If you’re like me, you are constantly challenged when it comes to recording great sounding acoustic drums. And for good reason. With so many elements to the kit, it is consistently the hardest instrument to capture with punch, power, and realism. But did you know that recording a mono drum overhead will help you get better sounding drums, faster?
No Phase Issues With Overheads
The biggest problem with stereo miking drum overheads is dealing phase issues. More specifically when your sound source is hitting two microphones at slightly different times you get tracks that are out of phase and create some cancellation of the sound source, resulting in thin weak recordings. Of course this can be avoided with careful placement and measurement. A great way to start is the recorderman method or the Glyn Johns technique.
But what’s even easier is to simply throw up one overhead mic to capture the entire kit, rather than two. You have absolutely no phase issues because you aren’t trying to capture an instrument with two mics, but with one. I know it sounds obvious, but this is a no brainer when you want punchy, clear, and artifact free drum overheads.
You Can Use Your Best Mic
When stereo miking anything it is best to use a matched pair of mics, or at least the same model. This is because you are treating the two mics as one capturing device. But what do you do if you don’t own a nice pair of mics? Many people go out and buy a drum mic bundle. Although there’s nothing wrong with this (I’ve done it) you’re likely getting a good value so the overhead mics aren’t going to be the highest quality.
If you already have one nice microphone that you use for vocals, let’s say, why not use that as your drum overhead? Don’t compromise on sound quality just so you can get a stereo drum overhead, use your best mic on the most challenging instrument and you’ll likely get a better sound as a result!
Mono Drums Can Sound More Focused
One final great reason to record with a mono overhead is that in the end, a mono drum recording can sound way more punchy in the mix. Now this isn’t to say that typical stereo drums DON’T sound punchy, but as it relates to creating clarity and separation in your mix with panning, nothing beats putting the drums up the middle and panning other things out wide.
The drums will sound like they do in real life, coming from one location in space. This helps the brain to focus on the drums and feel them as a powerful instrument. If you haven’t tried this, do it. It can sometimes be just what your mix is needing.
Going Somewhat Stereo
And if all mono drums sounds a bit too boring to you (even though no one will know it’s not stereo once they are a few feet away from the speakers) you can always go somewhat stereo by panning toms a bit out from the center and running everything (especially the overhead) through a stereo room or plate reverb. This will give your tracks a bit of space in the background will keeping the attack and main tones of the kit coming straight out of the center.