How to Mic Drums for Recording: Tips for the Best Sound

Table of Contents

Last Updated on March 5, 2024 by Muisc Pro Editorial Team

Recording drums can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to mic technique. But fear not! We are here to guide you through the process step by step with dynamic mics and mic stands, ensuring a natural sound for your drum set.

Setting Up and Tuning

Before diving into microphone placement to record drums, it’s crucial to ensure that your drum kit is properly set up and tuned. A poorly set up or out-of-tune kit will hinder your recording efforts, regardless of microphone techniques. If you’re unsure about setting up and tuning drums, seek advice from experienced drummers or conduct thorough research. Pay close attention to the type of drum heads, especially the batter head, and their tuning. Consider replacing old drum heads if tuning becomes problematic. Additionally, dampening excess resonance with products like ‘moongel’ can improve the sound, especially if you prefer a dry tone. Remember, when budgeting for your drum kit, prioritize investing in quality cymbals as they significantly impact your overall sound.

Room Acoustics

The acoustics of your recording space play a significant role in the final drum sound. There are two main approaches to consider: embracing natural ambiance or controlling room acoustics.

Embracing Natural Ambiance

Great drum sounds can be captured in various environments, including unconventional ones like stairwells. Led Zeppelin famously recorded drums at the bottom of a stairwell for their album ‘Led Zeppelin IV,’ utilizing the natural reverb for a unique sound. Whether you choose to embrace natural acoustics depends on personal preference, genre, and the characteristics of your recording space. While most home environments offer less-than-ideal acoustics, don’t hesitate to experiment if you have a unique space with interesting sound qualities.

Controlling Room Acoustics

If your recording space lacks desirable acoustics, you can control and manipulate the sound using various techniques. For instance, if you’re dealing with reflections in a garage studio, consider using soft materials or room kits to minimize them. This controlled approach allows you to capture a clean, dry sound initially, which can be enhanced with software plugins during mixing. Unlike natural ambiance, controlled room acoustics offer flexibility, allowing you to adjust the room sound at any stage of the production process.

Microphone Techniques for Recording Drums

Capturing the perfect drums sound involves selecting the right mic techniques based on various factors, including dynamic mic selection for tom mics, snare mic, and kick mic. Here, we’ll explore two distinct approaches: treating the drum kit as a homogenous sound source and close micing individual drums.

The Drum Kit as a Homogenous Sound Source

This approach focuses on capturing the entire drum kit as one entity using dynamic mics to mic a drum kit. Typically, two overhead microphones are used along with additional close mics on the kick and snare drums to fill in sonic gaps. verheads are crucial in this technique, often large or small diaphragm condenser mics, to capture the wide frequency range and dynamics of the kit, including the cymbal sound. Ribbon microphones are also worth considering for a smoother high-end sound.

When positioning overhead microphones, aim for a balanced representation of the entire kit, considering how cymbals and hi-hats resonate. Utilize a snare mic to capture the sharp, crisp sound of the snare and a kick mic to capture the deep thump of the bass drum. Understanding how cymbals and hi-hats resonate can help achieve this balance. Overheads are typically placed between two and three meters above floor level, either behind or in front of the kit.

There are two main overhead microphone techniques to consider: A/B (spaced pair) and X/Y configuration. A/B technique provides a wide stereo image, capturing more room sound, while X/Y configuration reduces phasing issues but offers less control over balance and image. Experimentation is key to finding the right technique for your sound.

Close Micing a Drum Kit

Close micing involves placing microphones near individual drums to capture a drier, more intimate sound with greater separation and control. This approach is favored for certain genres or when room acoustics are less than ideal, or when the drummer lacks control over dynamics.

To enhance specific elements of the kit, spot microphones can be added, such as a dedicated kick drum mic for more bass weight and a dynamic or condenser mic for snare emphasis. Close micing provides a surgical approach to recording drums, allowing precise control over each element’s sound during mixing.

How to Mic Each Piece of a Typical Kit

Recording drums involves careful placement of microphones to capture each piece of the kit effectively. Here’s how to mic each component:


Start with overhead mics as a foundation. In multichannel drum recording, place the overheads closer to the kit to capture cymbals effectively. For the X/Y technique, position the overheads directly above the snare with each mic pointing left and right. Be cautious of phase issues with the A/B technique and adjust as needed. Experiment with placement to achieve a balanced sound of the entire kit.


Kick Drum

Use a dynamic microphone tailored for kick drums to capture the low-frequency power and attack. Position the mic inside the kick drum for attack or further back for more low-frequencies. Combining both techniques can balance attack and tone. Dampen unwanted resonance with a pillow inside the kick drum if necessary.

Snare Drum

Choose between dynamic or condenser microphones based on style and preference. Using two microphones—one above and one beneath the snare—captures both the crack and fizz. Beware of phase issues and adjust as needed. Dynamics offer weight and isolation, while condensers reveal subtlety and high-frequency detail. Position the mic close to the edge and angled toward the center for optimal sound.



For a balanced sound, rely on overheads rather than close miking toms. However, for genres like modern rock or metal, close miking may be necessary. Dynamics are preferred for their full sound and less spill, although condensers offer superior transient response. Experiment to find the best fit for your genre or song.


Typically, overheads suffice for capturing the hi-hat. If additional attention is needed, place a pencil condenser mic approximately 10 – 15 cm away and pointing directly down at the edge on the far side, away from the snare. Adjust placement as needed to achieve the desired crisp sound.

Ensuring Proper Phase Alignment

Once all the microphones are set up, it’s crucial to check the phase relationships between each channel to avoid a weak recording. Begin by focusing on the kick drum, as it tends to spill into other microphones more than other kit elements. Using high-quality headphones, monitor the phase by having the drummer play while gradually fading up the kick drum and each individual track. Flip the phase polarity and listen for which setting sounds fuller.

Pay close attention to how the kick and snare sound together, as they form the backbone of the beat. While overheads are important, they are less crucial in context with the kick in close-mic recording models. This is because heavy low-cut filtering is typically applied to overheads during mixing, allowing the kick and snare mics to carry the load.

Mitigating Phase Issues with the 3 – 1 Rule

Phase cancellation occurs when two microphones receive the same soundwave with opposite pressure zones. To minimize phase problems when using multiple microphones, employ the 3-to-1 rule. This rule dictates that the distance between microphones should be at least three times the distance from each microphone to its intended sound source. This guideline ensures that the sound picked up by the more distant microphone is at least 12dB less than the sound picked up by the closer one, reducing the audible effects of phase cancellation.

Drum Miking Techniques by Genre

Classic Rock

Classic rock drum miking typically involves three microphones, inspired by the technique popularized by legendary producer Glyn Johns in the 1960s and 1970s. This setup requires a bass drum mic and two overhead mics. The bass drum is the only component with a dedicated mic, while the overheads capture the entire kit. Adjust the placement of the bass drum mic for desired attack, and ensure the overheads are equidistant from the snare to prevent phasing issues.

Modern Rock

In contrast to classic rock, modern rock drum miking utilizes eight or more microphones, incorporating close mics for the bass drum, snare, and toms. Additional microphones are employed for the hi-hat, resonant snare head, overheads, and room mics. This setup offers extensive control during mixing, allowing adjustments for dynamics and clarity. Experimentation with mic placement enhances versatility, while tuning involves medium to low tension with selective muffling for punchy tones.



Basic jazz drum miking employs three microphones: one for the bass drum and two overheads. Unlike rock setups, jazz overhead mics are arranged in an XY pattern to achieve a medium-wide stereo image. Traditional grip and lighter sticks are recommended for capturing characteristic jazz nuances. Muffling is unnecessary, and drum head pitch is raised to achieve desired tonality.

Indie Rock and Folk

Indie rock and folk drum miking relies on a four-microphone setup, featuring mics for the bass drum, snare, and two overheads placed behind the kit for a dry yet spacious sound. This configuration facilitates a balanced mix between drums and cymbals. Low tuning with moderate muffling on the bass drum and heavy muffling on the snare are typical, contributing to the genre’s distinct aesthetic.

The ’70s

The ’70s drum miking approach emphasizes close microphones for a dry and punchy sound, supplemented by overheads for stereo imaging. Heavy muffling is applied to all drum components, with additional removal of the resonant drumhead from the bass drum to minimize sustain. Tuning is set to mid to low tension for a punchy and clear sound. Fabric, towels, or additional drumheads are used to dampen resonance and evoke the characteristic sound of the era.


Recording drums presents significant challenges, requiring patience, knowledge, and perseverance to achieve excellent results. From understanding room acoustics to utilizing multiple microphones effectively, the process demands dedication. However, amidst the prevalence of software-generated drum tracks, the authenticity of real drums can elevate recordings to new heights. We hope this miking guide has provided you with valuable insights to enhance your drum recording endeavors. The next step is to put this knowledge into practice by recording and mixing your drums. Explore techniques such as EQ, gating, compression, and more to further refine your drum sound.


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