This is the sixth installment in guest blogger Steve Lagudi’s series on miking drums – today he focuses on toms. If you missed his latest post on miking snare drums, you can read it here.
As for my mic choice on the toms, I use condenser mics. For rack toms I love the ATM350’s. They are simple and easy to clip right on and can be placed exactly where you want them. Plus, with many drummers having the toms in close proximity to the overheads, it’s great to be able to get a nice low profile mic in place. For the floor toms I also use condenser mics, the AE3000’s. These mics have a bigger element in the mic and can really get a nice large sound from the drums while capturing the nice detail of the stick attack.
For placement, I get them super close to the skins. This helps get a cleaner signal being so close, but most of all, proximity effect applies here and adds more low end.
Image 1: Floor 2 Mic – shows the very close placement just above the skin of the tom.
Image 2: Floor 1 Mic – shows the close placement, just underneath the ride. It is very common that drums can be obstructed by cymbals, making it very difficult to mic the drums. With the AE3000’s shape, it is very easy to overcome such challenges.
As a fan of big, deep sounding toms, I tend to go a bit extreme with my EQ. Typically most engineers tend to pull out between 3-6 Db in the low mids, however I’ll go way beyond that. For the low mids, I will pull out as much as I can, same with the high mids. I’ll really dig down and scoop it out. Now as you know (or should know), when doing reductive EQ, your input level will decrease – this is a result from sucking out all that low & high mid. Now I can increase my pre-amp gain and achieve a really deep, heavy tom sound that is right in your face. All that reductive EQ is leaving me with all that I want – low end and a decent amount of stick attack between 2-5Khz so that I might not really need to add any. This is good because when you start adding in more stick attack, you tend to bring out more of the cymbal bleed and that can be a struggle to deal with if you don’t have low pass filters. On consoles that I can use a fully parametric EQ, I am able to get more surgical with the high’s, getting a narrow Q and finding the frequencies to really bring out the stick attack which gives you really great results.
Compression: On analog consoles I usually don’t compress, simply because there are just not enough compressors available. So, on digital consoles that give you all the dynamics you need on every channel, I will always add compression. Unlike the kicks and snares, I add a bit more, but to the point where you do not notice it at all. What I achieve with it is sustain. With the tight gates and the reverbs to help with the tails, the compression also adds a little more to lengthen the toms. Once again, 2:1-3:1 ratio, with a medium/fast attack but medium/slow sustain. As I go from the high to the lower toms I have longer sustain times. This is how the toms naturally ring out anyway, resulting in that natural decay sound which also smoothes out the hits.
Reverb: Once again, I have both the room and plate reverb on the toms. The room’s purpose is to put the drums in a space while having the plate giving decay to the tails of the toms.
Above images: EQ Tom settings with high and low pass filters.
Next up in Steve’s series – Part 1 of a two-part installment on miking cymbals, hi-hats & rides…look for it next Wednesday!