Time for a Back to Basics TTOTD. “I’m working on a very tight budget and I would appreciate it if you would tell me the best place to mike a drum set with one mike.”
You’d place it in the place it sounds best of course. Don’t you just hate answers like that? I do too, but that really is the answer. If there were only one way to do it we wouldn’t need recording engineers would we? Seriously, I would just walk around the kit while the drummer is playing and listen. Make sure he is playing the actual song he will be playing. If possible have him playing along with the other music or musician’s so his (or her) intensity is where it will be when you roll tape. Try getting a ladder and listen to how the drums sound from overhead too. It will be real easy to eliminate most of the positions that sound really bad. Now you can enlist the help of an assistant, shreve, or studio lackey to move the microphone between all of the remaining good spots while you listen to the results in the control room. You can even record some of the performance and compare the results of the playback. Just pick the spot that sounds best. It’s your call. Some possible winners are: above the drummer’s head, 10 feet above and in front of the kit, and directly in front of the kit at ear level. Try different distances to experiment with the room ambience and what effect it has.