Miking drums

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Bard2dbone, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    An acquaintance of mine recorded a session a while back where, in stead of individual mics for each drum and cymbal, they had PZM mics stuck to the individual panels of the plastic isolation screen around the drumset.

    Apparently the PZM's, if attached to a flat surface, are supposed to treat the whole flat surface as a mic diaphragm.

    I want to know: How common is this? How does it work, sound-wise? I listened to the recording, but the drums were far enough back in the mix that I couldn't tell enough.
  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    It *can* work pretty well, but often doesn't. With PZMs, phase isn't a problem. But the frequency response of the PZMs is limited by the surface they are attached to (mount them to hardwood floors and you get a lot of bass; mount them to glass/plastic and you just get upper mids and highs) and they pick up a *lot* of the room sound. So if the room sounds good, good. Otherwise, they can sound like a tin can.
  3. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    From what I understood, this was just a regular plastic isolation screen, like so many drummers put up around their kits. There was also a pair of smaller plastic sheets flown above the kit with PZM's to catch the cymbals.

    From what you wrote, I would expect the cymbals to sound pretty good that way, but would not hold great hopes for the drums, especially the Kick drum.

    How would you go about making this kind of set up work best? Or is it even work it to try to use this kind of set up at all?

    I guess I'm wondering if there is an A.) simple and B.) effective way to mic drum sets. I liked how he made the screen=mic diaphragm thing sound, conceptually. I guess I'm kind of let down by the probable reality. But it sounded like a great idea: Four channels for drums, two for cymbals, all panned in relation to their actual location in the set. Those six channels mixed down to two channels, one sent right one sent left...cool. I shouldn't have got my hopes up. :rollno:
  4. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    You might want to take a look at the PZM guide on the Crown website to gain some insight into deployment strategies. The size of the boundaries that the mikes are mounted on is very important to bass response. I prefer the middle of two adjacent walls, about 8-10 feet off the kit at head height, but that's just what works in my room. It took quite while to figure that out, actually. I do adjust the stereo image a bit through panning, depending on which part of the kit needs tightening up on a given track. The PZMs are best for a natural, jazzy sound, in my experience. If you want a big 'verby snare, look elsewhere. As Lyle said, if you don't have a nice sounding room, fuggetaboudit.

    I typically record the drums and either bass or rhythm guitar with one PZM pair, both at the same time, then dub a few more tracks later and call it good, but I'm just recording as a hobbyist. I can upload a few recordings to my website if you're curious about how it sounds. I don't think using more than a couple of PZMs is a good thing, but I could be wrong.
  5. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004

    Here's a lengthy article I wrote on miking drums for the rec.music.makers.percussion usenet group, typos and all. But it's a good place to start, even if I do say so myself:

  6. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    I didn't address PZMs in that article, but they should be treated as small diaphram omnidirectional condensers (with widely variable frequency responses depending on the size and material of the mounting surface used) when reading the article.
  7. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    The Crown tutorial also addresses changing the polar pattern of the PZM with various baffles and other widgets, but I haven't messed with that much myslelf.
  8. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    I tried that in the past, but it only makes them somewhat directional for upper mids and highs. For lower mids and lows they remain omnis.
  9. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    this is kinda left field but we've been using a couple of really good ribbon mics (usually one close, and one farther away, some times left and right) the sound can be HUGE. :D
  10. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Yeah, I get kinda "Charlton Hestonish" when it comes to my Royers.
  11. mnadelin


    Apr 6, 2003
    Kalamazoo, MI
    I think the more improtant thing is have you heard it and does it sound good? If it sounds good then I guess it's a pretty good method. Personally, I think throwing a few 57s on is always a good way to go. Sounds like a cool idea. I use a PAiA MS stereo mic and a 57 on the kick. Works great.
  12. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    I guess I was just hoping for a simpler method than what we had the last time I was in a studio. We had a separate on every drum and cymbal. Eleven channels for the drums. I really doubt he used every drum and cymbal even once that session. Taking that long to set up mics that may or may not all get used just seemed insane to me. I really dug the idea of 'Put the screen in front of the kit and you're mic'ed.' Wow.

    But I guess simpler wouldn't be worth it if the drums have no bottom end, especially the kick. Would the PZM's sound better for the drums if they were stuck to smaller wooden surfaces, say the size of a shingle?
  13. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Check this out, sorry I forgot to link it previously: Crown PZM Application Guide

    You can put a PZM right in the kick drum, or hang it just in front of the beater, and you'll get plenty of low end, perhaps too much even. Whether you like the tone is another issue, of course.
  14. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I don't know if this it technically a PZM mic, but I've had great success both recording and live placing a Shure Beta 91 inside the kick drum.


    Add one of these to your "mic wall" setup and you migh just pull the whole thing off.............
  15. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I would think that one thing about PZMs is that since their polar pattern is a nice, even hemisphere, you can't get the 'natural panning' that's so easy with cardioid pattern mics - I'm speaking of easily getting a nice, natural-sounding stereo field.

    You know -- the cardioid pattern has that smooth sensitivity rolloff as a source continues off-axis, so that if you use two coincident cardioids that are angled 60-or-so degrees to each other, it 'automatically pans' left and right things into a natural-sounding 'spot' in the stereo field. There's technically one optimal angle for any matched coincident cardioid pair - at a given frequency - where if you mix to mono, the added-up sensitivity for a source in the center of the pair is equal to what it would add-up to on-axis to either... did I say that right?. I think it's pretty cool the way that works out. Going with coincident lessens the chance of phase problems if the song is played back in monaural.

    When it comes to creating a believeable stereo field with PZMs, I think you're mostly working with arrival time differences between the two mics; not as much volume differences like a pan-knob or coincident cardioids (of course with NOT-coincident cardioids, you can use BOTH psycoacoustic locational cues).

    I can see why one would want to use PZMs on a drum screen - if he were forced to use a drum screen for a recording - because a PZM essentially 'illiminates' the surface it's attached to when it comes to reflections off that surface. I'd think that a hard screen like that would cause problems for other mics because of the short-path reflections that would cause that comb-filter interference in the high frequencies (cymbols especially). I don't know - I wonder if you almost have to use PZMs instead of conventional overheads to avoid the swishy, phasing sound, if the screen goes up very high. I'd think the phasor-swish would be worst-case with cymbols because of how they can physically swing-around after being struck!

    I think I remember hearing somewhere that - for a while at least - Phil Collins was in to using two PZMs for his whole set, and he's been known for a pretty powerful sort of drum sound (not real powerful SONGS, compared to Genisis, if you ask me...).

    Like Passinwind said though: for more distant-miking, I'm sure you have to have a good-sounding room to start with - especially with PZMs. Due to that non-directional hemispheric pickup response, you're getting the whooooole room in there with them. That's a freaky thing with PZMs - you put one on one wall of a rectangular room, and there is no sound source in the room that's outside of the mic's 'optimal' sensitivity (of course, that's true with a regular omni too).

    I've said for years though: For anyone on a super-tight budget, the best mic for the money is a Radio-Schlock PZM that's been hot-rodded by putting in a stack (2) of those batteries that gooses the condenser voltage up to.. what is it? - 18V or something like that (compared to the called-out AA's 1.5V). Back years ago at least, it mentioned that option - and the exact battery - right on the instruction sheet that came with them. It might not be the worst idea to buy a pair of the 'Schlocks just to experiment with. They might not be very well matched though.