How to Choose the Best Mics for the Drummer at Worship
Microphone placement on your drum kit during Worship can make or break the performance. This guide will provide you with the tools you need to ensure the beat keeps going in every worship service.
Long gone are the days when drums in Houses of Worship were a taboo topic. Many places of Worship today have drums and other musical or percussion instruments as an integral part of their Worship service. But the lyrics are the essential element of Worship, so the drums must be set up not to overpower the ability to hear the message.
The drum set can be the most challenging instrument to mike in a House of Worship by its very nature. What typically will work on the bass drum will usually not be ideal for the snare or cymbals. Factor in the sharp attacks and the propensity for high volume – depending on the style and genre of worship music and the player – you need to ensure you've got the suitable microphones for the job.
If you're in a small space, then you might not even need to mic up the drum set at all. You might need to look at isolating the drums with acoustic panels not to overpower the rest of the worship team. However, the larger Houses of Worship will need to mike up their drum sets to ensure the sound carries to the back of the sanctuary.
In this guide, you will learn drum mic types, effective methods to mike your drum set, and suggested mics to help keep the beat going in your House of Worship.
The most frequently used microphones for drums can be divided into three categories: Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbon.
Dynamic Mics provide a warm and full sound and handle extremely high sound levels before distorting. They essentially operate as the reverse of a loudspeaker, using a diaphragm, voice coil, and magnet to turn a sound wave into an audio signal. Dynamic mics are typically the first choice for onstage miking.
Condenser Mics have thinner diaphragms with an eclectically charged backplate to generate a signal and a smooth, natural sound. Generally, more sensitive than their dynamic counterparts, they're better at picking up finer details and percussive sounds. This ability makes condensers great as overheads in the studio when recording Worship music. They do require "phantom power" from the mixing board to operate.
Ribbon Mics are slightly more exotic than the previous two options, and they are cherished by many for capturing higher frequencies without being harsh or brittle. As you'd expect from the name, ribbon mics use a small strip inside a magnetic field to produce an audio signal. They were long known for being somewhat fragile devices. Modern ribbons are more robust, but they can still be relatively pricy.
The Overhead Mics
Overhead mics are typically condenser mics with small diaphragms. With condenser mics with small diaphragms, you can point them toward the drum set to pick up as much sound as possible without taking on too much background noise. To minimize room sound, lower the overhead mics and center them toward the drum set. To maximize room sound, raise the microphones, and angle them away from the drum set.
Typically, you set up overhead microphones over 18 inches above the cymbals.
Recommended Overhead Mics
Shure's BETA 181 is a precision-engineered condenser mic that is both discreet and versatile. The BETA 181 provides the flexibility of interchangeable polar pattern capsules, so you can easily tailor the microphone to suit a wide variety of applications.
The PGA181 is an affordable condenser microphone that is cardioid only with a smooth frequency response and low-key black finish, making it great for stage applications.
The KSM32 is a cardioid condenser microphone with a large-diaphragm that delivers studio-quality sound in a live performance.
Kick Drums Mics
Most kick drums are recorded using a dynamic microphone, and ideally, you would pick a microphone purpose-built for the kick drum. A purpose-designed kick drum microphones have a tailor-made frequency response to complement the kick drums' low-frequency power and attack. They are also particularly adept at handling high sound pressure levels.
As a rule of thumb, placing your mic inside the kick drum and pointed towards the beater will capture many attacks. And positioning further back – or even outside the drum's resonant head – will increase low frequencies. Using two mics – one inside, one just outside the sound hole – will give you the optimal combination of attack and weight.
Miking up a kick drum can often reveal unwanted resonance when you monitor the result. If this proves the case, try placing a pillow inside the drum kit to help dampen any ringing and provide a tougher sound. When muffling the kick drum with a pillow, you have to fix the inside mic in place.
Recommended Kick Drum Mics
The BETA 52A is a high-output dynamic microphone that has a frequency response designed specifically for kick drums. The BETA 52A has a built-in locking stand adapter to help simplify your setup and a hardened steel mesh grille.
The BETA 91A is a condenser microphone with a low-profile design that makes it easy to place inside a kick drum and features an integrated preamp. The half-cardioid polar pattern ensures maximum gain-before-feedback and rejection of off-axis sound. You do not need a mic stand with this mic, and you can place the mic in the drum to produce a very natural sound.
The PGA52 is a kick drum mic that delivers both clarity and reliability in an affordable and discreet package.
Snare Drum Mics
Most drummers are very particular about the sound of their snare drum. Typically, you use dynamic and condenser microphones to mic the snares. A dynamic mic will better capture the weight and body, with greater isolation from other drums.
On the other hand, condenser mics will reveal far more subtlety in the drummer's performance and capture more high-frequency detail for a crisp, punchy tone. A condenser mic will not handle high sound pressure levels like a dynamic mic, so you should check levels and apply a pad at the mic or preamp if necessary.
As you probably are aware, snare drums have two different sounds. So you might want to consider two mics to capture the batter head up top and the actual snares underneath.
When considering the distance, placing the mic a good 2- 4 inches away from the snare and angled toward the center will ensure you capture the whole drum sound with a clear and punchy attack. Putting the mic too close to the batter's head will lose the snare's signature track.
Recommended Snare Drum Mics
The SM57 is possibly the best snare mic in the world. There's a good reason the SM57 has been the industry standard for decades. This dynamic microphone has been designed to perform in loud environments, so you can capture the crack and sizzle of your snare drum precisely as you play it.
The PGA57 is an affordable mic that provides quality sound for both live performance and recording.
The BETA 56A is a supercardioid mic with a right-angle swivel that makes it easy to fit into tight spaces. This mic offers high gain before feedback, excellent noise rejection, and a frequency response tailored for drums.
Toms are almost always closed miked, especially in live environments. Condenser mics will give you more detail and attack. A dynamic mic will deliver a complete, fat sound with more minor spills like the snare drum.
Keep in mind that the more microphones you use, the more you'll need to watch out for bleed and phase issues.
Recommended Toms Mics
The BETA 98AMP/C is a high-performance mini-condenser microphone designed for drums, and its bendable goosenecks are perfect for maintaining the precise angle for your toms. The microphone comes with a mounting clamp that allows you to place the mic on the Toms without a mic stand. The BETA 98AMP/C comes with an integrated preamp.
The PGA98D is an affordable condenser mic that is optimized for drums and percussion on stage. The gooseneck design makes position on toms a snap.
Armed with this knowledge, you should have a good sense of where to begin when miking a drum onstage at your House of Worship. While we have recommended a selection of microphones, there are mic kits you can purchase that will come with all the mics you need for the drum set.
The PGADRUMKIT5 Drum Microphone Kit is an essential package of professional quality microphones that provide excellent sound for close-mic kick drum, snare, and tom performance.
The PGADRUMKIT7 Drum Microphone Kit is a complete package of professional quality microphones designed to provide excellent sound for full drum kit performance.
Shure: The Perfect Choice for Your Drummer's Sound Needs
Whether you're looking to mic the drum set, the pastor, or the entire choir, Shure can equip your House of Worship with all sound needs. Contact us today to get started!
Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:
How to Choose the Right Wireless Microphone System