that can be great. Notice that in the video in the OP, the drums only have a bluesy guitar and a voice to co-exist alongside.

    Once there's more going on - multiple guitar tracks, bass etc - then a 1-mic drum recording can be a hindrance as you can't get it to punch through without making it really loud and forward - at which point, if the production doesn't want that from the drums, you start to wish you could pull some more isolation & attack out of the kick & snare at least. And in 90% of cases you'll start to wish you could go back in time and use the cymbals to decapitate the drummer since they're usually way too loud. In a one mic recording, you're stuck with them.
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  • MusicwolfMusicwolf Frets: 238
    Maybe the question should be - how would you go about recording this band with an H6?  In which case we would need to know a bit more about the band / set up etc
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 889
    Musicwolf said:
    Maybe the question should be - how would you go about recording this band with an H6?  In which case we would need to know a bit more about the band / set up etc
    Yeah, maybe I need to find out how to optimise the gear and time I have available..

    In the past I got some recordings I was reasonably happy with just using just an SM57 for the drums but I didn't position it well, and the MD421 video above sounds much better than my isolated drum track.

    As for the band and setup, it's stoner rock with drums, 1 guitar (might layer a 2nd rhythm track afterwards), bass and vox. Ideally want to record it all live and due to the genre I think we can get away with a slightly lo-fi demo.

    Again I'm not looking or expecting to get proper studio level results, but I want it to sound better than just plonking the H6 in the middle of the room and hitting record which sounds like crap. 

    So I have -
    H6 with either XY or MS capsules
    4 XLR inputs and a reasonable selection of standard mics to choose from.
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  • MusicwolfMusicwolf Frets: 238
    I'd experiment with the H6 above the drums, using the built in mics to capture the kit, then use the other 4 mic inputs to capture bass, guitar, vocals and kick drum.  If you are already thinking to overdub guitar then you might consider not recording vocals live (you'll need someone to 'conduct' if you can't manage by counting) and add them later.  That would free up another mic for snare.
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 889
    I'd like to record vocals live as guitars are easier for me to record at home using plugins if necessary. I'm actually thinking maybe just not record guitar live and record all those at home. That'll free up an input so I can use the XY for overhead, kick, snare, bass and vocals.
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    I think it would be pretty hard to fit DI'd guitar into the resulting tracks at the mix, unless maybe you can return to the same space and re-amp it there. In effect what you'll have is quite ambient and washy drums/bass/vocals with really up-front guitars that don't occupy the same sound world. Also, guitar spill onto drum mics often sounds fairly benign, whereas vocal spill onto anything usually sounds shit, as does drum spill onto vocal mics. So if there is one source to leave out at the basic recording stage it'd be the vocals every time, for me.


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  • Mount the H6 on a stand, above the drumkit. As if it was an X/Y overhead pair. Try to use it only for drums. A little bit of bass and guitars is okay, but don't overdo it.

    Use the rest of the inputs however you were going to do so.

    Later on in the mix, use plugins to isolate and trigger kick+snare+toms and mix them in with the original X/Y recording. It'll probably take some extra midi editing work, but it'll sound much better for it. The most important thing will be to make a tempo-map in your DAW that matches your drum recordings.

    The most important thing for a good live drum sound - in my opinion - is a sense of space. A single mono mic is not going to give you that and will put your recordings roughly back in 1952. Which is bad. Again, imo.

    Things like bass and guitars are so easy to track at home now, that your priority should be drums, and depending on the vocals, getting great vocal takes. With great vocal takes and stereo-sounding drums, everything else can be redone and redone until it's right.
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  • Stuckfast said:
    I think it would be pretty hard to fit DI'd guitar into the resulting tracks at the mix

    People do that all the time. Most records you hear these days have at least 2 or 3 room tones all merged together and working cohesively. It'll be fine.

    I'll even go as far to say that "authentic" recordings where everything sits in the same space *tend* to miss the entire artistry of mixing.
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  • Another option is to borrow another Zoom H2 or H6, and record on that separately to expand your input count, and then just sync them in the DAW later against a drum-transient.
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3848
    I've done plenty of recordings with 2 drum mic's but generally I would always prefer 2 overheads and a kick to get anything reasonable. Basically with drums it's all down to how the drummer plays .... if he has a heavy foot on the kick, hit's the snare well and doesn't bash the hell out of the cymbals you have a chance with one or 2 mic's but if it's the other way round all you can do is keep you single mic low down to avoid as much cymbals as poss. Drummers that are good to gig small venues with often are the worse to record with funny enough .... it's a whole different art ... drums are a bunch of tubs and metal but essentially one instrument and it's all about how the drummer can balance the various volumes of the drums before the sound hit's the mic

    Recording live and recording all instruments separately is a different game. The spill picked up in other mics can actually add to the ambience and sense of space .... it can be a pain in the arse if you need to heavily compress the vocals and there's a ton of cymbal spill in the vocal track but spill in guitar mics and others can actually add nicely. Of course spill is a no no if you record to a click and want to move drum hits around and time everything up afterwards  but that's a whole other long trip down a rabbit hole

    Being old and all I can tell you basically in the days of 4 track recording we used to sub mix the drums, bass and guitars done to one stereo track called the backing track and that left you the vocal on it's own track and backing vox .... the solo's would then punch in and out between vocals. 
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    Mount the H6 on a stand, above the drumkit. As if it was an X/Y overhead pair. Try to use it only for drums. A little bit of bass and guitars is okay, but don't overdo it.

    Use the rest of the inputs however you were going to do so.

    Later on in the mix, use plugins to isolate and trigger kick+snare+toms and mix them in with the original X/Y recording. It'll probably take some extra midi editing work, but it'll sound much better for it. The most important thing will be to make a tempo-map in your DAW that matches your drum recordings.

    The most important thing for a good live drum sound - in my opinion - is a sense of space. A single mono mic is not going to give you that and will put your recordings roughly back in 1952. Which is bad. Again, imo.

    Things like bass and guitars are so easy to track at home now, that your priority should be drums, and depending on the vocals, getting great vocal takes. With great vocal takes and stereo-sounding drums, everything else can be redone and redone until it's right.
    You seem really determined to make things as complicated as possible for the OP!

    Yes that would conceivably be a way of making a polished sounding track if you got it right. However, it would

    (a) be made up largely of samples and overdubs, and thus sound not much like the OP's band playing live

    (b) introduce numerous pitfalls into the process

    (c) take forever

    (d) require expertise and possibly equipment that the OP may not have

    (e) suck all the joy out of making and recording music.

    If the OP is after something that sounds like a polished studio demo, he'd be infinitely better advised to book a local studio for the day. He's not. He's after something listenable that represents the live sound of his band, and assuming the band are good and the room sounds all right, it should be feasible to achieve that using a handful of mics in a rehearsal studio -- especially if they can overdub the vocals later.

    I've recorded a lot of bands and my favourite recordings have always been the ones done with all the instruments in the same room.
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    ... in fact, whereabouts in Northants are you, OP? I might be able to help you out if you can get over Thrapston way for a day ...
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  • WiresDreamDisastersWiresDreamDisasters Frets: 1881
    edited January 7
    Stuckfast said:
    Mount the H6 on a stand, above the drumkit. As if it was an X/Y overhead pair. Try to use it only for drums. A little bit of bass and guitars is okay, but don't overdo it.

    Use the rest of the inputs however you were going to do so.

    Later on in the mix, use plugins to isolate and trigger kick+snare+toms and mix them in with the original X/Y recording. It'll probably take some extra midi editing work, but it'll sound much better for it. The most important thing will be to make a tempo-map in your DAW that matches your drum recordings.

    The most important thing for a good live drum sound - in my opinion - is a sense of space. A single mono mic is not going to give you that and will put your recordings roughly back in 1952. Which is bad. Again, imo.

    Things like bass and guitars are so easy to track at home now, that your priority should be drums, and depending on the vocals, getting great vocal takes. With great vocal takes and stereo-sounding drums, everything else can be redone and redone until it's right.
    You seem really determined to make things as complicated as possible for the OP!

    Yes that would conceivably be a way of making a polished sounding track if you got it right. However, it would

    (a) be made up largely of samples and overdubs, and thus sound not much like the OP's band playing live

    (b) introduce numerous pitfalls into the process

    (c) take forever

    (d) require expertise and possibly equipment that the OP may not have

    (e) suck all the joy out of making and recording music.

    If the OP is after something that sounds like a polished studio demo, he'd be infinitely better advised to book a local studio for the day. He's not. He's after something listenable that represents the live sound of his band, and assuming the band are good and the room sounds all right, it should be feasible to achieve that using a handful of mics in a rehearsal studio -- especially if they can overdub the vocals later.

    I've recorded a lot of bands and my favourite recordings have always been the ones done with all the instruments in the same room.
    Each to their own, but you're not the only one with experience in recording bands. Everything I suggested is dead easy in 2019. It's not complicated at all. Teenagers are doing it every single day!

    A: Samples are to augment the live performance. They're not replacing anything. I didn't mention overdubs. OP did in his subsequent posts when he talked about recording guitars at home. What I suggested wouldn't necessarily require any overdubs. It depends. And The idea that it wouldn't sound anything like his band... that's preposterous.

    B - Such as?

    C - No. It would take a couple of extra days. It's really not the earth-shattering amount of work you're suggesting. I've done it many times myself.

    D - Quite possibly. But I see no reason to discount the OP's abilities. Plus he could always get someone else involved to help out.

    E - LOLOLOLOLOL!!! That's funny. Almost like you're trying to suggest there is only one way to make and enjoy making music!

    FWIW, I did suggest borrowing an additional Zoom as an alternative. I'm well aware that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to the art of recording and mixing music.

    But really... in the current year, what I suggested was not as crazy or radical as you suggest. 
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    I'm not saying it's either crazy or radical. I'm saying it's not an answer to the OP's question, which was about how to get a half-decent live recording of his band.

    Unless I'm missing something, everything you say about getting great vocal takes and about tracking bass and guitars at home and doing multiple takes until you get them right pretty much only applies to doing overdubs?
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  • Stuckfast said:


    Unless I'm missing something, everything you say about getting great vocal takes and about tracking bass and guitars at home and doing multiple takes until you get them right pretty much only applies to doing overdubs?
    Which is explicitly in response to what the OP has put in this thread regarding tracking. OP is not exactly consistent with what he is saying he wants to achieve.

    Also, OP is in a stoner rock band. Those bands play LOUD. You guys are downplaying the severity of bleed I think. It's going to be quite severe, especially in a small room, and especially with condenser microphones.

    Another thing to do would be to just use room mics. Put one in each corner of the room, and phase-align and mix them later on, coupled with the X/Y on the Zoom itself, that would give 6 tracks to work with. If you can't get a great mix out of that, then more schooling is needed I'd say.
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 542
    In principle bleed is only a problem to do with relative levels rather than absolute levels. If everyone in band A plays 12dB louder than everyone in band B, in theory you'll get the same relative level of spill onto each mic. Now that's not quite true in practice because playing really loud can do funny things to the room sound, but loudness in itself isn't necessarily a problem for bleed.

    Where loudness can be an issue is in things like overloading the inputs on those handheld recorders, and especially in situations where you're trying to do live vocals over a PA in the same room -- which is why I'd recommend avoiding that if possible.
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 889
    edited January 7
    Stuckfast said:


    Unless I'm missing something, everything you say about getting great vocal takes and about tracking bass and guitars at home and doing multiple takes until you get them right pretty much only applies to doing overdubs?
    Which is explicitly in response to what the OP has put in this thread regarding tracking. OP is not exactly consistent with what he is saying he wants to achieve.
    Sorry about that I've just been getting ideas inspired by ideas in the thread and going off rambling. To make it clear, we just need to record some demos that are a step above using a phone or the zoom mic by itself, but as I have access to the extra mics and have done bits and pieces in the past I may as well try and do the best I can without stressing myself out about it.

    We plan on doing a few proper studio recordings later on down the line, for now this is just a DIY patch to show people what we sound like and give a fair representation of what to expect if foolish enough to come see us live
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  • It's gonna be the mix that makes your demo sound better than a phone or just a stereo recording in a room.

    With Stoner stuff you very often have a busy low-end, so think about what you want the focus to be in the lows. Kick or bass?? If kick... mic the kick. If bass... mic the bass, or take a DI. You wont need to worry too much about the snare I don't think - snare is the one thing that will cut through in a live context. Particularly in a small room.

    X/Y: Drum OH's or general room sound - make a decision on the day as to what sounds the most balanced. Position of the H6 is going to be uber-critical here.
    XLR 1: Kick or bass, depending on what you want to be the focus of the low-end
    XLR 2: Snare - being able to add a bit of snare transient back into the mix will be beneficial
    XLR 3: Vocals - sounds like you're after a "live" vibe, so record the vocals
    XLR 4: Guitar

    That's how I'd tackle it.

    Compression is going to be your friend on the X/Y recording. A bit of tape saturation too.

    Make sure you set your Zoom to record in 24bit WAV. Easy mistake to make.

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