Posted on 09. Mar, 2016 by Daniel Duskin (Record Producer, Mixing & Mastering Engineer) in Recording, Ssh!Part of a series on getting a professional snare without samples during mixing.
If you’re recording your own drums, or recording as a service…
Every part of the snare drum produces sound—including the side shell.
It’s important to know which parts you want to record.
In my humble opinion, you should record all of them with just 2 microphones for the biggest sound you can get without phase issues.
This is surprisingly easy to obtain, and I’ll tell you how to do it so you can sound like a master!
If you can make the room dark, take a flashlight and move it around your snare—like a virtual cardioid microphone. You can see pretty well which parts of the drum will be picked up with this method.
The further away you move the flashlight from the snare, the more surface area it will illuminate. The closer you move the flashlight to the drum, the more focused the light becomes.
The more surface area of the snare that is picked up by the microphone, the bigger the snare will sound.
Keep in mind, placing the mic closer has the benefit of added proximity effect (increased low-end energy). At the same time, close mic positions will limit the sound recorded to a very small area, resulting in a very narrow sonic image.
With this knowledge, you can see the benefit of moving the microphone further away so that it picks up more surface area of the snare.
However, this can present bleed problems unless you know how to apply this knowledge.
The mic position that gives a great sound almost every time!
Once you learn it you’ll recognize it from here on out.
So how can you get all of the benefits of picking up more surface area of the snare without the costs of bleed?
Simple! Move the microphone so the capsule is just off the rim of the drum, less than 1 inch out to the side, and less that 1 inch above the top, facing in at a sharp angle.
This technique has all the benefits of proximity effect, and all the benefits of picking up more of the drum for the largest sound possible.
That might be a little bit difficult to visualize and understand, so I’ll illustrate it with the flashlight.
With the light source less than 1 inch off the rim, find a good angle that shoots a beam of light across the top of the head, and down the side of the shell fairly evenly, while brightly illuminating the rim.
The sound emitting from the side shell is a vital part of the sound!
If it wasn’t vital, shells made of different materials wouldn’t help define the sound—in fact they do help define the sound a great deal.
The side shell is what you’re audience hears the most, and it’s where much of the “open” sound of your snare is emitted—don’t neglect it.
If you place your microphone in this position, the microphone will be able to pick up the sound of the top head, the rim and shell all simultaneously, for a much larger sound.
Now let’s optimize the angle for more attack. Start with the microphone angled in the position described above. Then, just-ever-so-slightly angle it more across the top head so the microphone is a tad more on its side—pointing at the middle of the drum head (right where the tip of the drum stick strikes the center of the drum). This will prioritize a bit more focus to where the drum is struck with the drum stick. But, do not angle it so much that you’re not picking up much (or worse:’any’) of the side shell.
You can utilize the flashlight technique to find an optimal distance. To do this, turn off the room lights, and try moving the flashlight closer and further away from the snare in different locations. The goal is to figure out just how far away you can get, still have significant focus on the drum, and still brightly illuminating a great deal of the total snare drum. You should hardly be illuminating any of the other drums located around the the snare drum.
The most common mic position mistake I see repeated often is placing the microphone quite a bit over the top head.
Trust Your Ears
Ultimately, once the microphone is in place, you will want to make your decision based on what sounds best and forget what the flashlight illuminated—that’s just a good guide to get started, and it usually ends up being the best place to put the microphone to boot!
The Bottom Mic
Finally, place a microphone under the snare to pick up some of that strainer buzz. Whether you use that mic in the mix or not is up to you and your preference, but it’s safer to record the bottom of the snare one way or another.
The great thing about using this two microphone technique—full / broad top & side mic position, plus additionally the miking bottom—is that you are literally hearing almost ALL of the snare drum. That is a great feat with great sonic benefits indeed!