Adding More Snares to Snare Drums
If you're presented with an "inherited recording" to mix
(one you didn't engineer) with live drums where no bottom mic was
used on the snare drum, or the track sheet says "snare"
but all you've got to work with is a dull thump, try this:
route an aux send buss output from your mixing console to a small
powered speaker (or, if you have an extra power amp, a regular small
passive speaker) you've placed out in the studio room or vocal booth.
I would put my small, powered 5-inch Yamaha
speaker right on top of a decent sounding snare drum sitting on
You should use a spacer so the speaker itself does not dampen the
snare drum head too much. I use the plastic protective ring from
a two-inch reel of tape for a spacer and strap it and the speaker
down to the drum's shell with gaffer's tape.
Then put your favorite bottom snare drum mic on the bottom and bring
it up in the mix on another mic input fader. While sending on the
aux send buss from the original snare track slowly add in the bottom
I sometimes hard gate the aux send signal to the speaker if leakage
causes too much snare buzzing in between snare hits. You should
EQ and try flipping phase—one way will sound better than another
and you shouldn't need much of this to vibe up that dull snare.
Recording Sympathetic Vibrations
Another use for a speaker is to energize the strings inside your
piano. Use non-residue tape to clamp down the piano keys in the
key of the song. I usually hold down all the octaves of the key
of the song but you can experiment with forming chords too. You
also need to put something heavy on the sustain pedal to keep the
damper off the strings.
If you place the speaker (or attached it) underneath the piano right
up under the soundboard, you'll hear it vibrating the harp and strings.
I would usually send the bass, guitars and keyboard tracks but you
should try sending only vocals for a very interesting vocal effect.
Of course you'll have to place a couple of microphones over the
harp on the other side of the soundboard and add them to your mix
as a stereo pair.
Adding Unique Room Ambience
Another trick is to place the speaker out in a room and pick up
it's sound with a mic—a basic echo chamber. Some mixers routinely
set up two speakers with a stereo send and stereo mics just to add
more room to sounds that are too dry or were recorded direct. If
you have a good sounding room, this is a winner.
I only have a small storage room with a very high ceiling. I've
mounted a Shure
SM57 near the top of the room for one sound and I sometimes put
another mic much closer to the speaker. I get 'quirky' but not big
room sounds with this rig.
A Speaker For Kick Drum Mic
I've used old Auratone speakers to record kick drums. The small
five-inch speaker gets a low midrange sound quality when placed
close to the kick drum. Moving further away produces a more hollow
sound good for special effects. Lately I've been using the woofer
out of the ubiquitous NS-10M since I usually find them around the
studio in various stages of disrepair.
The 8-inch Yamaha speaker gets a lower tone - almost a TR-808 (drum
machine) sound with a lot of 'hang time' (that's ghetto-speak for
decay length). After soldering a mic cable to it, I prop it up on
tape boxes and place it about a foot in front at an angle since
air blasts from the drum can cause trouble. These "microphones"
are not going to give you anything above about 2 kHz so you'll have
to mix in a real microphone for the rest of the drum's sound.
Bass Drum Tunnels
A lot has been written on bass drum tunnels and I've seen a few
versions. The usual way is to build a tunnel using standard studio
gobos or baffles. I've seen them as long as fifteen feet. You have
the option with a long tunnel of using more distant miking and still
maintain isolation from the rest of the kit.
This tunnel has to have a roof made of more gobos and cartage blankets
laid on top of all of it. I've read where a heavy cylindrical cardboard
concrete casting form works as a prefab tunnel. You can get these
is various diameters up to about 24-inches at home improvement centers
in just about any length you can get home.
They are a much quicker setup than dragging out all those gobos.
You should put a mic in your normal place—maybe just inside
the hole of the front head or right in front of the drum. Then put
a distant mic down near the end of the tunnel.
Achieve a balance and sound with just two mics: the distant one
down the tunnel and the close mic. Flip phase around and try different
positions before reaching for EQ and if you are recording to a DAW,
you can shift (in time) the distant mic's recorded waveform closer
to the close mic's signal waveform timing. This sometimes helps
and sometimes hurts. I've used a shotgun mic for the distant mic
for a faraway sound yet sonorous presence.