As you build up your recording rig and decide one day that you’d like to multitrack drums, you’re going to need some more microphones. So what do you do? You hit up Sweetwater or Musicians Friend looking for an affordable drum microphone bundle. You’ll get all the drum mics you need a great price. But is this the smartest move?
Via Derek K. Miller Flickr
Building A Well Rounded Mic Locker
A few years ago I might have said, sure get the drum mic bundle. It’s fast, easy, and usually a good bargain for the number of mics you’re getting. But now if you were to ask me, I’d tell you to hold off. What you should want more than just some mics for drums is a well rounded mic locker. A collection of mics that will work great on a variety of sources.
Let’s face it, with a lot of these bundles, you’re getting good dynamic mics that clip on your toms and snare, a dedicated kick mic, and some condensers for overheads. That might work great for drums, but there’s not much you can do with 80% of those mics when it comes to recording guitars, vocals, piano, etc. You’ve just spent money on a very specific set of tools, which is fine, but not if there’s a better way.
Start Small And Build Strategically
In my opinion (whatever that’s worth to you) I’d recommend you start by spending that same amount of money on a couple of all around solid mics and build from there. First step would be a nice pair of condensers. Either small or large diaphragm, just get a pair and start there. You can use these for the great two mic recorderman technique right away and then down the road they can be your go-to overhead mics. But get this: now you have a great stereo mic setup for anything! Acoustic guitars, piano, choirs, you name it, you can now track them all in stereo.
Also, you probably already have a large diaphragm condenser for your vocals. Why not use that as your kick drum mic? Put it just outside the resonant head and experiment with placement. You can get a great punchy and fat kick drum sound. I do this all the time. Also, if you pick up something in-expensive like a Shure SM57 you can let it double as your guitar amp mic and your close snare mic. Nice!
Don’t Assume You Need A Lot Of Mics
It’s also important to remember that even when you want to multitrack drums you don’t need a lot of mics. In fact there some good reasons to make the case for recording with fewer mics. Learn to get a great drum sound with only one mic, your initial condenser mic that you’re currently using for vocals. Then add one or two mics to your collection that help you get the sound you’re after. But only buy what you think you’ll actually need. There are no rules about having to use at least 8 mics on the drum kit, despite what you see in major recording magazines.
The Flip Side: Live Sound
And just in case you were thinking the same thing I was, these drum mic bundles can actually be the perfect thing for an affordable live drum mic setup. The clip on tom and snare mics ensure fewer bulky mic stands on stage and they just make everything easier. My band at church actually uses a drum bundle for our Sunday services and it works great. It all just depends on what you need the mics for, and again only you can decide what’s right for you.