How to Mic a Snare Drum
Whether you're recording a sample for a track you're mixing or recording an album for your band, you're probably here because you're looking to mic a snare drum. The snare is a unique instrument and needs different mic techniques than other instruments. Unless you've seen someone mic one before, you may need some help.
Number of Mics
Some musicians prefer micing just the top of the snare. But you'll have a greater range of sound when you mic both the top and bottom. You can even add more than one mic to the top of the drum.
You may have some space constraints when you're working with an entire drum kit. But when you add more microphones, you'll be able to pick up different sounds and tones. Even if you choose not to use some of the recordings, you still have the option to use them.
Mounting the Mic
There are a few options when it comes to setting up your microphone or microphones.
You can use either a microphone stand or a mic clip. The type of mounting mechanism you choose will depend on the position you want to put the mic in. You can get a little more distance when you use a mic stand because it's a separate piece of equipment. You can get the mic closer with a clip because it attaches right onto the rim of the drum.
Whichever mount you use will depend on how you plan on positioning the microphone, which we talk about below.
The exact placement of your microphone will have a huge effect on the sound you record. Even a tiny difference — even an inch — can impact how your recording turns out. Think about these factors while you're setting up a microphone for a snare recording:
- Distance: Striking the snare drum on different parts of the head will produce different sounds. Hitting the drum dead center will give you a more dull, flat, staccato tone. Playing farther from the center will give that distinct crack. If you position the microphone towards the center of the drum, it picks up lower tones and not much of the sound from the snares. It will have a full sound but not sound as snare-like. Move it closer to the rim and the microphone will pick up more balanced tones.
- Height: How far away you position the microphone from the snare will also affect your end result. If the mic is right up close to the snare, you'll get a harsher tone. The farther away it is, the softer the sound becomes.
Once you've decided how you plan on setting up your snare mic, it's time to actually put it together.
Before you start recording, you obviously have to set up all the equipment you need. Here's what you need to do before you can start recording:
- Get your setup ready: Are you recording on an entire kit or just the snare by itself? Make sure you gather all the instruments and hardware you need before you set up the microphone equipment. The mics shouldn't interfere with your playing.
- Tune your snare: To get a high-quality recording, you need to make sure the snare is sounding its best. Tune it up before you record.
- Test it out: When you first set up your equipment, it may not be right on the first try. Make some sample recordings to test out the sound and make any adjustments you think are necessary.
By taking these steps before you begin recording, you'll be better prepared to get the best sound possible out of your snare.
Like lots of other things, how you mic your snare will come down to personal preference. What you think is the perfect setup may not appeal to someone else.
The best way to find what you think is best is to experiment. Test out different positions, different numbers of microphones and different settings and levels on your equipment. Playing around with how you set up your recording equipment gives you greater variety in the types of sounds you can produce, letting you get even more creative.
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