Snare bottom micing

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bigtexasthriller
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Snare bottom micing

Post by bigtexasthriller » Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:43 pm

I tend to use 6 mics on drums.....last record I used 57 top of snare, beta 58 on kick, nueman 183 and an 80's oktava ml 19 for room (Oktava usually overhead behind the kit, on the hat side, 183 in front maybe 12 feet away), 421 on the floor tom and an akg d1000 (like a 57) on the snare bottom......That's been pretty standard for me and I get great results on everything execpt under the snare....I've tried other mics too...pro 37, 57....I like the extra ooomph of having the bottom miced, but my results have sounding like cellophane, and I know I could get even better sounds overall if I got that one dialed in.....Any suggestions? Thanks.....
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Post by cgarges » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:16 pm

Have you experimented with the polarity positions of the mics, both in relation to each other and then in relation to the rest of the drumkit? A thin sound is often a symptom of poor phase relationships.

Given proper phase relationships, here's my general take on bottom snare mics:

Snare wires create a buzzy, bright, thickness. They don't accentuate the attack. They'll make a drum louder and brighter, but they don't actually increase the attack sound. (I mean acoustically, not in a purely electronic recording scenario.) To me, that attack sound comes from the stick making contact with the head. In fact, in the situation where a bottom mic is used in conjunction with a top mic, making the bottom mic equal in volume to the top mic will actually decrease the attack sound because the peaky high frequencies caused by the sound of the stick hitting and starting to excite the top head are masked by the fizzy, buzzy, high frequency noise of the snare wires.

So, when I use a bottom mic on the snare, I don't use it to get brightness or attack. I use it for two primary reasons (Well, one primary reason: that I like the way it sounds, but two secondary reasons would be): One, to get depth out of the sound of the drum. For some reason, many times snare drums miked top and bottom sound much larger and more real to my ears, much like top and bottom-miked toms or using two mics on a speaker. Two, snare wires against the bottom head don't have nearly the dynamic range that the top head does, so when a drummer is really killing it, the snares aren't THAT much louder than when he's playing at a quieter volume level. So, for that reason, I'll use the bottom mic to balance the sound of the drum out a little more and again, it just sounds more like a real snare drum to me.

So, in the case of using the bottom mic to get depth and not extra brightness out of the drum, I like big, meaty-sounding, kind of dumb mics. The Sennheiser 421 is perfect for this. I also like the Beyer M201 and Audix D4 for this and recently, I tried a Sennheiser e609, which also worked well. I generally don't prefer a brighter mic underneath because it gives me too much "snapiness" and makes the high frequency sound fuzzy and tinny. If I really need detail or sensitivity from a bottom snare mic, the Shure KSM141 is a good choice.

Now granted, having too much of the bottom mic (in terms of volume) can lead to the same "attack masking" kind of thing I mentioned earlier. So, silly as it sounds, I usually only like a little bit of the bottom mic there, but to me, it can add a lot. I mean, it can be really cool to get the mushy, buzzy, Jack Joseph Puig snare drum sound sometimes, but it's not something I usually gravitate towards on every session.

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Post by bigtexasthriller » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:39 pm

Thanks man.....You described what I like about the bottom mic better than I did....the depth is what I love about it....I mix it fairly low in the track as well.....When I take it out though, somethings missing.....Both the phasing and using a darker sounding mic like the 421 are great ideas.....I almost always make sure I'm following the 3 to 1 phase rule, but might not have thought of it while micing from the top and bottom......So, I shouldn't hear so much attack on the bottom anyway? That was part of what I thought was the problem.....no punch and a lot of fizz when I solo the track.....
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Post by cgarges » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:47 pm

3:1 rule has nothing to do with top and bottom miking a snare drum. There are generally opposing polarity signals headed for both mics, since the top head is moving away from the top mic and the bottom head os moving towards the bottom mic with the initial strike. There are other factors that can further affect the phase relationship (the snare sound being brighter with less attack, the distance between the top and bottom mics, etc.), but most of the time, you get a thicker, more phase-coherent snare sound by flipping the polarity of one of the mics. Not always, but usually.

Once you get the top and bottom snare mics in phase with each other, you'll want the snare drum as a whole in phase with the rest of the kit, so when auditioning phase positions with your drumkit mics (you do do that, right?), you'll want to maintain the polarity positions of both snare mics relative to each other. In other words, be sure to flip both the top and bottom together (whether they're in the same polarity or opposing polarity) when listening to them against the rest of the kit.

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Post by cgarges » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:56 pm

bigtexasthriller wrote:So, I shouldn't hear so much attack on the bottom anyway?
Nope. Any attack that you'd get from a mic that's between six and twelve inches away from a drumhead and further masked by several layers of plastic is gonna be further masked by the sound of the closer and relatively louder snare wires buzzing away. There's virtually no attack sound at the bottom of a snare drum.
bigtexasthriller wrote:That was part of what I thought was the problem.....no punch and a lot of fizz when I solo the track.....
Well, it doesn't so much matter what it sounds like soloed unless you're just using a bottom snare mic for all of your drumkit sound. Just so long as it gives you what you want in context. That means making sure that it's not getting in the way of the stuff you like better and that it's adding to the overall sound. Sometimes, the stuff that sounds terrible soloed is absolutely perfect for fitting just right into the context of the whole.

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Post by bigtexasthriller » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:03 am

That's killer info because I never counted on having any phase issues since the kick and tom mics were close miced, and the room mics were a good distance away...I never thought of the different sounds being out of phase against each other......I'll try flipping the phase on the snares in mixdown on what I've already tracked, and check phasing when tracking....thanks a lot Chris.....
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Post by cgarges » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:20 am

Sure thing.

Phase is everything when you're recording a drumkit. A drumkit is essentially one really large source and when you've got several microphones on one source, there's lots of potential for phase weirdness. Flip the polarity on every single mic on the kit and see if things get better or worse. Do it before you start equalizing anything. It takes a couple of seconds to do and can save you hours of hassle on the long run. There's a bunch of threads on it around here with lots of good information. Definitely worth browsing the archives.

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Post by joel hamilton » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:39 am

cgarges wrote: Phase is everything when you're recording a drumkit.

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Post by chris harris » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:41 am

See, that's the problem with people throwing around "rules" that they don't even really understand, like the 3 to 1 "rule". It causes people to think that if they bust out the tape measure, then they are ok. The reality is, you can adhere to the 3 to 1 "rule" and still have phase weirdness. YOU HAVE GOT TO USE YOUR EARS TO LISTEN FOR PHASE PROBLEMS. There is no secret "rule" or magic trick to get around listening for phasing.

Good luck! Once you start to HEAR how phase relationships affect your overall drum sound, you'll be very happy.

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Post by joel hamilton » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:46 am

subatomic pieces wrote:See, that's the problem with people throwing around "rules" that they don't even really understand, like the 3 to 1 "rule". It causes people to think that if they bust out the tape measure, then they are ok. The reality is, you can adhere to the 3 to 1 "rule" and still have phase weirdness. YOU HAVE GOT TO USE YOUR EARS TO LISTEN FOR PHASE PROBLEMS. There is no secret "rule" or magic trick to get around listening for phasing.

Good luck! Once you start to HEAR how phase relationships affect your overall drum sound, you'll be very happy.
Also truth.
Read the above post twice.

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Post by farview » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:17 am

Don't point the mic directly at the strainer and try match the angle and distance of the bottom mic to that of the top mic.

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Post by cgarges » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:54 am

farview wrote:Don't point the mic directly at the strainer
The strainer is the switch that flips the snare wires up and down.
farview wrote:and try match the angle and distance of the bottom mic to that of the top mic.
I find that often times if I "match" the angle of mics on the top and bottom (and make the angles the same), I can get weird phase issues. I tend to get fairly consistent results (mostly "in" or mostly "out") if I put the top and bottom mics at 90 degree angles to themselves. In this instance, the angle of the top mic is much more critical to the resulting sound, so I'll position the top mic where I want it, then make sure that the bottom mic is relatively perpendicular to the top mic.

As far as matching distance, I almost never make a constant effort to do that, There are too many other factors involved. Most of the time, I choose the top mic distance based on they type of attack and "thickness" that I want from the fundamental ("basic," not necessarily the fundamental pitch) sound of the drum and what else may be located in the vicinity (hi hat, toms, etc). Then, I'll position the bottom mic relative to the tension and sound of the snare wires and I'll usually at least take the location and volume of the bass drum into consideration, even though it's rarely much of an issue.

That's what works for me.

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Post by farview » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:23 am

cgarges wrote:
farview wrote:Don't point the mic directly at the strainer
The strainer is the switch that flips the snare wires up and down.
The switch that flips the wires up and down is called the throw-off. Yes I meant the wires.

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Post by cgarges » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:47 am

farview wrote:The switch that flips the wires up and down is called the throw-off.
It's also called the strainer. The strainer is the switch, not the wires.

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Post by losthighway » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:43 pm

Would it be too off topic to expand this informative discussion to the relative merits and phase issues of adding a second mic to the side, or on top?

If not, I'll say that sometimes adding a mic pointed to the side of the snare in addition to the existing top mic, has often given me the most "real" sounding snare. The phase issues also seem less treacherous. Though, the hi hat can come into play in a bad way sometimes.

I'm pretty addicted to double micing the top with a dynamic and a condenser. It provides a very meaty "thwack".

What do you guys think?

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