Microphone Placement

I can not express how important microphone placement is. Getting this right for the type of sound you are trying to achieve will make or break your mix. No amount of EQ or compression will fix a bad microphone placement! These are the main instruments used on stage, but obviously I have not touched on brass, strings or percussion. If you have questions regarding these, then please get in touch.


Make sure that the drummer has tuned his kit properly. If the drum sounds horrible to your ear, then it will to the microphone and then that sound will be amplified. The drum kit is one of the hardest instruments to get right so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit if you have the time.

The best microphones to use hear are obviously condensers. Example are AKG 451 or AKG 414. All drummers have their drum kits set up differently with varying amounts of cymbals. Try and gauge the kit in two halves and place the microphones centrally over each half of the kit about 18-24 inches above the cymbals. Moving them further away may produce a more airy sound but will increase spillage in a smaller venue. Keep the microphones pointing in the same direction or pointing towards the centre of the kit to avoid phase problems. If the drummer has many cymbals and you can not pick out the ride cymbal without boosting the crashes, you can place another microphone underneath the bell of the ride pointing upwards – don’t forget to place this microphone out of phase with the others in the kit!

The most widely used here are dynamic microphones such as the AKG D112, but a Shure SM57 will do OK if your budget is a bit tight. Having something heavy such as a sandbag just touching head helps to dampen obnoxious overtones. Pillows work OK and are obviously lighter! Place the microphone halfway into drum in line with and pointing at beater for an all round average sound. For a more punchy sound then move the microphone to just inside kick. For a rounder sound then move the microphone outside the front hole near front skin. For more attack you can move the microphone closer to beater.

The classic microphone here is the Shure SM57, but in these modern days they are being replaced by tiny clip-on phantom powered units. Place the microphone in from audience side at about a 45 to 60° angle pointing at the drummer’s crotch an inch or two above the head. Moving the microphone away from the head of the drum will give a more ambient sound but will cause more spillage. Using a 2nd microphone under the snare mixed with the top microphone is rare in live situations but can make for a really professional sound. Don’t forget to place this bottom microphone out of phase with the others of the drum kit.

The classics here are the Shure SM57 or the Sennheiser 421. Place the microphone about one inch up from head and two inches in at 45° angle. With the floor tom microphone, push it a bit closer to centre of head

The best microphones used here are pencil condensers such as the AKG 451, but if your budget is still a bit tight, then a Shure SM57 will do the job adequately. Place the microphone at edge of top cymbal when its open about four inches away and angled down. To make it cut, make sure it is perpendicular to the open hat and very close. For a more brassier and heavier tone, move the microphone towards the centre of the top hi hat.

These are one of the easiest to place. Make sure that the microphone is pointing about two inches off centre to the cone and set at a very slight angle to avoid too much pressure. Moving the microphone closer to the centre of the driver will increase the attack but you will lose the warmth. If you are placing microphones on a stereo guitar cabinet or cabinets, then follow the above steps but make sure that they are placed symmetrically to avoid any phase problems.

In my opinion, it is always better to DI the bass guitar and feed the bass players amplifier back from the line out of the DI box for his own monitoring. It is far better to get a tighter sound direct from the guitar instead of having other signals spilling into the bass cabinet microphone. Also, most bass amplifiers these days have a 15” driver and a 10” in some form of bi-amped system so you may find you’ll need two microphones to create the sound you are after which is a bit tricky. If you still want to place a microphone on the cabinet, then to achieve a great sound, follow the steps above for the guitar cabinet.

I would always recommend using a DI box wherever possible to have a clean sound back at the desk. If for other reasons you can not use the guitars output i.e. it hasn’t got one or the preamp is of inferior quality, you must emphasise to the player that he must stand pretty still or sit down! Any movement whether it be 4 or 8 inches in any direction will dramatically change the tonal characteristics and level of the sound. Using a pencil condenser, such as the AKG 451, point the microphone upwards over the players shoulder and at join in the guitar where the body meets the neck at a distance of about eight inches. Moving the microphone towards the sound hole will give more depth whereas moving it more up the neck will give more sizzle to the sound.