Charlie demonstrates how to use different polar patterns to get the most from your microphones.
We start out using an MXL 2010 multi-pattern condenser to demonstrate the three basic patterns: omni, fig8, and cardioid. Changing patterns not only affects the amount of ambiance taken in by the mic, but also can greatly vary the frequency response and overall level of the mic. Generally the low end and level will improve with a wider pattern. One of the best times to use this to one’s advantage is in front of a kick drum, where switching from cardioid to figure 8 will enhance the low end without significantly increasing bleed.
Our main setup consists of an Audio Technica 4047 (cardioid) under the ride cymbal, aimed at the center of the snare. The ride is far enough off-axis to not overpower and the proximity of both toms and the snare make for a surprisingly well-balanced view of the kit. Like many minimal setups, the snare can lack a bit of snap and the kick can be a little thin. We addressed this by placing a Cascade Fathead II ribbon mic about 6″ off of the floor next to the kick beater, angled about 45˚ relative to the floor. The placement of the mic was determined by positioning the mic exactly the same distance from the center of the bottom snare head that the 4047 is from the top head. The balance of snare to kick was adjusted by the proximity to the kick head. The Fathead II’s excellent low end response really extends the kick and the back side of the mic picks up the snares without being harsh. Since the back side of the mic is picking up the snare bottom, it is automatically reversed in phase!
The final piece of the puzzle is to capture the cymbals and add some stereo spread. We accomplish this with a pair of Cascade Fathead ribbons in a Blumlein configuration, directly over the snare. The smooth top end keeps the cymbals from getting harsh and fits in with our vintage minimal setup. The Blumlein pair uses two figure 8 mics positioned as close together as possible 90˚ off axis from each other. This is essentially the same as an XY pair except that the backs of the mics pick up more ambiance. With some compression, the ambiance in the overheads would probably be more than enough, but we lots of mics!
To that end, we put a pair of Audio Technica 4050s in and Mid/Side arrangement about 10 feet in front of the kit. This arrangement has a cardioid mic pointed straight ahead (the “mid” mic), and a second matching mic 90˚ off-axis (the “side” mic.) The side mic is multed to two channels panned hard left-right. The “right” side is flipped out of phase. The mid channel is panned dead center and the side channels are added create the stereo image. The Mid/Side configuration offers a great deal of flexibility later in the mix. It’s entirely phase-accurate and the width of the stereo field is 100% controllable.