5 Ways to Micing Toms [Correctly]

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In this article, I will give you the 5 ways to micing toms correctly.

Micing drum is a sophisticated task for music producers and recording engineers. All the parts of a drum machine need a separate microphone put in different ways. Tom-toms are one of them.

Pro recording engineers use several different techniques to record toms. Today, we’ll learn 5 out of them.

5 Ways to Micing Toms Correctly

tom micing methods

If you want to record crisp and clear tom-toms then you should try all the techniques I have given below. If you do this in the right way, I bet you will get crystal clear tom-toms recordings.

But, first, let me show you why choosing the right microphone for toms is important?

Below I will show you, how you can choose a good microphone for tom-toms.

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Choosing right Microphone for Toms

Whatever, micing technique you use, it’s important to choose the right microphones.

Microphones are of two types,

Condenser Mic for Drums

Condenser mics are very sensitive mics. They capture all the frequencies of any instrument and the background noise as well.

So, the first thing you should take care of when using condenser mics is to record in a proper acoustic room. If you don’t have a good acoustic room then I will suggest you go with dynamic mics.

However, the main drawback of not using condenser mics is you cannot capture all the frequencies which are helpful in mixing where you can shape the sound as per your need.

Toms are mid-range instruments so using a condenser mic with them gives you crisp and clear sound which is never possible with dynamic mics.

Dynamic Mics

Dynamic mics are not as much sensitive to background noise as condenser mics. That’s why they are hugely used in live concerts and shows.

So, if you don’t have a good acoustic room, I will suggest you use dynamic mics with toms.

However, the dynamic mic has a big disadvantage in that it is weak in high and low frequencies. The frequency response curve of a dynamic mic is designed with low and high cut-offs which helps in minimizing the background noise. But this also bound it to capture limited frequencies which are not good for mixing.

In mixing, we need a broad frequency range so that we can shape the sound as per the requirements.

Read my ultimate guide on Drum Mics 101: Best Drum Mics and Kits, Types, Placements, FAQ for a better understanding of drum miking. and choosing the right mics for your drum sessions.

So, the first thing to consider when choosing the right mic type for toms is, whether you have a good acoustic room or not. And the second thing, do you want to capture a wide frequency range or not. If you have a good acoustic room and want to capture a wide frequency range the go with a condenser-type microphone otherwise use dynamic mics.

Now let us discuss the 5 ways to micing toms.

1. Tom Micing Front and Side

tom micing from front side

This is the generic and the most used way to mic toms. In this technique, the mic is placed 2 or 3 inches over the head and above the rim on either front or from the left or right side.

This method is also called the classic tom micing method.

the mic should be positioned at a 45-degree angle and aimed at the center of the head. This setting gives you the most attack. If you want less attack and more ring, point the mic closer to the rim.

Make sure the mic should be put underneath the ride cymbal and approx. 3 inches above the rim and pointed towards the head.

In this technique, you will get less room and ambiance from the rest of the kit.

Note: using a condenser mic in this technique will give more attack and less thumping sound than a dynamic mic.

2. X/Y overhead miking technique

Image source: shure.com

In the XY micing technique, we use two mics in a cross direction to record the signals. These mics are pointed to the cymbal from overhead.

This is not just used for recording toms but also for the whole drum set. Using XY or the coincident pair approach makes it sure to record the mono track as the stereo field between both the mics is very narrow.

In this technique, we can reduce the risk of comb-filtering due to partial cancellation of out-of-phase waves coming out of the drum kit.

The height of overhead XY mics plays a vital role in recording perfect drum sound. You should not place them at much height from the kit otherwise you will get room ambiance. Instead, I would recommend you to put the mics just over the kit so you will get more direct sound on the mics.

3. Spaced pair overhead miking technique

spaced pair tom micing technique
Image source: shure.com

The AB or Spaced Pair tom miking technique is a very simple approach. It is simple to implement in any room size, however, it causes more problems than other methods.

In this technique, 2 mic capsules are used to record the drum machine. The mics are placed equidistant from the center of the drum.

Spaced pair technique is a powerful drum micing technique which produces a wide frequency range of sonic colors.

The more you lower the mic towards the center drum kit room sound can be minimized. Here are the positions you can use in spaced pair miking.

  • Raising the microphones towards the drum kit
  • moving out toward the sides of the kit
  • Point straight down in 45 degree angle
  • Using mic Cardioid to a wider polar pattern

If you want a wide stereo image then AB or spaced pair technique is best. As the specific part of the drums are near one of the mics at each side it will perceive the stereo field. This will create a good-sounding stereo drum sound.

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4. Room miking behind the kit

dual micing from behind
Image source: aearibbonmics.com

When it comes to recording drums, room miking is very important to capture the ambiance.

There are two methods that are used for room miking; behind the kit micing and front-room micing.

In “room miking behind the kit” we use two mics for each side. These mics are placed behind the kit at least 6 feet from the drum kit. these should be put in 45 degrees angled position and the capsules are pointed towards the drum kit.

This micing technique will capture the whole room sound from behind. Recording both the mics in separate tracks gets you a wide stereo field and make it easy to balance out the XY and AB tracks which have narrow stereo field.

5. Room miking front

room micing from front
Image source: aearibbonmics.com

When you don’t have enough room space below the drum machine then you can use this method to record a wide stereo field.

However, I do not recommend it because the drum sound will be not as prominent as the “behind the kit” method.

In the kit method, you point the mics towards the drum kit and there is nothing between the kit and the mics. But in the front miking method, the kick drum comes from the front which can create a muddy ambiance sound and create trouble in balancing the track with others.

Wrapping Up

So, here were the 5 common tom micing methods that you should take into consideration when miking toms.

I use “Tom micing front side”, “AB method” and “behind the drum room micing” in combination to achieve great sounding drums.

I have a big recording room in my studio so it’s easy for me to put all the methods simultaneously, however, if you don’t have much room space then you should at least use the “tom micing front side” and “AB method”.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any other tom micing methods. It will help out others to learn more drum miking techniques.

And don’t forget to share this article with others on social media. It will encourage me to write more valuable content in the future.

Happy recording.

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Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.

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