This article will give you some guidelines on close miking a bass (kick) drum. It will discuss the best type of microphone for the job and suitable placement options.
Please remember, great sound is subjective and the miking methods described in this article are suggestions only. Try these methods out, but make sure to listen and choose the best solution for your specific situation.
Close miking an instrument is often considered to be a compromise to the instrument’s true acoustic sound. An instrument’s sound is usually designed to be experienced at a distance so that all the different elements of the sound are naturally blended into a perfect harmony. Yet often, mounting a microphone directly on the instrument is the most practical solution.
Finding and placing the microphone in the instrument’s sweet spot – or your preferred location, can be a challenge. Keeping it there can be even more challenging, especially if the instrument is moved. For this reason, close miking requires a dependable mounting solution.
The bass (kick) drum is the largest sound source of the entire drum kit and also the one with the lowest frequencies.
The sound of the bass drums differs a lot with the drummer’s choice of size, heads, tuning, muffling and whether or not there is a hole in the front head. Typically, a more jazz-oriented drummer will choose a smaller size (down to 18" or smaller), thin heads and high-pitch tuning. And very often the jazz bass drum will not have a hole in the front head making it necessary to place the mic outside the front head, with a more round, mid-range heavy sound.
The standard rock bass drum has a 22" diameter (and often even 24" to 26") and a hole in the front head. This allows a mic to be placed inside the bass drum, to get more attack when the beater hits the batter head. The typical rock drummer will choose a fairly thick batter head or even a 2-ply head and tune it very low, to gain maximum attack and low end. Occasionally, a rock drummer will also choose not to have a hole cut in the front head to have even more low end. In this case, the drummer can either choose to have a mic permanently installed inside the bass drum or live with the reduced attack by miking the bass drum from the outside.
If the kick drum has a hole in the front head, interior placement is an easy way to capture a punchy and consistent kick drum sound. But there are a couple of easy tricks we can use with an instrument like this to improve and achieve an even more precise and accurate result.
For a super-low-end kick drum sound the best placement is at the hole, just on the outer side of the front head. Here, the level of sub and lows are represented the most, but a lot of bleed from the cymbals and snare drum will also be picked up here. Still, this might be okay for many applications.
If the need is a more punchy and isolated kick-drum sound, place the microphone inside the kick drum to avoid all the noise and bleed coming from the rest of the kit. This will result in a thinner kick drum sound (less lows & sub) sounding more natural and flat.
Types of microphones for kick drum
For this application, the 2011 Twin Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone
is a great choice. Try different angles and distances. The 4099 Instrument Microphone
is a brilliant choice for easy and fast miking without microphone stands on stage.
When used with the VC4099 Clip for Violin
, the 4099D will fit the bass drum rim. The bass drum can benefit from a two-microphone setup, one on the stroke side and one on the front side. Shift polarity on one of them and blend them into the desired balance, controlling the “kick” sound and the low frequency component.
Try pointing a 4007 Omnidirectional Microphone
into the drum, slightly to the side, and see if your monitors can handle this awesome sound. The low frequency response, dynamics and high level capabilities of this mic are superb and result in a very tight, well defined sound. The 4007A is flat at 20 Hz and can handle 159 dB at this frequency.
Kick drum mic placement
Angling will give less wind problems (a lot of air is moved by the bass drum). Distance will adjust the overall bass frequency response, taking advantage of the proximity effect. It all depends on the sound you wish to produce. Sometimes placing the mic just outside the drum gives even more impact.
For jazz or folk music it might be best to find a spot outside the drum, sometimes on the kick side of the drum, if there is no hole in the front skin. You can also have great success using the 4011 Cardioid Microphone
in the same position, taking advantage of the proximity effect.
For a natural bass drum / room tone blend (or as a "kit-accumulator") an omni – preferably a 4041-SP Large Diaphragm Microphone
– can be placed approximately 1 m (3.3 ft) in front of the bass drum. Roll off the high frequencies if you primarily want it to be a bass drum addition.
Sound pressure level
As with brass instruments, a drum kit can produce very high peak sound levels. It is not unusual to see levels in excess of 120 dB at a distance of 1 meter and at a close range (2-5 cm from a drum or cymbal head) 140 dB or more. Obviously, the microphones must be able to handle these levels without clipping, which is not always the case in many recording situations.
In Microphone University we have loads of content that could be relevant to you. Learn more about how to mic various instruments in the articles below.