How to Mic a Bass Drum

The foundation of any good drum sound is the Bass (Kick) drum and how you position the mic will help you achieve the tone you are looking for. There isn’t any specific way of positioning your mic. It all depends on the drummer and comes down to the sound you are trying to achieve.

The Bass (Kick) drum is one of the most important elements within any song and it lays the foundation for a good tone and drum sound.

There a million different ways to mic up your Bass drum and it depends on what you are recording in order to reach the final tone that you are looking for. The techniques vary with different drummers depending on a lot of variables. But whether you are on stage or in a recording studio, the basis of a good Bass drum sound is placing the mic inside the drum.

This article highlights a few techniques that drummers use to mic their Bass drum but first let us look at the different variables that determine how the mic will be placed.

Variables that Determine the Mic placement

Every drummer uses different techniques to set up their mic on a Bass drum and these variables will determine which mic to use and how to place it:

  • Resonant head
  • Batter head
  • Port or no port
  • Style of pedal
  • Drum’s diameter
  • Internal dampening

How to Mic your Bass Drum

·         Inside Mic

This is the standard and basic way of miking your Bass drum if you have a hole cut in the head or if the head of the drum is off.

Placing the mic inside the drum gives you a good kick sound and helps you capture the snap and sharp attack of the beater hitting the batter head. This placement also isolates the mic from the rest of the kit.

Various placements:

  1. You should keep the mic off center instead of aiming it dead center inside the drum because this tends to yield a weak sound. Keeping it off center improves the low end.
  2. You can place it halfway inside the drum, right in the middle pointing where the beater strikes the drum. This placement helps you capture more of the body of the drum’s sound and less of the attack of the beater striking the batter head.
  3. You can move the mic back and forth between the batter head and front head to adjust the parallel amounts of attack and low end.
  4. If you have a pillow or blanket inside the drum, you can put the mic on top of them. Just make sure it has a clear shot of the beater and that the vibration of the drum isn’t affecting the sound from the mic.

Examples of Mics to use inside the drum:

The best mic to use for this placement is a dynamic mic such as AUDIO-TECHNICA ATM250, SHURE SM57 or the TELEFUNKEN M80.

 

·         Outside Mic

Normally, the second mic is placed outside the drum pointing towards the resonant head. The resonant head usually gives out the tone and pitch of the drum. Every drum is different and it may take some trial and error to find the perfect spot and get the low end you are looking for.

The impact of the beater makes it vibrate and move like a speaker, causing the air to constantly move the diaphragm of the mic placed outside. This creates a nice low end.

You should also avoid being in front of the hole to keep this mic from picking up too much of the batter head sound.

Various placements:

  1. Whether the port is there or not, the outside mic should be placed at the center of the resonant head about 3-5 inches away. This placement gives you the most natural sound and thud of the drum.

Placing the mic closer will provide more low end while moving the mic further away will reduce the low end.

  1. When you have two mics, the inside mic should be placed in line with the outside mic to create a good balance between them. The inside mic is positioned for maximum attacking and mid-range punch while the outside mic provides most of the low end.
  2. If you want a tone and pitch with less thud, place the mic closer to the rim of the resonant head.
  3. If you are using a single mic in the studio, you should place the mic just outside the hole. This captures both the attack of the batter head through the hole while getting the low end from the resonant head.

It is important to avoid putting the mic right inside the hole because this could create an overload.

Examples of Mics to use outside the drum:

The best mic to use for this placement is a large diaphragm condenser mic such as the AUDIO-TECHNICA AT4047 , AKG 414 or a ribbon mic such as the MESANOVIC MODEL 2.

 

·         2 IN 1 Solution

This offers both the dynamic mic and condenser mic element in a single aligned casing. The dynamic element captures both the punch and attack while the condenser element captures the low end.

Together, the elements provide a full range sound in a single package.  An example of this mic that captures both elements is the AE2500.

 

·         Sub Kick

A sub kick is a speaker wired in reverse to be used together with a condenser and dynamic mic. It was created out of necessity when engineers needed to capture more low end than any other mic could handle.

It is placed on the outside of the resonant head between the center and the rim. A sub kick isn’t necessary but it helps take your drum tone to the next level.

When you combine these three mics together you get the tone and pitch from the outside mic, the attack and punch from the inside mic and control the impact and weight with the sub kick.

An example of a sub kick you can use is a SOLOMON LOFREQ SUB MIC.

 

A summary on how to mic a Bass drum

CATEGORY
PLACEMENTS
PURPOSE
Inside Mic
Off center

 

Improves low end
 
Half way
To capture body of drum’s sound and less of the attack from beater

 

 
Moving mic back and forth
To adjust amounts of attack and low end
Outside Mic
At center of resonant head, 3-5 inches away

 

Gives most natural sound and thud
 
With two mics present- placed in line of each other

 

To get a good balance  of low end and attack
 
Closer to rim of resonant head

 

To get less thud
 
Just outside the hole for single mic present

 

To avoid creating an overload
2 in 1
Has both inside and outside mic elements

 

Gives a full range of sound in a single  package
Sub Kick
Outside of resonant head

between center and rim

 

Takes tone of drum to the next level

 

Conclusion

All these techniques will help you get the kick sound you are looking for. Just experiment and get the technique that best suits what you are trying to achieve.

FAQs

How do you mic your Bass drum?

There isn’t any specific way to mic your Bass drum. It depends on the drummer and the kind of tone you are looking to get. But whether you are on stage or in a recording studio, the basis of a good Bass drum sound is placing the mic inside the drum.

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