John Pickford looks at a left field technique for mic’ing tom-toms that’s literally hands-on. Here’s how you do it…
Tom toms often feel like the poor relation when it comes to discussing techniques for recording drums. Most engineers have preferred methods of mic’ing snare drums (top and bottom mics or just a ’57 a couple of inches above the rim) or kick drums (inside or out, pointing at the beater or shell). And as for the stereo overheads where do you start? Coincident or spaced pair? Has anyone asked Glyn Johns?
The consideration for positioning tom mics rarely goes beyond somewhere they won’t be hit by the drummer’s stick. Here’s a great tip for optimally placing your tom mics.
Clip your chosen mic onto a loosened stand (unless you have flexible clip-on mics) and cup the business end (diaphragm) in the palm of your hand. With the back of your hand facing the edge of the tom tom’s batter head, have the drummer strike the drum while moving your hand back and forth.
When you feel the hairs on the back of your hand vibrate with the resonance of the drum, lock the mic into position. This is where the drum’s tone will have maximum impact, sounding its fullest and most resonant.