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How can I get my drums to sound bigger? With audio!

A post by David Mellor
Monday February 13, 2006
A trainee engineer with an excellent selection of mics to work with wants to know how to get a bigger sound from acoustic drums. Listen to the audio examples and give your advice.
How can I get my drums to sound bigger? With audio!

Message from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

Hello, David!

Recently I realized that drums sound in most records I've listened to is based on the distance - or I should say 'room' - tracks. No way to get sound like this from FXed close miked drums.

This is the track that I have been inspired by, from Production Mixing Mastering with Waves

Now that I am hands-on training, I've tried to verify my suppositions. The photo shows the mic position. The room mic is Neumann SM 69.

Audio example of the Neumann SM 69 used as a room mic...

I also tried the AKG C24 as an overhead mic. I like this one; it is close to the acoustic sound in my opinion.

Audio example of the AKG C24 used as an overhead mic...

I have tried to move it from the drums and turn it to a reflective surface, but it doesn't sound close to the example. It's not too bad, but I want it to sound much bigger. Is this just a question of room acoustics? Do I need a 100 square meter live room, or can I use my room track as an FX send for a big room preset.

I can try two AKG C12's spaced apart, but the question is how to achieve the feeling of being in front of the drum set, four to five meters away. That is the question.

Any ideas?

Thank you,
Artem Amatuni

David Mellor responds...

In general, closer is bigger. So miking individual drums with close mics is definitely the way to go.

These should be dynamic mics because they achieve a subjectively bigger sound in this application than most capacitor mics. Although having said that, I have heard good drum recordings made with Neumann U87's as the close mikes (if you don't mind them getting hit occasionally!).

But you probably want to get an even bigger sound, and this is where the overheads and/or room mics come in, in addition to the close mics.

You'll need overheads to capture the cymbals as they do not respond well to close miking. I recommend that you use spaced overheads, rather than the AKG C24, which is a coincident stereo mic. Spaced overheads give a better feeling of being in the room.

If you want to use a room mic too, then you will need a good room. Small rooms are always difficult to work with. In fact I would say that the smaller the room, the greater the skill of the engineer needs to be.

I'd love to hear comments and advice from other Audio Masterclass visitors to help Artem achieve the big sound he desires.

A post by David Mellor
Monday February 13, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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