View Full Version : Recording double sided drums

03-22-2006, 09:35 PM
Need a suggestion. Since I took a trip to Asia I have been learning two kinds of Indian drums, both with two heads.

Tabla (http://www.ammp.com/tabla.jpg)
Mridangam (http://www.musicoutfitters.com/ethnic/images/mirs.jpg)

So I'd like to record these, now with the first it's not really an issue, but the second definitely because there are two opposite ends, no chance of catching them both up clearly with one mic. So this is an aspect I'm not too familiar with. Would I have to get two seperate microphones and hook them up together? Or are there any products specifically made for this sort of thing?

03-22-2006, 09:50 PM
First thing is to keep in mind that microphone techniques, even though taught in books written by professional engineers or taught at recording schools, are more or less suggestions. There is no right or wrong way to approach mic selection or placement.

With that said, I can think of two ways to do this off the top of my head that would probably produce good results.

1. Use a simple cardioid microphone pointed approximately at the middle of the drum (I'm assuming you hold it so that the heads are parallel to the ground). Move the mic back perhaps a foot and see how that sounds. Adjust the distance as necessary. This will capture both heads equally in both volume and stereo placement. This will, however, introduce some room noise which may not be desired.

2. Use two separate cardioid microphones, one for each head. The exact distance from the drum head and their angle would be up for you to decide, but keep in mind this general rule. When micing something with two microphones in this manner, the distance between the two should be equal to the distance from one mic to the instrument times THREE. This is to best avoid phasing problems which can occur in this type of mic placement.

Now, depending on the timbre, it's possible that you might even want to use an omnidirectional mic placed above the center of the drum (again, the distance would be up to you). This would be a good idea if your room doesn't sound too bad, and if you are experiencing problems with very low/bassy frequencies that are typically accentuated at close mic distances due to the proximity effect.

These are just suggestions. To reiterate, there is no right or wrong way to approach this, and your best bet is trial and error. What I've written here are just some suggestions to get you started.

03-22-2006, 10:29 PM
One microphone is probably okay for the tabla, since it is played upright and I can just put a mic between them. But the second one isn't played like that, and the sides are very rich with overtones, and that's the main issue, is that if I don't put the microphone facing the head directly, it won't catch some of it's sound texture.

So I think your double mic suggestion will go better. Now the microphone I have right now is an M-Audio Pulsar mic. Is there any mic that would be better suited for this or percussion in general?

03-22-2006, 10:35 PM
Just to clarify, my suggestion was specifically for the double sided drum. For the tabla, you could mic it as you would a snare or tom.

Ok, so this thing is harmonically rich. I didn't know that. Typically, when recording stuff that is rich, people tend to like condensers. Dynamic mics are a little more suited for things where the definition of the sound is less important than its "power" (such as an electric guitar or a snare drum), or for things that are very loud (again, like drums). The M-Audio pulsar appears to be a condenser, which I think would be good for this kind of thing. You're not trying to capture raw trasient energy like a snare - there is detail that you want as well. So, I would imagine this mic would be adequate for that. If you are going to go ahead with using two mics, it would be best to get another mic of the same model, but any similarly constructed condenser would work as well.

03-22-2006, 11:10 PM
So condensors = detail, dynamic = power. So then, would it be good to get a dynamic mic for the bass end (left, which is "powerful"), and a condensor for the treble end (right, which is "detailed")? Or would that just make a mess?

03-22-2006, 11:29 PM
Oops, again, didn't know that the ends actually had separate sounds. Lemme just briefly explain the mic types in question for you, that way you can make a decision yourself based on what you want.

In terms of condensers, you have varying diaphragm sizes. Small diaphragm condensers are usually used for stuff like cymbals with a lot of high frequency information. Large diaphragm condensers are common for vocals and other things that have a wider frequency range. Yours is a medium diaphragm so its pretty effective at both applications, I would wager.

Dynamic mics that are moving-coil also have different size diaphragms, like condensers. However, due to the way that they operate, they don't respond as quickly as condensers do, and thus overall tend to produce a less detailed sound. On the other hand, they are typically capable of recording a wider range of dynamics than condensers - eg. loud stuff - and generally capture a full range of frequencies well.

These are more or less generalizations. Individual mics have unique frequency responses. While I'm familiar with the theory behind this sort of thing, I readily admit I have not had a lot of field experience, so I can't give specific advice on what mics to use for what applications beyond what I've studied. I haven't really encountered the type of drum you are describing before, but basically you're saying that one side has a strong fundamental with lots of harmonics. With that kind of odd nature, I really don't know what would work better in this case.

03-23-2006, 12:07 AM
Thanks for the mic info. About the drum, well, it's pretty simple really. The left end produces low & more powerful bass sounds, while the right hand is played with more delicate fingering, and produces higher sounds, and has clearly pitched sounds it can produce with different overtones (like a tabla). The right side has more distinct timbres, while the left is relatively simple like a bass drum.

So is it possible to use both a condensor mic and a dynamic mic together without causing too much problems? Or would it be a better idea to simply do what you mentioned earlier and get another condensor mic like the one I have currently?

03-23-2006, 03:05 PM

Won't let me direct link, but if you search that page, you will see the [excellent] tabla player, and how he has the mic set up. He does have two mics, but look at the placement of both of them, they're pretty much right next to each other.

This guy goes totally nuts on the tablas by the way :D he was entertaining to watch.

03-23-2006, 09:56 PM