Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Lesson 6/27 - Drum Mic Placement


Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy


Lesson Info

Drum Mic Placement

So the first thing I like to do when setting up the drums, the miking on the drums, is I have to strategize the placement of the mikes. And sometimes it's very difficult to get some of these mikes in certain places. I want to have all the mikes basically facing one direction because of phase relationships between those drums. We have something special happening with these mikes up here. This is a MS configuration, and I'll talk more about that later. But for the rest of these drum mikes, I want them to all basically move in one direction. So, you'll see the kick drum mike, which is a Sennheiser 421, is going directly into the kick. Now I'm gonna try to access the toms and have the mike going in this direction. Have this mike kind of tucked under here if I can get it, and going in that direction. And we're gonna try to access the snare mike, also going in that direction. The hat, we'll probably try to get it off to the edge here. And we're gonna mike the ride, and also having it in that...

same basic direction. 'Cause I want all the mikes to be facing the same direction. And that'll help with phase relationships. And good phase relationships instantly make the drum sound better. Yep. So, ah, so okay. I have an assistant, Scott, who's gonna help with this. Hi there. And Scott. Yeah. Let's start with... Oh, I'm gonna come around here. Snare drum, right? Yes, please. I put the kick mikes up there if you want to place them at all any differently. Okay. Feel free. We've chosen a, this is a Sennheiser 441 mike. It's similar to a Sennheiser 421, but I believe it's more direction. So, I'm gonna put that underneath the snare pointed straight up so it gets the underside of the snare. And then we're going to flip this one out of phase with the mike on the top of the snare. So, go ahead and place that. I'll detail it later. Okay. But as much as, stay conscious of the idea of moving, having all the mikes facing one direction. So when you place that, maybe have it pointing kind of on an angle towards that direction. Okay, no problem. All right. Let's do the rest of the under, the miking under mikes. I like to do mikes on both the top and the bottom of the toms and the snare. Why is that? Because I find that having a mike on the top of the tom gives you the attack. Okay. And a mike on the bottom of the tom gives you the tone of the drum. And so, if you've got two mikes, and you flip them out of phase, then you can start with the top mike and then add the bottom mike until you get the depth of the-- To fil it out. Yeah, to fill it out, exactly. So, he's started to put these mikes into place. But there's one thing I want to set up here before we get too far. And that is I like to use this special miking technique with a hose. Okay. And I want to talk about that now. And we have this. Okay, so I asked them to bring me a garden hose. And hopefully it's not full of water, but if so. We drained it. It is from our backyard, though. Okay, great. I like to use this hose as a filter for the drums. A lot of times drummers use the cymbals a lot. And so you try to use the room mikes, but as soon as you start crashing on the crash ride, the room mikes become really unusable. Usually. It's difficult. So I found that if you set up a hose and kind of drape it around the base of the kit that it filters the sound, the sound of the cymbals. So you get more of just the honky kind of room sound. And then I'll put it through a compressor and it sounds really cool. How did you come up with that idea? Well, it's a long story, but. (laughs) But I, I have a device called the Cooper Time Cube. Okay. At my place. I have a studio that, and I have a bunch of old gear from the '70s. And this was a device, it was an early analog delay. And it has a head that's rack mounted and then it's attached to a box. The box, inside the box is a hose. Basically it has a mike on one end of the hose and a speaker on the other end. And you just run the sound through this hose, and it's a delay from one end to the other. Got it. So, just having set that up by accident, there was a drum kit playing in the room. And I was listening to this device. I built my own Cooper Time Cube, basically. Wow. And I was listening to this device while the drum kit was playing in the room and I noticed, geez, this is a great drum sound. And it was simple, and there's not a lot of cymbals in it. So I started using the hose for recording drum room. So we have a 57, just gaff taped to the end of that. Yes, it's a 57 gaff taped to the end. I know it's weird, but. It's awesome. But we'll take a listen to it and then you'll tell me if it's weird or not. So, Scott, will you help me with this hose? Yes, you want to get it around the kit, right? I want to put this side of it over underneath that tom. Okay. And then we'll drape the rest of it. Ah, yeah. And, in fact, we'll just kind of. I don't know how much of the sound will come through the hose. But we'll just kind of drape it around here. All right, this is a very long hose. Geez. It's more hose than we really need. But that's okay. Do you want to just leave the excess over here? Yeah, leave the excess over here. Okay. All right. All right, I have some gaffer tape there. Drew, can you? There you go. All right, and, not that it will really make any difference at all, but I'm gonna put a piece of gaffer over the end. I was just gonna ask that. (tape rips) All right. Here we go. Awesome. All right, we're ready. All right. Okay, let's see. What else do we have here? We've got the high hat miked. These are East German, they're basically the East German version of KM54. 300? Is that, the Gefell M300. And what else have we chosen for this? Ah, the top of the snare, we're using an SM57. And, Scott, I prefer to have that accessed from the front because I really want to get the movement of these mikes. So can we get a longer stand? Yeah, I can grab that. With a boom so that we can access it and have it come from this direction. And this side is okay. All right. One thing I don't want to do is have mikes pointing at each other. Why is that? Because the signals cancel each other out. So it's always phase issues? Phase issues, yeah. And then when the phase is conflicting between microphones, it makes your drums sound hollow. So if you have a drum kit that you just can't figure out why there's no low end in it, you might look at the phase relationships between those mikes. I'm gonna angle this bottom mike so that it's moving essentially in the same direction. And this ride is good. I'm gonna actually bring this up. So we can face it like that.

Class Description

Over the last 30+ years, Sylvia Massy has built a career as one of the gutsiest and most innovative recording engineers and producers. She has worked with legends like Prince and Johnny Cash, and won awards for her work with bands like Tool, System of a Down and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you will get a peek inside the recording process of one of rock’s legendary engineers. 

While she is a proficient master of vintage gear, Sylvia stresses that great records come not from having the right gear, but from capturing great performances. Join Sylvia as she records a song in the studio with Seattle alt-rock band Thunderpussy, and learn how to work with an artist to capture that magical take in your own work.

Pulling from her years of experience and sharing stories from her newly published book Recording UnHinged, Sylvia will show you:

  • How to get interesting and vibrant drum sounds, using the room and the drummer to your advantage
  • Capturing great sounding guitars at the source, without editing and reamping
  • Pushing vocalists to deliver their best vocal takes 
  • Mixing both in the box and through a console using outboard gear

Sylvia is also known as a prolific educator, speaking and teaching at some of the best recording schools around the world. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s most celebrated A-list producers. 


Jimmy Foot

This Studio Pass episode with Sylvia Massey covers a lot of ground. From fundamentals like correct mic placement and phase to experimentation with amps, cell phone delay and a few extra parts, Sylvia makes it fun! I have been lucky enough in my career to work with a number of great engineers and producers. I haven't had the opportunity to work with her, but Sylvia is certainly in that category, and anyone who gets a chance to work with her would be a lucky person. This broadcast is the next best thing. Great job there at Avast Studio and fantastic camera work! And as for Thunderpussy; you guys rock!

Marc Felish

Wow, that was such a blast. Thanks so much Sylvia and everyone else for making this such a fun experience. I picked up so many new ideas that I can't wait to try out! Sylvia is such a creative producer, it was so much fun to be a fly on the wall watching everything. Loved it!!

Marcus Soares

Awesome! A great opportunity to pick into the creative mind of one of the greatest and get that kind of knowledge that you can't acquire otherwise. Highly recommended!