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Bass drum microphone placement

Red Dog Music sent their resident recording experts – Gavin Wiltshire and Guy Perchard – to The Sound Cafe recording studio to compare some popular microphone placement techniques for kick drum recording.

The audio clips in the video below are entirely unprocessed. No compression, EQ or limiting have been applied by us, but depending on what quality you watch this video at there may be some noticeable artefacts. We recommend you watch this video in an HD setting.

Placement comparison

At port / On-axis – The most obvious mic position yields the most obvious result. The force from the kick creates a big, wooly boom with plenty of power in the attack. This position might need a bit of EQ’ing depending on what kind of music you’re making, but it’s certainly a good starting point.

At port / Off-axis – Keeping the mic in much the same position as it was before but angling it slightly so it faces the middle of the shell on the inside makes the big low frequency sound waves glance off the diaphragm of the microphone. This greatly reduces the sub boom and gives the sound a much tighter focus.

Inside / Facing skin / Central / Off-axis – Laying the mic on the padded floor of the bass drum and aiming it to one side of where the beater strikes the skin gives a lot of mid & high frequency attack, and also gives the best isolated sound of all the placements we tried. Great for modern, edgy drum sounds / Not so great for getting a nice, natural tone.

Facing shell / Under ride – This position is great for a really mid-heavy recording sound, but lacks sub punch and is very subject to bleed from the rest of the kit. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing: If you’re after a good budget set-up, this position could be used in tandem with an SM57 between the snare and hi-hat for a sweet sounding, simple drum recording solution.

1m away – Keeping the microphone distant, but aimed directly at the drum gives the most natural of the bunch. You do get some spill from the rest of the kit, but you still get a surprising amount of low end power. It could be very useful for more intimate recording styles where the natural sound is king.

These 5 examples show how you can reveal dramatically different tonal qualities and genre-specific sounds by just making small adjustments to the placement of the microphone. This certainly isn’t a complete or definitive list by any means, and we whole-heartedly recommend that you experiment to find the sound that perfectly suits your music. Always remember: There are no rules. Good luck!

About The Author

Red Dog Music

Dawsons Music is delighted to announce that the Red Dog Music brand is now part of the Dawsons family. This is an exciting opportunity to bring both communities together and create a stronger, wider network of people passionate about music gear. We both share a common heritage to support musicians throughout the UK and Dawsons want to support Red Dog Music customers in their continued musical journey.

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