Frank Klepacki Blog Series: Preferences for Recording Drums, Part 2

Frank_AT5040This is the 18th installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank shares more of his preferences for recording drums. If you missed Frank’s previous post on this topic, you can read it here.

TOMS: AE3000 and ATM350. I use AE3000s on my 10″, 12″, and 14″ toms (as well as larger toms when called for) and an ATM350 on my 8″ tom. Because I have a tight kit configuration, I have to consider placement carefully, amount of bleed and tone. When using typical dynamic mics, it’s easy to compromise the rest of the kit’s tone by tweaking the tom EQs too much in the mix. For that reason alone, the AE3000 condenser is such a breath of fresh air – it picks up the round natural tone of the tom, with high-end attack, and I don’t have to tweak it to death after the fact. I even had one tom give me some overtone issues and I was able to control it with this mic by slightly adjusting the mic’s position. My ideal positioning for these mics is approximately a few inches above the tom and pointed straight along the drumhead.

As an alternate, the ATM350 is ideal for clipping onto the drum in areas where there is a tight fit. For such a small mic, the bass response is great, the cymbal bleed is minimal, and you still get good separation with panning and mixing in the overheads. An up-close positioning over the drum will get you a more low-end, rounded tone. If positioned just outside the rim of the drum, you get more attack, which is my personal preference. The reason I put this on my 8″ tom is because this tom is literally surrounded by my hi-hat, crash cymbal, snare, and second tom – so flexibility of positioning is important, as is the easy clip-on for fitting in the tight space.

CYMBALS: Pair of AT4041s or a stereo AT825. For the most flexibility, a pair of condensers, such as Audio-Technica 4041s, placed in stereo do a great job. You’ll find this is something that you really can’t get wrong unless you go out of your way to not position them properly. You can either spot mic the cymbals, or position them at any distance to pick up more of the kit and room as desired. As an alternate, to save space and hear more of the kit in the room, I use an overhead AT825 stereo mic positioned directly over and just behind the drummer. The AT825 is discontinued but replaced with the AT8022.

HI-HAT: You can also use the AT4041 on a hi-hat, but personally I don’t even mic the hi-hat unless it’s absolutely necessary, because the bleed between the snare and overheads (along with any EQ enhancing) usually covers it enough, unless you’re working with a drummer who positions his hi-hat a considerable distance from everything else, or plays it too quietly. It’s really for your ear to decide. This mic captures a nice natural sound of the hats so they aren’t too crispy.

ROOM MICS: A Pair of AT4050s or AT4040s. I chose these for their large diaphragms to capture more of the room. Placement will depend greatly on your room and whether it makes sense to do it or not, but when I use them, my preference is to place them about 10 feet away from the kit and about 20 feet apart from each other, which gets a nice full-stereo sound of the room to complement the rest of the tracks, to your mix level preference.

In conclusion, when I use these mics in the configs I mentioned, I get a great drum sound right away even without EQ. When mixing against other tracks, of course, I’ll sweeten it as needed. I typically only add some compression to the kick and snare tracks, but leave everything else natural. But the whole point is to start with the best I can get before anything else happens, which shortens the amount of time and work needed later to mix, and avoids the need for drastic shaping or sample replacement.

–       Frank Klepacki

Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit

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