Jazz drums are an entirely different animal from rock drums, metal drums, or other types of drums. In this article, we’ll look at a few ways to treat jazz drums differently when miking, recording, and mixing them.
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The Right Mics For the Set
Most jazz producers use two balanced, hand-matched overhead microphones and a bass drum mic for a jazz drum set. You can accurately capture the sound of the set with only these three mics, and not sacrifice the loose, dynamic feel of the complete jazz band.
The overheads should be high-quality condenser microphones, and if they’re not hand-matched you’ll have to correct for phase issues. Generally, you want a cardioid pattern on the overheads, keeping them directional enough to avoid picking up the other instruments.
Watching Mic Bleed
When working with jazz drum recordings, you’ll often have to deal with a large amount of microphone bleed, since jazz, by nature, requires full-band miking as opposed to overdubbing, and if the musicians can hear each other, the microphones usually can, too. Use directional overhead mics, and keep the instruments as isolated as possible.
Small amounts of bleed won’t damage your recording or your ability to mix the tracks too much. You can use a cover over the bass drum to avoid picking up any sounds on that mic, which is important to the overall sound of the recording since the bass drum is often so central, and miking the snare from the bottom rather than from the top may also eliminate some bleed issues (or, as indicated, simply using the overhead mics to get the snare).
Applying EQ and Effects
Jazz drums can use less compression than other genres, since excessive compression will damage the dynamics of the song, and since, if you only used the three mic setup described above, you couldn’t really intelligently apply the compression anyways. Sometimes, a hint of reverb is acceptable, although generally I try to get as much reverb from the room I’m recording in as possible and avoid using digital reverb.
EQ and panning should take the other instruments into account. You want to give the drums their own space in a jazz song; EQ and pan them so that they’re in their own frequency range and “area” of the stereo spectrum where they can easily be listened to without much effort from the listener. This should be your goal with all of the instruments in a jazz song, but start with the bass guitar and kick drum and gradually add in the other two mics, followed by the other instruments.
Do you have any other tips for recording jazz drums? Post in the comments section below.