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Rec Levels When Tracking Drums? Drum Microphones
Old 30th August 2007
Gear Addict
rodreb's Avatar

Rec Levels When Tracking Drums?

I've been tracking drums lately and I'm noticing so much bleed in all my close mics that it is driving me crazy. I'm pretty happy with the actual sound of the drums I'm getting, it's just all the bleed that is getting to me.

I'm typically using dynamic, cardioid, mics....

typically about 1" to 2" from the drum heads....

I try to position them to take advantage of the cardioid pattern as much as is possible....

but when soloed, there is so much bleed in each mic from other elements of the kit it just doesn't seem right.

The kick mic isn't too bad but the snare mic is getting almost as much cymbal as the overheads and also quite a bit of floor tom.
The tom mics are also getting a lot of cymbal and a fair amount of snare but, of course I can usually gate the tom mics a bit.

I'm tracking with all drum mics peaking at about -6. Is this too hot? Am I running the mics too hot so they are picking up way beyond the actual drum they are supposed to be getting? Is this a ratinal thought or am I completely off base here?

How hot are most people tracking drum mics?

Thanks in advance for any advice / thoughts on this question.

Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
Slaytex's Avatar

Nothing in life will ever be perfect so don't try to make it. We can only do the best we can and make the best of an imperfect situation.
In that regard, bleed is a good thing if you know how to work with it. A drum kit is 1 instrument not 5, so mic it as a whole and just make sure that what the other mics capture compliment each other.

What mics are you using for your snare and toms?
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
Slaytex's Avatar

Also, what size is the room? How is it treated?
Try moving the kit into the center of the room, I have a feeling your getting a lot of reflections.

-6db peak is pushing it but is ok.
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear

Your peaks are about right.

The amount of spill you get will depend on the mics (especially dynamic vs condensor mics) the polar pattern, the exact position and angle, and the way the kit is played.

You ALWAYS get some spill. Particular things to watch out for...hat in sn top mic, kick in sn bottom mic, cymbals in the tom mics etc. There's no way to eliminate this. You can try to minimise it. And you can gate mics but be careful not to choke the intended sound, or do weird things in the spill that draw attention to it. Like hats fading out as the sn gate closes.

This spill is one of the things that makes acoustic drum recordings what they are.

Old 30th August 2007
Gear Nut

I can understand folks desire to isolate the different components.
It would make SOME aspects of mixing easier.
However, in my experience, trying to isolate the different components of a kit is about as successful as isolating each string on an acoustic guitar.

If you have ever mixed electric drums (where every component is separate), you often have the opposite effect. The kit does not sound homogeneous.
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
firby's Avatar

put the snare mic where the pattern blocks out the hihat as much as possible.

Ditto with the bass drum mic and the snare mic.

Then embrace the bleed. This is the way of the drum mixer. You have a room mic right ? The bleed can make things sound very huge and nice. You must embrace your weaknesses young grasshopper.
Old 30th August 2007
Gear Maniac
snüzz's Avatar

And you can gate mics but be careful not to choke the intended sound
i agree- be sure not to let the gate be heard. in fact, i wouldn't use a gate but just go with the advise already given that a bleed is not a bad thing. are you compressing your close mics or putting eq on them? i would avoid this. let your room or overhead mics do most of the work and just let those close mics be your thump. - Snuzz - Winston Salem, North Carolina - Alternative -
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
BradM's Avatar
What mics are you using?

Don't worry about the bleed. The important thing is does the whole kit sound good when you listen to all the mics together?

Old 30th August 2007
Leakage is your friend.

If you don't belive me, pop a gate on each mic and discover how fast a great kit can be transformed into a first class drum machine.

Or. you can record each drum one at a time like Leon Russell used to do, that also sounds like a drum machine.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 30th August 2007
Gear Addict
rodreb's Avatar

Nothing special mic-wise. SM-57's on snare and toms.
The room is 12' x 24' with 8' ceiling Being a basement room the ceiling is stuffed with pink insulation and covered with cloth. A few bass traps and diffusors. The drums are not near any walls.
As I had said, I'm OK with the actual "sound" of the recorded drums, I'm just concerned about the bleed and wondering if I might be trying to track too hot.
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
amishsixstringe's Avatar

I think you may be a little confused. Bleed has nothing to do with your tracking levels. If you record at -50dB and then turn it up after it's been recorded (which you will have to do anyhow) the bleed will be back. By using more pre amp gain you're not actually making the microphone try to 'hear' more sound. I mean, it is, but in exact proportion to if it was turned down. Like everyone has said before me. Bleed is going to happen. It's not a big deal. You seem to be happy with the kit sound. Don't be so solo button happy. When it's on a CD or iPod, nobody is going to say "man those tom mics sure are picking up a lot of cymbal bleed". trust me.

Old 30th August 2007
Gear Nut

You are probably tracking just fine.
Recording drums is an eye opener for sure.
I find that using the fewest mics you can get away with (with some distance between the mics and kit), works the best for a more natural 3D type sound.
I tend to only use the close mics for emergency use only to balance the kit, when it can't be done any other way. Or occasionally for special effects like putting the close miced snare track through a special effect.
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
crypticglobe's Avatar
The big obvious question here (to me at least) is: Are you compressing these mics as you track? Compression is going to bring the "bleed" level up dramatically. If you are... try not compressing so much... or at all.

You are always going to have bleed. How much (excluding compression issues) varies dramatically based on some of the following:

1. Mic choices
2. Mic positioning
3. The placement of the individual drums/cymbals
4. The Drummer
5. The Drummer
6. The Drummer
7. Oh... and the drummer.

What generally will not matter much is... preamp gain... unless you are cranked to the point where you are getting distortion and that rarely sounds good.

The drummer has a LOT to do with this. A drummer with great technique will allow you to mic in traditional methods with very little bleed (relatively speaking for drums). A drummer with bad teqhnique (and unsual cymbal placement) can make your life a nightmare. These facts are why engineers have developed a lot of different methods over years.

You can get rid of bleed issues on the drum mics by using good noise gates (I don't recommend this during tracking but I know some who do). This will give the kit a tighter, more focused sound generally. I almost ALWAYS mute tom tracks (in the mix) except for when they are struck and leave gates out of it all together... I just do it in the arrange window.

If you want the full sound of the kit... you can leave those mics open and ungated as well. Phase is very important. Check your individual instruments with the overheads... especially kick and snare. Make adjustments as necessary. Move the mics, and try toggling the phase (on kick snare) and listen to the low end to see which way sounds more solid.

Anyway... welcome to the art of recording drums. You will always have bleed, and that is part of the charm. Don't get caught up in what each drum sounds like soloed... listen to the kit as a whole. Don't overcompress (or even compress at all) going in... and just go for a "big picture" that rocks your world.

Old 30th August 2007
Lives for Jesus
stevep's Avatar
Step away from the solo button stike

Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
I just read an article that touched on keeping bleed to a minimum. It's half down the page and called "Tips on getting killer drum sounds" by Nick Blagona. Never tried it myself, but give it a shot...might work?

Old 31st August 2007
Gear Maniac
Long_Shaded_Eye's Avatar

I used to record at -6 ... now it seems a little high to me.
Now I recording drums around -18 and peaking at -12 ... I know DAW sucks at showing this kind of level. But recording at lower level opened my sound, making things less fuzzy & cloudy. On Tape Board there is some nice tread on this question (with Joel Hamilton talking about the gain chain).

Anyway as some other people say, I don't think it has something to do with your "bleed" problem (unless if your preamp tends to compress the sound / transient ...).

Hope it helps in a way ... sorry for my English.
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