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  • Kick drum mic placement?

    I'm hoping to field some tips, tricks, or method behind the madness of somehow determining "likely best kick drum mic placement"... besides trial and error... and going with that's seemingly worked best in the past. An experience from last Friday's performance suggests I still have much to learn on this subject... much of which I suspect could be best served by accumulating a deep understanding and ability to tune drums and somehow developing the social chops as to be afforded the possibility to do so (if there's a serious reason to consider doing so) on somebody else's drums and all that goes with that... (sigh)
    I need to catch up with those guys, for I am their leader.

  • #2
    Well if it was anyone else on this forum I might chime in with my thoughts but somehow I doubt you need help on this. You know the drill: drum tuning, decent mic, placed in 2-3 places usually gets good results. Of course the pa has to be up to par for the room.
    <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.rock-bot.com" target="_blank">www.rock-bot.com</a><br />
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    • #3
      Gotta agree with Unalaska. But I have caught myself trying to make a kick drum (and other drums) sound like how I think it should sound rather than what it actually sounds like. That's me being lazy. And when I can't dig something sonically out of it that I think is missing, because it's not there, I take a few moments and go listen to the kit on the stage. Then I try to recreate that sound out front. Whether it sounds the way it does intentionally or because the drummer doesn't know how to tune his own drums is kind of irrelevant at that point, I've got a show to do and an impromptu drum clinic is usually not in the cards.
      I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch.

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      • #4
        My personal preference .....

        First damp the bejesus out of the kick with damping material inside the drum to keep the ring down as much as possible. Ensure the kick is using a hard beater, not cloth.

        Place the microphone inside the drum through the vent hole. Place the microphone 4" from the inside skin about 4" off to the side of the beater.

        Be sure to gate the kick. I prefer a gate that has a filter on it so you can set the gate to the frequency of the kick so it isn't going off when the snare is hit. I like the attack pretty fast, but not so fast as to get clicking gates on cheaper gates.

        Eq bump at ~2K to get the beater slap.
        With Greater Knowledge Comes Greater Understanding

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        • #5
          Starting with a great sounding kick drum is the very start.
          Just stuffing a bass drum full of fill is not the answer.
          Listen to the kick drum first. Does is sound like ...........crap?
          Thats the start.

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          • #6
            You can't change the kick sound acoustically. Tuning is the only thing you can do to really alter the sound.
            <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.rock-bot.com" target="_blank">www.rock-bot.com</a><br />
            Live-Band-Karaoke<br />
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            bassist and sound reinforcement</div>

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            • #7
              A little background on kick drums. In the beginning (or pre 60's), bass drums were thin shelled and used thick heads (calf skin if you go far enough back). The problem was that on the road these shells got warped, lost their bearing edge and generally died an early death. With the materials technology and manufacturing techniques of the time, drum companies started making thick shelled drums (to hold up OTR) and started using thinner heads to get the resonance which was lost. Newer technology (since the 90s or so) has allowed excellent thin shells that live well, so the use of thicker heads are back in fashion.

              I guess it depends (sorry I had to say that) on what type of drum you're micing and of course what kind of sound you want to get. FWIW, I've found that bigger drums are easier to tune than smaller ones. Unless you're willing to supply a different head (wow would this require some super diplomacy) you usually are stuck with a narrow range of choices when it comes to tuning (referring to kick drums). Placement, muffling & EQing are pretty much all you can do (unless the drum is WAY out of tune). A good drum will usually sound good and a bad one is nearly impossible to make right. At least that's my experience. I just put a new head on my kick drum (the square plastic/felt beater had turned 45 degrees and pounded a hole through it - another drummer was playing it at the time :-(. I just put the head on it and ballparked the tuning and it sounded great (because it's a good sounding drum).

              There's lots of theories on tuning drums. I prefer to have the resonance head (bottom or front) a little higher than the beater head (it gives you that high to low decay sound (strangely you hear the bottom head first and then the top later (ms later))), but other methods are certainly valid. One hint is to grab a stick and put your finger lightly in the exact middle of the head (to dampen all of the over tones) and lightly thump a few inches inside each lug (distance from the rim is critical as well). By listening to the pitch, this will at least get you to a consistent tension all round the head (the finger in the middle helps a lot knowing whether it's the north or south - east or west.....lug which is too tight or loose. A few drum companies make odd numbers of lugs to minimize this effect (a great idea I think). Beyond that a given size drum will only tune well within a defined range. Basically you'll know when you got it right when the dissonant "beat" frequencies go away (it now sounds musical). Once that is done, muffle to get rid of peak resonances if they are too annoying.

              I don't claim to be an expert but that's my method anyhow.

              Hope it helps.
              Last edited by Dogoth; 06-02-2014, 03:38 AM.
              J.R. Previously jrble

              See my Dog Of The Hair studio at: http://www.dogoth.com/studio/

              Quote from someone: Flat response? Get out the jack and change the tire.
              If you think "power is knowledge", you have it backwards.

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              • #8
                You'll sooner get a pig to sing than a drummer to change anything. Basically you play the hand dealt to you, so I agree with the advice to listen carefully to the sound of the drum, and then work with what you hear. This makes things easier, not more difficult, IMHO.
                .....

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                • #9
                  When I mic my sons DW bass drum we only have a very small custion in the bottom and sit a beta 91 on it. Nothing touching the skin.drum sounds good without micing so easy with one.
                  Last edited by mkfs9; 06-02-2014, 10:18 AM.
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                  • #10

                    Originally posted by Craig Vecchione View Post
                    You'll sooner get a pig to sing than a drummer to change anything. Basically you play the hand dealt to you, so I agree with the advice to listen carefully to the sound of the drum, and then work with what you hear. This makes things easier, not more difficult, IMHO.
                    Per exactly. I think one would sooner get a guitarist to allow you to set his knobs than a drummer let you tune his drums or anything of the sort.

                    Hence: How to deal with the hand dealt?

                    Let's assume the worst of possible hands... or what's seemingly common rather than what's ideal (maybe they're one in the same).

                    Kind of like the PBS cooking shows vs. reality cooking. Sure, to do it right, start with a pound of really fresh jumbo shrimp, and a 1/4 pound of butter, a nice bunch of Shiitake mushrooms, some fresh picked shallots and some fresh black Italian summer truffles, heat a non-stick "Iron clad" skillet to medium heat on your commercial grade gas stove... sprinkle a little extra virgin olive oil on the shallots.... etc... Ok... so what's for dinner? Let's see... here's some ramen noodles, a can of pork & beans and a brick of cheese that's starting to mold... and some left-over hamburger patties in a Tupperware tomb... and the microwave is on the fritz... and I'm really tired and broke till payday.

                    So what is a common hand dealt concerning micing up drums?

                    Or maybe if one had really deep knowledge and an understanding of drum tuning and if that all knowing halo around your head was "self evident"... getting to the foundation of the matter would be possible. I remember a number of years ago I was playing in a band with a guitarist who had the worst of guitar sound. He was technically a pretty good player... although a recent graduate from a couch acoustic player to a electric guitarist performing on stage, playing a Les Paul Custom through a Fender Princeton (as I recall) but his guitar sound was awful. After a couple of gigs I confronted him about his guitar sound... he was super defensive... threw a total hissy fit... said "look, I'm playing on some of the best gear money can buy... so what do you mean that my guitar sounds awful?" And then he pulled out the owner's manual for the Princeton... which he had tucked in the back of the amp... and showed me right in owner's manual where it was recommended to set the knobs for his desired style of playing... and then he went to show me that he had all the knobs set just as the manual recommended... which he did... except (as I recall)... he was reading the chart/drawing upside down or something like that. "No, no, no... the volume knob is over here, not over there... see this knob is labeled "volume"... that one over there is labeled "intensity". So how about we go with the manual's suggestion and set the knobs as suggested and just see how it sounds, ok?" "sure.... OH!... WOW.... um... thanks... wow... that does sound a lot better. Now that you mention it, I was pretty frustrated with the sound, but I thought I was doing everything right."
                    I need to catch up with those guys, for I am their leader.

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                    • #11
                      It kills me that manufacturers put recommended settings in their manuals. When did folks get so lazy and just stop listening?

                      Per everyone's comments... a good drum sound starts with good drums tuned properly. That said, micing someone else's kit is tricky (that social skills piece you mentioned). Typically, I use one of the standard kick mics mentioned and a solid mini-boom stand and stick the mic inside the drum per OneEng's placement guidelines and call it good.

                      If I know the drummer, work with them regularly, and they're shopping for kick mics or a drum mic kit and we can work together to find what works for them that usually is best. If it's a kit with a single kick drum, I typically recommend one of the Audix kits with the D6 and then the addition of a Shure Beta 91A suspended inside on top of the pillow. That combo on a kick drum is definitely worth the extra mic channel on the kick. I often get that WTF look from drummers I work with for the first time when they see me micing up their kick drum with that combo... until they hear it.
                      Where the Mississippi River runs west...

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                      • #12
                        The idea of tuning someone's drums for them I guess would depend on the situation. I often see drummers who work with sound guys to fix their sound. This however is almost always done when there is a close relationship between them (For instance he's the B.E. or a hired gun to work with the band). When you're the house or outside contracted sound tech, it's a little less common. I've even done this myself by asking the drummer if he could tune something a bit to get a better sound for FOH. I would think that most decent players want to sound good out front and will tweak a little to satisfy the FOH's wishes (I know I would if I was the artist). On a national level, about half of the shows I do use a rental kit (often with new heads) and MUST be tuned. This is variously done by the drummer, a drum tech, or the engineer. As a drummer, I'll do as asked by the engineer (as long as it's not something ridiculously out of left field). Hmmm different approaches I guess.
                        J.R. Previously jrble

                        See my Dog Of The Hair studio at: http://www.dogoth.com/studio/

                        Quote from someone: Flat response? Get out the jack and change the tire.
                        If you think "power is knowledge", you have it backwards.

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                        • #13
                          if the drummer is clueless, and yet knows it all, you can only do a few things to make it better. If the player's dynamics are all over, you really cannot settle on a sound..

                          How does the drum sound acoustically? Decent? Then it's all mostly "free" fixes; mic choice, mic placement. adjusting acoustic stuff packed in the drum, channel settings, compression, gating, system tuning. Wow, that's a lot of stuff actually. If your system is out of whack, you'll struggle.

                          My methods:
                          I can generally tell how the kick's going to work after about 3 strikes during setup. So, i choose a mic, place it and go to work on the board. My first attack is the scalpel out what sucks from the tone...always subtractive first. Sometimes that leaves what you may have wanted to boost not needing anything. I HPF up a ways, sometimes further up than other engineers. Depending on the player, i'll crank up some compression. it's always inserted it but decide how much depending on how steady or squirrel'y the player is. After the band plays, then I decide how the kick/bass guitar relationship is working, whether I need to boost some attack. based on that, a gate may be needed if the boost is extreme and jacking up the cymbals sound.

                          What rarely works for me:
                          Bed Bath and Beyond stuffed into the drum.
                          No damping whatsoever.

                          I prefer a felt beater. unless bed bath and beyond is stuffed into the shell and refuses to leave.. .
                          I can work with almost any kick drum mic but some just mate with a drum better. currently it's the Heil PR40 that gets chosen first.

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                          • #14
                            ... that's a mic I need to add to my locker... for kick and/or bass guitar. Great sound!
                            Where the Mississippi River runs west...

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                            • #15
                              best bass guitar amp mic i've ever used

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