Guidelines for miking the snare drum

This article will give you some guidelines on close miking a snare 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 instrument

The snare drum consists of several large sound sources.

The batter (top) head produces the main tone and overtones. The rim, which is often played by itself (e.g. cross stick) or together with the batter head, produces a so called rim shot. And if the drummer is using brushes, the entire surface of the drumhead is played. The snare (bottom) head with the snares strained over.

The top head has a wide range of frequencies depending of the degree of muffling (made with gaffa tape, o-rings or gel) on the head, the tuning of the head and the playing style of the drummer. In general terms, a jazz snare drum will be richer in overtones with less muffling and tighter tuning than a rock snare drum, which typically has more core tone.

The bottom head has the very complex sound of the snares, with a lot of high frequencies, fast transients and high SPL. Sometimes the snare drum is played with the snares released, making it important to cover the full frequency band.

Snare microphone positioning

To close mic a snare drum you need microphones that can reproduce extreme fast transients and high dynamics. You also need your microphone to be able to withstand extremely high SPLs because the typical level from a hit on a snare drum will easy exceed 140 dB and above.

To capture this level of sound and still preserve the many details you find in a snare drum, a good condenser microphone would be the best microphone but there is more to it than that. Though we are talking close miking here, there is, in most cases, a lot of “bleed” from the rest of the drum kit. This results in poor and non-separated pickup quality unless you make sure the microphone you have chosen also has the correct pickup pattern and off-axis response for your application.

Frequency response

Choosing a microphone with a flat off-axis response for the snare drum will also make sure that the typical bleed from the hi-hat will sound natural and help separating the two instruments in the mix. A good and workable microphone position is 5 cm above the rim and 3-5 cm over the drum head.

DPA's solutions for snare

The 2011C Twin Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone is a perfect choice to close mic a snare drum. If you want the microphone to be out of sight, the 4099 Instrument Microphone has the same quality as the 2011C, but gives you a supercardioid pickup pattern which will result in even greater separation and detailed pickup.

Mounting the snare microphone

All of the above-mentioned microphones can be placed either on a microphone stand or directly on the snare drum using the appropriate microphone mount. The DC4099 Clip for Drum is the perfect solution to connect a 4099 to any type of drum. Its revolutionary 90° system provides a wide range of mounting options. The 2011C can be mounted on a regular microphone stand or any kind of rim-mounted accessory that fits a standard microphone clip.




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