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Help me record a huge 23x23 kick drum Dynamic Microphones
Old 29th August 2007
Help me record a huge 23x23 kick drum

I use the drummer's kit (mid-line gretsch) from the band I'm in to record bands with, because it usually sounds better than what they have. I'm getting pretty good sounds with MK-012s on OH, SM 57 on snare/kick beater and Beta 52 on outside of the kick.

I've been getting borderline acceptable kick sounds but the kick is probably a little harder to mic than most. Here's why:

1. It's huge. I measured it as 23x23. This causes it to be very low on the frequency spectrum. It's more of a low wump than a pop sounding whap. I need to give it definition because an Beta 52 alone on the outside disappears on most systems lacking bass (can't hear it on laptop speakers).

2. There is no hole in the outside head. That means the typical kick-mic-in-the-hole-pointing-at-the-beater thing doesn't work. I don't think she wants me to cut a hole in it either.

3. I'm looking for a specific sound. Bands I record like it because they can play those disco-y dancy indie rock beats and have a powerful kick sound. I want that big disco thump. I'm not going for totally natural here.

Help me get a big kick sound that will sound full and great on a stereo with bass, but also have some lowmid definition so on bass lacking systems it will still sound nice but more clicky.

I have a MK319 PE mod that I'm thinking about putting on the outside head or maybe a yamaha subkick (worth buying for this purpose?). I'm worried about the bleed in the beater mic. What mic would you recommend for this purpose? Either something really close and directional or an omni mic for a natural sounding bleed? Please help; thanks for your time
Old 29th August 2007
Gear Addict

take the front head off
Old 29th August 2007
Gear Addict

yes take front head off for sure.
Old 29th August 2007

I'll ask her if it's okay. I'm new to drum tuning but recently I bought a 18" floor tom for $5 at a garage sale and I've been practicing the method I've been reading about online. I'm getting better pretty quickly but I'm still not great. Is the tuning of the front head super important? If I take it off without telling her do you think I'll be able to get it back on and in tune so that she doesn't notice?

So I should just use the beta 52 in the middle flat with the hoop or maybe put it deep in there (I assume this will vary the amount of beater click)? Will taking off the front head make it less tight sounding and more airy and poof-y? Should I swap my beta52 for a sennheiser e602, AKG d112, or shure SM91? I'm on a budget so that's why I'm asking because I love experimenting but I can't afford to buy and sell a bunch of kick mics on ebay. Maybe just taking off the front head will make the beta 52 work great?

Any help is much appreciated
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
lasso's Avatar

a side note: the fundamental freq. of a kick is way higher than people usually tend to think about - around 300 Hz for a normal sized kick. Maybe finding the fundamental and boosting accurately the subs – for example 150 + 75 if it's 300, a bit will help get some psycho acoustics happening

Everytime I have recorded with my 602 it's been with the front head off, starting with the mic dead center around the spot where the resonant head used to be. Closer to the beater for more smack but less bass, further from the beater for more bass but more bleed from cymballs and snare, more to the sides for a more natural, less defined attack.
Old 29th August 2007
Gear Addict

I wouldn't take the front head off - when there's no hole in the front head and when it's part of the drummer's sound, I'll stick a RE-20 into the kick drum held by a custom suspension I built... That mic would be my main Kick track...

Then I'd add a subkick as a FOK and also a dynamic mic such as an M-88 on the beater side, as close to the impact spot as possible...

It worked plenty of times, for my tastes at least !...

Good luck,

Old 29th August 2007
Gear Guru
AllAboutTone's Avatar

yes take the front head off, im not sure that the Beta 52 is the tool for the job as well, its a great mic but can add extra boom so to speak, try a D112 if you have one.
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
Slaytex's Avatar

Beta 52's are great, they are just very picky with placement IMHO. I tend to go half way in and point my mic towards the side of the shell for my big kick shell. This gives me great attack/slap and a good amount of low end balls without that 240-350 Hz mud.
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
travisbrown's Avatar
Mic the front skin of the kick as well.

Senn. 421 might work well for the front. Blend the two signals as you see fit.

RE-20 is my favourite go-to mic for kick. Favourite go-to mic for lots of things, actually.

If you take the skin off (and I think people are way to quick to do so sometimes), mic up close to the backside of the beater skin, and another back towards where the front head used to be. Drape a packing blanket over the kick for isolation.

We used to build big long tunnels, extending the depth of the kick, with foley boxes. Then we'd mic at various points. Big kick sound. Like a cannon. Now if I want to change the way a kick actually sounds, I either get another kick or trigger a sample.
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
True North's Avatar



Try micing where the beater hits the skin for more attack and slap

Good Luck
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
lowfreq33's Avatar

Start with the drum. Tune the beater side down until it gives you a little click. Mic this side with maybe a 421. You might engage the filter. Tune the front head up and mic this with a condenser of some sort. Between the two you should get a decent kick sound. I always have at least 2 mics on the kick.
Old 1st October 2007
Here for the gear
doogiedrummer's Avatar

Speaking specifically as a gretsch drumkit owner, my only comment about removing the front head, and then putting it back on would be to follow this procedure:

1. Set the kick on the floor with the batter side down
2. Loosen each t-rod and let it hang exactly where the claw was biting into the hoop
3. After loosening all t-rods, lift the hoop and head from the drum, and store it in a manner that keeps the claws in the exact locations they were in, preferrably hanging (you could set the head and hoop on a box that is smaller than the diameter of the head)

Why is this important? If the Gretsch kick is one of their pro-line or vintage drums, the cast claws dig into the wood hoops. If you dont line them up exactly as they were, you will create new bite marks in the hoop. If you dont line up the claws, your drummer will definitely notice this and may want to harm you, as this damage is irreversable. On the other hand, if it is a newer "imported" Gretsch kit, this may not be the case.

If you've already removed the head and hoop, just make sure you line the claws up exactly in line with the existing gouges in the hoop.

Just my two cents...
Old 1st October 2007
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I wouldn't remove the front head... it's not what those big drums are about & over time the drum might go out of round as well. If you want/need a 'smaller' more modern sounding drum it'd be FAR easier to nab a 'normal' sized kick like a 16x20 and use that instead of attempting to make the big drum sound like a small one... chasing 'yer tail around.


With drums that large one thing I've had really good luck with is dropping a mic through the air vent and into the drum. You'll probably need to remove the front head to rig it all up, but then put the head back on. I've used AKG 451's (w/ pad!); Countryman, B&K & other lavilers; any kind of small diaphram mic that can take a lot of SPL. Just suspended 'in-air' inside the drum. I prefer cardiods to omnis most times... experiment.

Even with that I'll have a mic outside the drum. Probably some sort of large diaphragm mic in a packing blanket 'tunnel' to contain leakage & isolate the drum... U67's are pretty groovy but sometimes a 414 or something in figure 8.

Yet another idea would be to place a mic on the beater side of the head. Leakage can & will suck here so a figure 8 with the null aimed at the snare is about the only thing that works. Sometimes a "tight" mic like a 441... Either way, it's most likely gated/expanded & keyed from the 'inside' mic & I'll print that (gated) to tape.

There's a KILLER setup somewhere in the archives here from Bob St. John that he used on the last Extreme record... freakin' works GREAT!!!

Obviously you'll have to move the mics around to get the phases sorted out...
Old 1st October 2007
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Originally Posted by Grizzly View Post
I wouldn't take the front head off - when there's no hole in the front head and when it's part of the drummer's sound, I'll stick a RE-20 into the kick drum held by a custom suspension I built... That mic would be my main Kick track...
Got a picture of that custom mount?! Sounds kool...
Old 1st October 2007
Lives for gear
espen askelad's Avatar
Taking the front, unported head off of a big kick is basically robbing that drum of what gives it a cool character. Keep an out front mic for the boom, but either put something with a tight pickup pattern on the beater or get a mic inside. My Gretsch kick was modded ages ago to a Ludwig style tom mount on the kick. I keep the tom on its own stand and can use that port to drop in a mic cable. You have to take off the front head to position the mic, but then put it back on and get the best of both worlds. Nice definition from the batter mic and the huge earth-moving power of the front mic.

With other people though I'll usually just mic the batter side as well with a hypercardiod mic and then play with polarity 'til it sounds right.

Maybe try tuning it a little higher than usual, too.
Old 1st October 2007
Gear Maniac
Legacy Audio's Avatar
From a technical point of view, in my opinion I feel that a 22" diameter kick-drum is the optimum size. Why I hear you ask? Well the beater will hit pretty much dead centre on a 22" kick producing the fullest tone.

While it is possible to adjust the beater hight, this will radically alter the balance of the pedal and the drummer will dislike the feel.

With all that said, that is not to say that a great sound can not be obtained with other sizes. Just something to consider when purchasing a kit?
Old 26th September 2008
Gear Addict
NoisyNarrowBand's Avatar

put a re-20 and a 57 on the beater side, have a subkick on the other. make sure the 57 does not pick up to much lows. blend to taste.
Old 26th September 2008
Lives for gear
Grumblefoot's Avatar

A kick that deep has to move ALOT of air to resonate, try the front head off or have the drummer really kick it hard.
Old 26th September 2008
Lives for gear

As stated:

-Tuning. If you can't tune a drum then you really should take the time to learn and practice. Drums are an important part of most styles of music, and one of the most difficult instruments to record properly. Add to this the fact that many drummers don't know how to tune their own is an invaluable skill.

-Mic both heads.

-If all else fails, put a hole in the head, change heads, take the head off, try a completely different bass drum altogether, even change drummers. This is all about the end result, not the drummer's (or band's) ego or pre-defined notions of what they are all about. You job should be to make a kick-ass recording, so making elementary decisions like these should not be like pulling teeth. You need to let the artist know what needs to be done, or explain the consequences and have them own up to their decision to go against your better judgement, and dish out a big ol' "I told you so" if they don't like the end result. Make them a part of the decision-making process and they may even enjoy being more flexible in their approach.

This is tough if you are new to tracking, but experimentation in the hunt for the perfect sound goes way beyond simple mic selection and positioning. It starts at the source (as it always does), and the source may just be the attitudes of those calling the shots or making the happy noises to be recorded.

Sorry for the speech. I may be assuming too much about what your situation is, but this is the way I approach things these days (after making MANY mistakes).

EDIT: Just wanted to add that OF COURSE you have to at least try to work with what you are given before changing too much. If you are making an effort and it is not working, then it may be time to consider more drastic measures as described above. If you start out as a dictator it will be difficult to shake off that impression.

Last edited by Chrisc_o; 26th September 2008 at 08:33 PM.. Reason: Clarification
Old 26th September 2008
This is a pretty old post... I'll tell you what's been working for me since I posted this

I use the glyn johns setup with the center overhead and the side overhead near the floor tom, equidistant from the snare. The side overhead picks up a lot of the beater side, while still sounding natural... the other two mics are a short ribbon kick mic, the RSM-4 lollipop, and the sennheiser 441 on snare. I use the beta 52 under the FT when I need more boom. I have been pretty happy with this setup as it is smooth and natural sounding - the bleed from the close mics is smooth because they are smooth sounding mics - which is an improvement over the HH bleed in the 57 which can be nasty.

I like the ribbon on kick but I'm going to look for something a little more defined, like a beyer M88

Thanks for the help guys
Old 26th September 2008
Gear Addict

If I had a drum that big I'd try a LDC out in front, but that's just me.
Old 27th September 2008
if only I had a fet47...
Old 28th September 2008
Simple solution: you want more definition and control, and obviously, a 23" is going to have a lot of body that you can potentially capture:

Do yourself a favor and buy a PR-40 from Heil. It's by far the most EQ friendly, potentially punchy, and FULL bodied/sustained mic out there for kick drum.

To let you know just how badly I feel this: I sold one because I only used it on kick, and I figured that it was bad to have to EQ the thing. Later, while testing one a friend had just bought for larger studio, I discovered that the EQ was the biggest blessing in disguise because it forced me to use my ears and also gave me SO MUCH versatility with this microphone.

I ended up RE-buying one again because I felt so convinced by this mic. I also have a D-112 and Beta 52, but the D-112 spends most of its time on floor tom now (or a PR-30 or 35 is GREAT for this purpose as well), and the PR-40 is stuck either on the outside or inside of the kick.

Try one out, please.

Also... buy a head with a hole in it, or cut a hole in it. Come' on. Everybody's doing it.

And if that and tuning still aren't give you what you want, buy an EMAD head for the beater side.

Old 28th September 2008
I'm pretty sure the drum is either a 22 or a 24... they don't make 23" drum heads. .

In any case, an RE-20 in the hole and a Yamaha sub-kick outside would be ideal.
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