Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

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Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Derrick » Fri Nov 28, 2003 9:22 am

I'm self taught and have a question on weather phase is a problem whenever any two or more mics are "facing each other"? I ask because I've been reading many posts on this board about drum micing methods like close with individual mics, the 2 mic method, the 3 mic method, etc. Many suggest trying a mic in front and a mic in back. Would you need to be concerned of this and reverse phase on one mic?
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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Electricide » Fri Nov 28, 2003 9:41 am

yes. A mic on the top side of a snare and one on the bottom head are technically facing each other. At the moment of impact, the top head pulls air away from the capsule, while the bottom head pushes it towards the bottom capsule. Phase differences can occur between any two mics. What saves you from headaches in the "three mic setup" is the distance. ideally, if two mics are present for a sound source, mic #2 should be three times further from the sound source as mic# 1 is from the sound source. So, micing a cowbell player? If one mic's at 6 inches, the other should be at least 18 inches from the source. NOT 18 inches away form the first mic, away from the source. This introduces enough distance so that when the soundwave reaches the second mic, enough time has passed to hear that impulse as distinct (echo) instead of a slightly shifted version of the signal going to the first mic.

All very long winded, sorry.

Anyway, anything in the middle of the kit will be tricky. If the distance from the snare to any two mics is close, there may be a problem. Solo up one mic, hit the snare over and over, and bring in the second solo'd mic. Then flip the polarity of one. Any better? A good trick is, if it's worse, make it as bad as possible...see if you can get the signal to cancel. THEN flip polarity, and it will be killin'.

However, flipping polarity might fix a snare phase issue, but introduce a kick drum phase issue.

Ahh, all very complicated.

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Derrick » Fri Nov 28, 2003 11:22 am

Thanks Cman! I believe that answers my question exactly. So if I have this correct, phase seems to become an issue only when close enough in proximity to another mic picking up the same direct source (even if it's just bleed through). Cool. So I can be more confident in trying more drum micing techniques.
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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Electricide » Fri Nov 28, 2003 12:24 pm

yeah, x/y setup can sound pretty narrow, but it's golden in live situations and for quick setups because there is no phase issue...the capsules are in line, and thus any sound reaches the capsules at the same time. The rejection from the cardioid pattern helps distinguish L/R.

If you have an Overhead pair, I'd say get them sounding good first, so they are not fighting with each other over certain frequencies. Space them out, point them in, or bring them in and turn them out. Sometimes two inches makes a huge difference. Switch back and forth between monitoring in stereo and mono. that will combine the signals and you can hear what frequencies are cancelling. THEN add your kick mic to see if it gets drained from the kick bleed in the overheads. If so, flip it. Between things that are close mic'd, like a kick and snare or two sax players in the same room, phase issues don't appear all that often. Between two overheads, or the overheads and the snare is where the problem usually hits.

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by bniesz » Fri Nov 28, 2003 2:00 pm

so then happens if you decide to nudge OHs or room mics to try to line up transients better?

I wouldn't usually try this, but am considering it on the latest recoding I've done to get a snapier, more upfront sound, esp. out of the snare.

I can only imagine the phase issues I might encounter.

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by rhythm ranch » Fri Nov 28, 2003 2:35 pm

Mics can be out of phase whether they are facing each other or not. Out of phase is a function of the same signal reaching different mics at different times and then combining those signals. The slight time differences cause comb filtering and that "phased" or hollow sound.

For some interesting drum mic'ing info see below.

Check out Glyn John's drum mic set up courtesy of Dan Alexander's site.

Check out Fletcher's 3 mic drum technique courtesy of Fletcher and Mercenary's site.

And here's a pretty lengthy post from recorderman that I copied from RO:


Here's my trick. It's fast and it works perfect every time.

1. Place the "Left" overhead mic directly over the center of the snare at the height of two drumsticks held end-to-end (from the center of the snare, straight up, to the capsule of the mic).

2. Next, take the drum sticks (still held end-to-end) from the center of the snare over to above your (i.e." the drummers") right shoulder and place your "right" overhead mic here.

3. Fine tune the placement by using a mic cable and measuring the distance from the center of the Kick to each of these mics is also equidistant from the kick and snare.

4. Listen with headphones and have the drummer lightly hit his kick drum, and adjust the "right" mics angle until the kick is in the middle of your "image".

What this has done is:

1. Place the snare & the kick in the center when you pan these mics hard left and right.

2. Place the overheads in a position that is in-phase with the kick, snare and overheads.

3. Balanced the overheads so that the Rack and floor Toms (as well as all cymbals) are correctly balanced.

This is actually a great "picture" of the kit at this point. You might need to add a hair of top end (depending on what mics your using) and a little this, and a Kick mic. BUT whatever you add (snare mics, toms, etc) you'll now be in phase. This also makes your snare & toms louder in relation to the cymbals & is more of a true OH mic set-up (Not just "cymbal" mics)
It may look weird but try it...it truly ROCKS.

The last time I did this (last week) I angled both of the mics towards the snare; then moving the right shoulder mic (with headphones on) until I got the kick in the center of my "image". I've had equal success by aiming them at the Rack and Floor toms. For me it's a question of getting the kick and snare right. After that everything else seems to fall into place. With all the variations in cymbals and their placement - not to mention their ability at being heard - I really don?t worry about them. This technique takes a well balanced stereo "image" that puts the snare and kick in the center, places the Rack and Floor in balance, keeps the phase right, AND puts the cymbals in the way I like for free. Besides if the song calls for a lot of ride, I'll usually have a SM7 spotting that as well...just to bring it into the foreground if necessary. If I'm in a really good room, I use Lots of mics. I'll use more mics to add depth and tone, instead of more eq, i.e. adding near ambient kick mics, near ambient mic near the floor tom almost to the floor (with a symmetrical mic on the hi hat side). I'll do this by listening for spots around the kit/room where certain drums (i.e. kick, snare, toms, etc.) speak well, and/or add a "note" I don't have enough of yet.

More detail:

1. Sit on the drummer's throne/stool.

2.Hold both drum sticks end-to-end so that you have a measuring device (approx. 24"...give or take).

3. Place the tip of one end of your new double- length-drums-stick-measuring-device in the center of the snare with the "drum sticks" held vertically.

4. The other end will now (depending on how tall you are) be a little above and in front of your forehead.

5. Place a mic here. I've been aiming it down at the snare as of late...

6. With the tip of the "drum sticks" still in the center of the snare, angle the "stick back and down, so that's it's to the right of your right shoulder (about a 45 degree angle)

7. Use a mic cable. Measure the distance of the over the snare mic to the center of the kick drum. Check that the "right shoulder" mic is also the same distance.

8. Double check the snare distance again.

9. As far as where to face them...experiment. I like the extra snare reinforcement, so as of late I've been facing them both at the snare. Facing them at the rack and floor toms also produces good results.

10. One last thing to check: with headphones on, both "OH" mics in your cue mix (only them), fine tune the placement (i.e. adjust their orientation...usually just moving the shoulder one) until the kick is in the center of your "image"

11. When you?re done you'll notice that at first glance, this looks very weird and unsymmetrical. Yet it is very symmetrical in it's result. A. Rack toms are higher off the floor than floor toms, so this arrangement actually follows the contour of the toms as they really are. Standard OH micing doesn't take this into account, and as such are usually no more than "cymbal mics". Most of them time you see mixers pulling the OH's down to -10 or more in the mix because of the over abundance of cymbals and badly phased snare/kick/toms in the "OH's". I tend to focus my OH on being a cornerstone of my whole kit sound, and as such, and have spent great pains into making the snare/kick/tom elements speak as well as possible. I guess you could say I'm a "drum bigot". It's just that if you "ignore" the cymbals you actually are going to hear them anyway...like the hat, they?re just so damn loud.

Another poster adds:
I've been using a similar method to RecorderMan's: This is really dependent on the drummer, and their technique. Wait till they set the kit, note how they set their cymbals (most drummers hang them low[er], which is optimum), then get out your TAPE MEASURE (surely you have one or two kicking around from the last renovations in the studio!) and measure from the snare center (some actually measure from the strike position) to each overhead's capsule - you can gauge distances & phase easier with markings. Next is deciding what kind of stereo image you want - wide, tight, etc., but not going too wide is the most failsafe mono compatibility - adjust to taste. My distance from snare to OH capsule(s) is usually between 30" and 42" depending on cymbals, drummer, song, obstacles, etc. If the overheads are too high up, phase really becomes an issue, so try to keep them as low as possible without crowding the talent. Monitor the drummer in the Control Room; flip between Stereo and Mono, and find where the image sits best. Once you have completed micing (kick/snare/toms/room), check phase again. I rarely have problems, but also, I seldom close-mic toms either - unless the songs are tom based, or extremely aggressive music, I tend to get 90% of my drum sound thru the overheads (if not, the other 10% and up is the room mic: I haven't used the recorded snare track in a few recent projects, save for throwing thru a SansAmp etc!).


And then recoderman continues:

1."Should I put the kit in the middle of the room or on a wall? "

Answer: First, what kind of Song and Band is it? Is it John Bonham or Ringo Starr we're after? If it's "Bonham", we want a lot of room with more distant mics, if it's ?Ringo" we want a drier more intimate sound.
Now that we know what sound we?re after, we need to find the right place in the room. That room you mentioned is on the big side so take your snare and kick around the room until you find a pleasing sounding location for them. You'll also have to balance that with the pure logistics of sightlines, etc., so that communication isn't a problem.

2 "Riser or no riser?"

I like risers. Their purpose is to basically act as a resonator and reinforce the fundamental of the kick and toms. Use one ESPECIALLY if the floor is CEMENT.
Cement floor=Sucking all tone from drums.

3."What is a good starting point for room mics? How far away, and how far apart? Large or small diaphragm? "

Use your ears. Walk around the room while the drummer is banging away and find spots for room mics. They can be large or small diaphragm...depends on what you got; they can both work. The trick is to adjust accordingly to your needs. I do prefer large diaphragms myself though. You want to maximize the Drums and minimize the cymbals in your room sound. Find spots that give you a particularly focused aspect of the kick, or snare or toms, etc.

Baffle the kit, if, when listening to just the close mics (OH, K, Snr, toms, hat, etc), you hear too much room/slap/ambience, etc. If you don't...don't baffle.

Also, another trick, for a big snare sound, baffle the kit on either side (your baffles need one "hard" side and one soft side for this) of the kit; hard side of baffles facing out. Place mics so that they are pointing at the hard side of the baffle. This makes a snare ambient sound by minimizing the direct AND minimizing the pre-delay.

More tips to mix and match:

Stick a kick ambient mic about 3' in front of the kick. This mic is actually a good mono ambient mic.

Need more low end on the toms and you've already top & bottom miced them? Add two large diaphragm mics - one near the floor tom, the other on the hat side. Just a foot or so off the floor, at a 45-degree angle up, towards the kit, triangulated so that the kick and snare are as center as possible. Find the floor tom side first by finding the spot where it's note is tightest and most pronounced. Buss these two mic's into the room mic Busses. I will probably use a few room and ambient mic's, but, I'll make a stereo package of them; EQing, compressing, balancing until I've got a great "Bonham'ish" picture that could be drum sound all by itself. This saves tracks, and time later (getting back the balance that was there at tracking)...it'll take a lot of time later to get the balance you have now...if ever.

KEEP CHECKING RELATIVE PHASE ALL THE TIME.

Learn to be allergic to out-of-phase. It is really quite obvious sounding; the more you become attuned to it.

Anyway, my most condensed rule is: Start with the big picture and then refine the details. If you start with getting the kit to sound good and in the right spot; then the room/ambient mics; then the OHs and lastly the spot mics you'll improve your sounds immensely.

Starting traditionally; with the first kick mic(s) soloed and having the drummer just hit his kick for five minutes while you EQ/compress/balance the kick, then the snare, etc. will get you to the traditionally Frankenstein sounding drums most people tend to record. By the time you get to the Rooms and OH's your relative phase is affected by the over EQed individual mic's you've already worked. So at this point you'll satisfy yourself with a hasty room setup that adds some "room" to the sound but isn't really a holistic part of the sound. So six weeks later when you or someone else brings up that kit they'll dis the room sound and start adding 'verb.
Of course if the room itself sucks...run away from it. Use baffles, and get all the AIR out of the OH's. Refer to my OH mic technique (or any other one that gets you there)

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by cgarges » Sun Nov 30, 2003 8:10 pm

HOLY SHIT!!!!!

You go, rhythm!

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by rhythm ranch » Sun Nov 30, 2003 8:13 pm

It's all recorderman, et al, I just cut and paste! :D

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Auxillary » Sun Nov 30, 2003 8:44 pm

Last night I asked my fiancee to setup mics for a drum session. She put one mic about 2 feet over the center of the snare. Another mic pointing at the kit a little off the drummers shoulder. She has never read a recording forum or book in her life. I almost laughed. She even used behringer ecm mics! If you want a good lesson in pure common sense, and the ingenuity of my lady; listen well.


This is her following explanation best I can capture it.


Well, I looked through your mics and I did not want to touch those expensive ones. They will probabaly distort or break where I want to put them on the drums. So I saw these smaller ones. I sang into both -she saw my earthworks and behringers-. I liked the silver ones because the high end is softer and cymbals annoy me. The have a smaller thingy at the end so it will pick up the higher frequencies better. They're tiny kind of right? That is what it feels like to me, smaller means more clean highs? Well anyway, I looked at the drum kit. It is a strange beast! I noticed it is curved a bit. That drum higher and those two lower. So I thought to put a mic on the angle of how the drumset is aiming. You know, hit the drums and sound bounces off the heads. I wanted that to go right into the mic. There is no use getting it from the angle right? I know I need 2 mics at least to mimic the 2 speaker stereo thing. So I setup another mic over the snare. The groove is all there. The kit is heavier on the left. 2 cymbals, a snare and a tom. On the right there is a tom and a cymbal. I made the mics lopsided because the left has more. They are both off to the left because of that. I listned while you were gone and I didnt hear that mp3 wooshy thing you were complaining about yesterday. Phase right? I plugged them into that vintech thing and figured out I need to turn on the mics. That ghost power, phantom power thing. It sounded better than the other things I tried. I hope you didnt mind me re-wiring your mixer, I wanted to try those plugs. Made sure it didnt goto red and let you come back. Did I do good?



Gentlemen. This wonderful gal plays drums. She is technically illiterate. She knows what sounds good to her. No outside influences like magazines or forums. Buys records and trys to sound like them. She calls a rack tom a high drum because she has never talked to another drummer other than people around the studio. And this wonderful lady I wish to spend the rest of my life with, got me the most amazing drum tracks I have EVER had. Using my two cheapest mics, no idea how people normally do it. Maybe a bit of how I ask her to do things for me. Or how I setup mics when we record ourselves.

I cried as I went to bed. wow. I havent cried since I was a poor mistreated teen. It's the sheer innocencene and apparent ignornace. She is the metaphorical austic savant of the audio world. Have been waiting for the right time to post this experience and this thread has gone that way. Was going to wait a while longer but I can not hold it in.
kids make electric guitars

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by rhythm ranch » Sun Nov 30, 2003 9:03 pm

That rules Aux! You are a lucky man!

Now stay off the board, tell your girlfriend to start posting! :D

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Electricide » Mon Dec 01, 2003 6:38 am

youi are lucky, but so is she. You CAN set up mics and move them around until they sound good. But i think she's lucky the kick drum didn't phase out of existence.

Innocent is cool because it can get you back to the basics, and see things in a new, unadulterated way. But it won't ever help you solve problems and overcome gremlins.

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by @?,*???&? » Mon Dec 01, 2003 6:47 am

Looks like you guys have it covered here...try using Coles 4038s as your tom/overhead mics on the Glyn Johns set-up. Nice and thick.

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by cgarges » Mon Dec 01, 2003 8:19 am

cman548 wrote:Innocent is cool because it can get you back to the basics, and see things in a new, unadulterated way. But it won't ever help you solve problems and overcome gremlins.
I'm with cman all the way on that.

It does amaze me, however, how often we forget the most obvious bits. I can't belive how few engineers pay attention to microphone rejection patterns.

Chris Garges
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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Dec 01, 2003 8:56 am

aux, that story made my day.

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Re: Phase Concerns For Drum Micing

Post by Derrick » Mon Dec 01, 2003 9:07 am

Thanks so much everyone!! It is mentioned to "keep checking relative phase all the time". How do you do this? Is this where you do some "soloing" button for each mic or something to check for problems? I don't have any isolation or solo buttons on my current board as it is a very simple one.

PS- AUX, your story reminds us all that we need to do a good bit of thinking for ourselves and be less reliant on what we're taught as the "rule"! This opens the door to possible better ways as well as innovation... sadly, something that has been lost through the years I think.
Last edited by Derrick on Mon Dec 01, 2003 10:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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