Cakewalk’s blog recently posted this great piece on how to mic a snare, check out some of the tips here, then click the link at the bottom of the article to see the full Cakewalk page!
“The recording of a snare drum is the focal point of every modern recording. It sits right in the center of the mix, below or above the vocals depending on the style of the music. In this article, I’ve outlined some mic placement techniques that will help focus in on getting specific snare sounds in your recordings.
1. Close Mic
This is simple, easy, and very exposing. If you are looking to get that initial attack of your snare drum, use this type of placement. On its own it does not sound as appealing as one would first think, but once you add in the rest of your microphones you will begin to understand how the drumset takes shape.
Close mic’ing a snare drum captures ghost notes, blast beats, and other low-volume hits. Adding this type of placement to your snare configurations and then automating it’s level in post or during the performance can help pick up snare hits that do not get through to the rest of the microphones on the drumset.
2. Close Mic with Moon Gel Applied
This microphone placement is the same one used in number 1 above, but with Moongel applied. Applying Moongel to a snare drum reduces ringing overtones. Some snares ring a bit more than others depending on the type of head, drum-tuning and wood. This one in particular rang more than what was desired, so the application of moongel was necessary.
Obviously the amount of ring in your snare is based on what you like stylistically. Coming from a heavy rock and metal background I tend to lean towards a more-attack and short-sustain type of snare sound. In my experience I have found that a snare with a long sustain can immensely impede drum editing, time alignment, and replacement; it can also get in the way of other frequencies when it comes time to mix.
3. Six inches from the snare – Let your snare breath
When you move the snare microphone 6” from the head you introduce a level ambience to the sound of the snare. The amount of ring and attack sounds more like a natural snare drum. I think of it as allowing the snare to breath a bit more in the room so that more reflections from the surrounding areas make it into the microphone. Too close of a snare can almost “choke” the sound and make it sound unnatural and dull. This is especially useful when recording a drummer that is a hard hitter. The more you let the snare breath, the more dynamic its sound will become.
4. Side snare
Obtaining the proper sound of a snare drum should be something that is tried and tried again. Moving microphones, trying different microphones, and referencing a track with desired sounds is the best way to start understanding the recording of a snare drum. Inexperienced users will start to reach for a plugin the second they get the tracks down in their DAW. Microphone placement is like anything else, practicing will only make you better.
One (not so typical) technique that I like is setting up a microphone from the side. This allows for a combination of the top and bottom as well as some of ringing from the shell. You can increase the amount of top or bottom by simply raising or lowering the microphone. This, again, is a stylistic choice and introduces some new ways to personalize the sound of your snare.”