Recording drums with only two mics, is that even possible.
The answer is yes and in this article I’ll describe a few setups which will work great with just two microphones.
In the video below which is made possbile by DistroKid, I’ll show the setups as well, including before and after processing examples.
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Why would you record drums with 2 mics?
Well, nowadays there are a lot of interfaces with only two inputs. Even the inputs on laptops and phone are stereo in, so they are 2 channel interfaces as well.
Besides that, recording with 2 mics has been done already for a long time, for instance on the early rolling stones and beatles albums
And most importantly, using 2 mics on drums absolutely has a sound to it which you might crave.
So if you want to record drums with two mics, how would you do that.
First thing to keep in mind is that the sound of the room you record in will be an even larger influence than normal with close mic drum recording.
For instance: Live sounding rooms will give different results than very controlled sound rooms.
Technique number one I will show is most fail safe.
You need one mic directly above the snare pointing down and have the second microphone in the bassdrum or close in front of it.
This will give some control in balancing the bassdrum with the rest of the music, and also will give a focused sound for the kick which is nice to have.
The closer the top mic is to the snare, the more direct the sanre sound. Of course, this also means the rest of the drumkit will be less in foucs. So try to find a balance between focus and overall sound.
This applies to any of the techniques described here in this article.
The second technique is the so called Glyn Johns technique.
This is basically the same microphone over the snaredrum, pointing straight down at the center.
A second microphone is placed to the side of the floortom which points also to the center of the snaredrum.
Make sure the distance of the two mics to the center of the snare is exactly the same to the snare to keep phase coherency.
Use a tapemeasure for that or simply use a microphone cable where you hold one end to the mic.
Put your finger where the snare is with the cable and use that to measure the second mic.
Now a variation of this technique is the one Eric Valentine uses and that technique is to place the second mic more behind the floortom to the back of the drumkit, while keeping the same distance.
The third way I like to use two mics is by using one microphone just over the shoulder of the drummer pointing to the kit and the other one in front of the kit, angled slightly above the kick towards the snare again with a similar distance.
The mic in front of the kick can also be replaced with a mic inside the kick or close in front of it, just as with the first technique I showed.
Now you can also do more more roomy type of recordings with two microphones.
You can use an XY setup to have the most natural sound
Or a you can use a wide A/B kind of set up.
These last few techniques sound more roomy for sure and are also pretty standard for drum room recording techniques.
With these setups and also with the closer mic there are things to be aware of when you decide to record drums.
First: have a clear idea of your entire mix will sound.
Recording with two mics will not give you much flexibility during mixing, you cannot go easily from very roomy to very close for instance.
Drums recorded in this way will sound less direct then a close mic recording, placing the drums more at the back of the sound field. This is a great way to create depth.
Another thing to know one is that having a drummer who plays very balanced will absolutely be of benefit for a good recording.
This is because having just two mics doesn’t allow for much playing around with balances in the mix.
Also try out different types of microphones.
A good condenser will sound more hifi but don’t rule out ribbons or dynamic microphones
The placement of mics I have shown are proven methods, this doesn’t mean these are the only recording techniques by any means. If you have a cool setup, let me know in the comments.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Every room, drumkit and drummer is different.