Steve Lagudi Blog Series: Miking Kick Drums, Part I

audio technica microphone

This is the second installment in guest blogger Steve Lagudi’s series on miking drums – today, Part 1 of a two-part post about kick drums. If you missed his first post on miking live drums, you can read it here.

Kick drums in metal are known for their “clicky” sound. Most of the time when you see a band live, or even on record, the kick drums are triggered…usually sounding like a typewriter. Personally, I can’t stand it! I am a fan of drums sounding natural. Many of the drummers that I work with who use triggers, I don’t end up using them out front. For monitor purposes, I think they are great, they cut right through and everyone can hear it, but for me, I don’t need triggers. I can get that clicky sound and much more just by using the right mic, placement and proper EQ.

First thing in line is a gate, then I go right to the EQ by scooping out all that I can from the low mids and high mids. Narrow Q works fine for this. Next, I will add more preamp gain because I scooped out so much that I can now increase the gain on the channel. Try for yourself and see how it sounds. Now the top end varies on the console EQ, PA system, the drum, mic, placement, dampening and most importantly what you’re trying to achieve that best fits the music. I sometimes just use a shelf EQ that has a fixed frequency, and crank it up about 6Db, or if I am lucky enough to have a fully parametric EQ, I will sometimes get a medium to narrow Q and boost 3-12Db in 6-10Khz range. During sound check and during the show, I will then make the little adjustments by adding or taking away as needed. If the console has a low pass filter, I will also get rid of the really high frequencies above 12K – this cleans it up nicely and eliminates any sizzle from cymbals (yes, cymbals will bleed into kick mics).

Let’s discuss the low end. I generally leave this flat, as I almost never, ever add any. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that I have scooped out so much mid and raised the preamp level enough that there is more than enough low end information. Another reason – song tempos. Why is that, you ask? Well, very simple. If you have very fast tempos with a lot of double bass patterns in the music, having too much low end will make it boomy and you will just lose the clarity and spend half your night fighting all that low end. You’ll have a nightmare of a time getting the bass guitar (and low end of the guitars) to sit nice in the mix. I should also mention that you will have issues with the subs in the system, and if you’re not on a sweet sounding PA system, then the speaker efficiency will not be that great and you could start clipping the low end; and then you’ve got the house engineer or system techs tapping you on the shoulder to turn it down. Plus, it’s just plain stupid to have the kicks that loud!

Interested in learning more? Watch for part II of Steve’s Kick Drum installment to be posted next Wednesday! 

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