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Applikationsguide: sådan miker du et trommesæt op med DPA

Overhead miking med DPA-mikrofoner

Overhead drum miking with DPA microphonesThere are many different ways to mic a drumkit. You can use overheads just to compliment the tight mics and produce the cymbal sound for the rest of the drum kit, or one pair of strategically placed overheads can capture the entire drumkit. The situation may vary from a recording session where the drumkit is in an ISO booth all the way to a large band or orchestra where with the drum kit in the free field and in the middle of the other instruments.

One can consider each cymbal and drum as a separate instrument, and close mic these accordingly, ending up with nine or more microphones. Again the situation dictates the course of action. In an ISO booth the sky is the limit, you can use any technique desired. Place the drum kit in the middle of a large band or orchestra and the fewer mics the better. In the multi-mic approach the final sound is often more in the hands of the recording engineer and producer than of the drummer, but nevertheless this technique is widely used.

The simpler approach is using an overhead pair that "sees" the whole drumkit, which puts the dynamics of playing much more in the hands of the drummer. The two overhead mics are further supported by one mic at the snare and one for the bass drum, although this one can often be omitted.

A note to young and upcoming drummers: Most of the world's best recording and performing drummers i.e. Jim Keltner, Steve Gadd, Harvey Mason, Grady Tate, etc. can be recorded with just an overhead pair, and in that well placed overhead pair even the bass drum is picked up correctly. This is due to the performance accuracy of the drummer.

The secret to the overhead pair placement we lucky engineers have found is that it's the drummers responsibility to balance himself. This gives the engineer more choices for placement and layout. We recommend that young drummers learn to perform acoustically under a pair of 4006As, 4007s, 4041s or 4011As. Learn to tune your drums with overheads and in a couple of years of practice and performance you will become a valuable recording and performance drummer. When multiple miking is used this balanced performance and tuning knowledge still shines through again and again.

Depending on the size of the drum kit and the style of music being performed, several choices exist within each of the DPA microphones that have been suggested. Lets start with the cardioids.

Cardioid microphones

Two 4011As, 4011Cs, 2011As or 2011Cs give you the choice of stereo in XY, ORTF, DIN, and NOS or simply a spaced placement. These are all explained in Stereo Techniques in the Microphone University section of the DPA website. In some acoustic situations the front-head and under-head work better. Remember that the cymbals are bi-directional devices and produce the most balanced sound at the side middle of the cymbal and not from the top. Top miking yields more stick sound and a lot of us like that but it's not the only way. Each stereo technique has its characteristic stereo sound and can be used for much more than drum kit overheads .i.e. orchestras, pianos, big bands, and sound effects. Each technique also lends itself for implementation as an inside or barrier sound for a 5.1 or multiple format scheme.

Omnidirectional microphones

Two 4006As yield a different type of sound altogether. The stereo technique can be AB, Baffled Stereo or Decca Tree. Please refer to the Stereo Techniques in the Microphone University.

The DD0251 standard silver linear protection grid is pre-mounted on the DPA 4006; switch to the black protection grid, DD0297, with its 6 dB boost at 15 kH to employ some passive acoustic manipulation. If you like to brighten up your cymbal sound while mixing we suggest you lay the sound to tape or hard disc pre equalized acoustically. Also, the nose cone, UA0777, with its almost perfect omni pattern, intensifies the impact attack without overshoot.

You will notice that the omnis in the over-head, front, or under-head position will pick up the bass drum with no problem. This is because omnis are more phase correct at lower frequencies and have a perfect impulse response compared to a cardioid. Furthermore, omnis do not suffer from bass loss at a distance (proximity effect).

In any engineering endeavour there are trade offs; microphones and their usage techniques are no exception and when you produce "tightness" you loose "air". Learning the balance points between these sounds is necessary. Sometimes a combination of cardioid and omni is what is needed to produce both conditions and DPA omnis and cardioids will do this without phasing.

High SPL omnis

DPA 4007 reference mics are in a SPL class of their own. There are some look-alike microphones out there, but they are no match for the 4007 that will sound good for years to come. Basically, the 4007 is flat from 10 Hz to 40 kHz and at all high SPL levels with a distortion curve that is equally flat. 

These mics are best suited for high-SPL drumming. The same stereo techniques as the 4006s can be used. The 4007s sound great with reputable drummers as mid over-heads. Set them about one foot in front of the drumkit just above the toms and at the mid point of the cymbals. Again, the bass drum will be picked up accurately from this position. The snare and hat will be placed exactly as they are physically placed. Fader and pan manipulation can move the snare, hat, and floor tom more to the centre of the mix if desired.

Overhead drum miking with DPA microphonesA good drum kit tip: "One-Mic-Great-Mono"
One properly placed large diaphragm 4041 can pick up an entire drumkit from a single point. The 4041 microphone sounds great close-up but when it is backed off the excitement does not dwindle. The incredible clarity and intensity of a close miking technique comes to mind without the detriments of having the mic too close. In jazz, folk, blues, and other acoustic situations this can be coupled with a mono piano and/or bass, guitar, or sax. Physical instrument placement in the studio or stage is extremely important. The natural acoustic bleed of each instrument coupled with critical panning and fader level will produce a natural stereo field. Acoustic treatment such as bass traps and diffusers along with blankets and foam also help the acoustic situation.

Two 4041s and the sky is the limit. They do not always have to be placed left to right but will work in a number of exploratory configurations such as stacked vertically down the middle and in front; one mic is placed about two thirds up the drumkit at the mid bass drum position while the other mic is placed mid overhead just above the cymbals in an equal balance. Or you may try one mid front and one mid back pointed in to the drumkit, forming an upside down pyramid. Or it will work impressively as the center mic in a Decca Tree-like configuration.

You may want to explore three-microphone techniques, either by the Decca Tree set-up or by adding a third mic. This can be in a visually balanced situation or a spot mic. One three-mic technique, often used in jazz recordings, gives a very natural sound and also puts the skills of the drummer up front. The stereo pair should be panned left/right and the third mic in the middle. Avoid placing the overheads too close, because it will make the sound wander from the left to the right speaker. An XY, ORTF, DIN, or NOS pair of cardioids is sometimes used, too, but it generally gives a less open sound than with spaced omnis. The spot mic does exactly what it sounds like it does: it intensifies a spot or one drum. After placing one spot mic, if you still feel the need for more intensification, you should move to the multiple miking mentioned earlier. At this point you have qualified the drummer's lack of ability to balance or tune drums. Multi-miking is perfect for this situation. The engineer should now be in charge of the drum sound, just don't let the drummer know.