Part 11: Microphone Use – How They Affect The Sound

Playing without a microphone versus with one is very different. This is not a tutorial on Mic use, simply an elementary understanding of one key factor. When “close micing” a drum, the type of microphone can and usually creates proximity effect. If you look at typical mic’s associated with use on toms, you’ll see a drop-off on the frequency curve associated with most dynamic mic’s. This drop-off can be compensated for through proximity effect.

This is less pronounced on an electret condenser microphone. “Proximity effect” is a condition, which, when the mic is in close proximity to the head, a bump in the low frequency range is created, and therefore, accentuates the lower fundamental note of the drum. The opposite is also true, pull the mic away and low end response drops-off. When close, the pronounced increase of the low end offsets for the otherwise dead sound of 2-ply/muffled heads or the lack of free field low-end frequency response. Hence, never buy a microphone based upon a stated frequency curve or specifications alone.

The microphone hears and accentuates what the ear cannot. Experiment because the proximity effect diminishes the further from the head you get (out of proximity). Check out the following in the “Links of Interest” section entitled “Audio Technica’s Guide to Microphones Definitions” and “Shure Brothers Technical Publications on Recording Studio and Sound Reinforcement Techniques”.

Kick Drum Microphone Tricks

1. Movement of the Mic as little as ½” can make big changes. Movement closer to the resonant head results in less definition and more “boom” from the drum.

2. Place a mic closer to the pad/pillow to cut resonance and increase presence.

3. Place a mic closer to the batter and mid range attack comes out, warmth disappears but deep low end remains. Careful not to get too close or clipping of electronics’ or destruction of mic can occur.

4. Two heads no hole – 1 Mic: Place the microphone on the outside of the batter side, but not in an upward facing direction. Try reversing the phase of the Mic, it will sometimes give more punch.

5. Too much snare bleed, try taping a cardboard funnel around the mic face to trim unwanted high frequencies or aim the mic down at the point of impact at 35 degrees.

6. Two Heads no Hole – 2 Mic’s: A phase reversal of one or the other head is almost a must if using a mic aimed at both heads. Your sound is at the hands of engineer now because it’s like retuning the drum to blend the Mic sounds.

7. When doing recording, take a large floor tom and place it out in front of the kick drum. Tune the floor tom very low in pitch and place a large diaphragm mic on it to capture sympathetic vibrations and low-end resonance.

Snare Mic Tricks

1. Controlling leakage from Hi-Hat: Use a Mic with a Hypercardioid pattern. As a result, you may have to Mic either from overhead of the kit or the hat itself, could be a plus depending upon philosophy.

2. To capture the “snap/crack” of the drum, especially for “hard hitters”, Mic from the bottom and use in reverse polarity under the snare.

3. Too many overtones: Don’t place a Mic aiming at the outer 2 inches of the head unless you really want to overtones to come through or use a head such as an Evan’s Genera Snare Batter, Aquarian Studio-X or REMO PowerStroke3, all coated.

4. Avoid having the mic too close in general, 2-3 inches up and out aimed at the center of the head allows the mic to capture a more natural sound.

5. Not enough snare sound when using a Mic. When Mic’s are placed too close to the head, the Mic doesn’t hear as much of the “crack”, it hear more of a timbale sound. Hitting harder equals less crack when placed too close. You can also place the Mic directly centered over the rim of the drum up about 1 inch and aimed at the center of the head. This keeps the Mic from hearing the warmth of the head and picks up more shell resonance.

6. If you do not have a brighter sounding snare, place just one mic in reverse polarity underneath in about 3″ from the rim and centered on the snare unit itself.


I have not mentioned anything in here I have not tried myself. This is why you see no mention of ATTACK or Bear Percussion drumheads anywhere. As of this date, they are not being carried as a mainstream head or in large supply by most retail stores. While I have heard the ATTACK brand, I haven’t had time to place them on a drum set and tune them or use them for any length of time, record, etc. As a result, I feel it would be inappropriate to comment on them. This is not to imply they are inferior or superior, I just don’t know. However, if interested you can view the “Links of Interest” section and read the marketing associated with them.