I’m really trying to do these articles about something other than tone but I get asked a lot of questions about how to sound good (and I’m obsessed with sounding good!). So, once again, I’ll be talking about how to make your drums sound as good as possible. The question I’ll try to answer this month is, “To mic drums or not to mic.”
I have a regular gig at a local night club that most of my peers know about. Several of those guys have asked, “Do you mic your drums in there?” to which I reply ”Yes. I mic my drums EVERYWHERE.” Usually I get a puzzled look and then the question, “Why? That place is small.” What follows is my stock answer and the reasoning behind it.
Any time I play and there is a p.a. in the room, I mic my drums. It can be a pain and consume a little time but the results are more than worth it. In small rooms you should mic your drums for TONE and not necessarily volume. Drums being an acoustic instrument (often the ONLY acoustic instrument on stage), the farther you are from the kit, the less tone you get and you end up with an impact sound and very little sustain. It is this sustain that you can get through mics and a p.a. and almost never without it. This is also the reason that I never muffle my snare or toms and only minimally muffle my kick. if your preference is for a deader sound, then you need to mic even more than I do.
On another note, being purely acoustic puts a drummer at a specific disadvantage. Volume. When a person plays an electric instrument, they simply turn a knob to the right to get louder. Nothing about how hard they are playing changes. For drummers, volume is purely physical and more volume requires more energy and motion. At a point, your finesse chops are history and you risk injury. Not cool. Using mics can all but eliminate these problems because if you can hear and feel your drums through a p.a., you won’t feel the need to wail as hard and that will cascade into you playing quieter which means the electric players can be quieter……….you get the point.
Really consider this mic thing. There are many products available at a lot of different price points. You may be able to get mics cheaper than you thought. If your curious, stop by the store and talk to someone. We can help you identify your needs and help you get something that won’t put you in the poorhouse (or doghouse for the married). We have access to almost anything. Until next time.