Best way to mic percussions???

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Best way to mic percussions???

Post by gyates329 »

I am a professional drummer/percussionist. I am slowly but surely building a home studio out of necessity. I have quite a few auxiliary percussion instruments but I am having trouble getting a good sound for some of them especially the more authentic. For example, how do I mic my Caxixis? Also how do I mic African Claves? Lastly, how do I mic my Gankogui? Thanks in advance for any special tips and tricks.
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Re: Best way to mic percussions???

Post by AlecSp »

In a studio, a lot of the problem is that instruments lack the sense of a lively room - especially percussion instruments like this - they just tend to sound dry and insubstantial.

While a quality mic will do a better job, the mic is likely to be the least of your problems. I'd typically try a small diaphragm condensor, though.

Much more important will be the room acoustic you capture (if not a dry studio) and/or the reverb that you add. If you've been close micing, try micing from quite a bit further away, and experiment with finding more lively locations. As well, or instead, play with the reverb you use - this can transform a dry, lifeless percussion track.
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Re: Best way to mic percussions???

Post by blinddrew »

This article might be worth a read: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... c-anything
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Re: Best way to mic percussions???

Post by Wonks »

blinddrew wrote:This article might be worth a read: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... c-anything


Still locked ATM for non-digital magazine subscribers.

For general percussion recording articles terms there's this - https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... percussion

And this - https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... percussion
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Re: Best way to mic percussions???

Post by Jorge »

Since you are a player rather than an engineer, I suggest keeping the technology simple, working with your playing technique, and experimenting a lot. No one else but you can predict the sounds you want to hear. You have to play, record, listen back and make changes to get the sound you want. Here are a few tips I can contribute from my experience as a percussionist and doing sound for percussion groups I have played with, mainly playing Afrocuban rumba.

Timing instruments like claves and agogo/gankogui need the sharp peak at the beginning of the sound to be heard by the other players, and by the listeners, so I completely avoid compression. Actually, I don't like compression for any percussion, I find it softens sounds that need to be hard, and makes instruments ring and sustain more when they should sound drier, and they sound unnatural. You have to experiment with that to see what you like. But, at least in Afrocuban music, the clave is the heart of the whole rhythm and needs to be heard by everyone, so don't cut off the peaks of first few waves in the waveform. Practice keeping your loudness uniform by hitting uniformly, to avoid needing compression to prevent clipping as your loudness varies. Record at 24 bit depth to give yourself more headroom, the percussion spike impulses can clip before anything else. Claves and bells can clip the recording very easily, because the peak is much higher than the sustained sound. In your practice recordings watch the waveforms in addition to listening to see if you are clipping the recording. Then, rather than using compression to prevent the clipping, decide what gain level you need to record at to give yourself at least 6 dB of headroom above the highest peaks, so you get the true percussive sound of the instrument. Also, sometimes playing softer gives nicer sounds than hitting real hard, you can always turn up the gain in the mix. Likewise, sometimes hitting hard (without clipping) gives sounds you like better and you can turn down the gain in the mix.

Room sound can be good or bad depending on how well treated your recording space is. Unless the space is well designed acoustically I have found percussion sounds better recorded in a dead sounding space. Unlike church organs and choirs, you want to avoid reflected percussion sounds and echos. A dead space with lots of absorbers on the walls and ceiling helps a lot to prevent this. Typically studios will close mic instruments to reduce room sound in the recording, but for some percussion instruments the sound can radiate from a lot of different parts of the instrument, and the recorded sound doesn't sound natural until the mic is a few feet away from the instrument and the different sounds can mix together. In particular, the sound of a conga (my main instrument) comes from both the top and the bottom of the drum, so close micing often does not sound natural. Also, you want to hear the slap, tone and bass and not all the softer hand sounds on the skin. Depending on the drum tuning you may need the mic to be 6 inches or a foot or in some cases 6 feet away. Farther away, use fewer mics or a single or stereo mic to avoid phase issues when you have multiple mics all similar distances from several sources. Some conga players like to mic the bottom of their main drum but that only works well if you are really really good controlling the bass sounds when you play. I would only do it if you play seated and can control the bass by hand technique and lifting the drum for the bass accents or keeping it near flat on the floor the rest of the time. Otherwise the bass muddies up the rest of the sounds and you wind up EQ'ing it out anyway. This is less of a problem if the conga is tuned very high and there is less bass sound when you hit tones and slaps. That is all part of the art of playing.

I agree with one of the articles cited above that said that people often tune congas too high to make clear slaps easier to play, and then that gives the tones lots of harmonics that don't sound good. You can partly fix that with EQ but it is better to spend the time really perfecting your slaps on lower tuned drums and using the naturally cleaner sounding tones.
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