How can I mic my doumbek so that I can play in a band with other amplified instruments?
July 29, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

How can I mic my doumbek (hand drum) so that I can play in a band with other amplified instruments?

I've been playing the doumbek for 13 years, and in that time, I have never found a satisfactory way to mic it. This has been a severe limitation on my musical endeavors. As a general rule, I play with musicians who amplify their instruments. Think electric guitars, often with effects and distortion. Lately, I've been playing with techno/house DJs.

Typically, I'll use two mics -- a top mic and a bottom mic. I do this because the doumbek has a wide range of souncs, from a high "ping" to a nice bass bounce. The top mic goes above the drum head, the bottom mic beneath the opening of the drum. This works for the most part, but I can only turn the volume up so far before it starts to feedback something fierce. Unfortunately, this maximum volume is usually a good deal lower than the other amplified instruments.

Another problem is that, when mic'ed, my drum sounds especially flat and lifeless. I don't know how to describe it -- it seems to lack tone, warmth, and depth. It sounds more like I'm trying to play on a tin can.

I'm open to any novel arrangement you can think of, provided that it doesn't cost thousands of dollars. Think different kinds of microphones, pickups (?), mic positions, equalization strategies, effects processors, whatever. Please keep in mind that I am a layman as far as sound tech goes, and don't really know anything about it. But I'm willing to learn!
posted by Afroblanco to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (souncs == sounds)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2010

AKG D112 is your friend for the bass sounds.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2010

It's not quite the same, but West African drummers (specifically, djembe) generally use small gooseneck mics like you'd see on drum kit toms or snares, and attach those to wireless packs. (An amazing example (YT). I think they might just be using lavaliere mics, though.) They reproduce the "crack" of the djembe slap as well as the bass open-palm notes to some degree. The problem (as noted in this thread) is that the two sounds come from the top and bottom of the drum, respectively, as you note.

The key to eliminating feedback is getting the mic as close to the source as possible. These clip-on mics are made for snare and tom, so they're going to get the full spectral range that you want. My best solution would be to clip one to the bottom (and stick it as far as possible into the sound hole) and clip another to a strap around the top. How close were you able to get your previous mic setup to the drum head?

(You don't want something made for kick drum like that AKG.)
posted by supercres at 10:51 AM on July 29, 2010

Of course, all the general rules to eliminate feedback apply here too.
posted by supercres at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2010

Forgot a link: Sennheiser e604 and e608. I know the 604 works well for snare and tom. Not sure about the 608, but it does look less obtrusive and more adjustable.
posted by supercres at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2010

Are you using mics on stands, or clip on mics?

I've spent a lot of time playing with folks that use hand percussion, and if they are using a mic in front of the drum on a stand, one of the first things they do when there is a feedback problem is adjust the angle of the drum head to the mic. This is even more noticeable with delicate instruments like frame drums. Most of them have switched to using clip on mics on the back rim of the drum, and a small preamp mixing board.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 11:58 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: My setup :

I put the drum on a stand. Typically, I'll use a gooseneck for the bottom mic, and then a mic stand for the top mic. I just use the standard Guitar Center $50 mics. They're probably crap.

I feel like I've tried every possible combination of mic angles for both the top and bottom mic, all to no avail. Though, as I've mentioned, I basically have no idea what I'm doing.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2010

I really like PUTW for my acoustic guitar. It's a polymer film pickup that is stuck to the instrument so it doesn't have the same feedback problems as a mic. They have a hand drum product as well but I've only used the guitar version.
posted by doctord at 4:26 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh wow. Totally intrigued by the PUTW pickups. This may be my chance to slay the feedback monsters for good!

Question -- do you think I should go with two, one for the top and one for the bottom? And if I do, do you think their stereo preamp would do the trick?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:02 PM on July 29, 2010

I started off with their dual element pickup for my guitar which uses one pickup on each of the x-braces (bass and treble side), but found that I was getting a bit of a "tubby" bass sound so ended up exchanging it for the single element under the bridge. I have no idea how any of this would translate to a drum though. Their customer service was responsive and helpful throughout, you should contact them and see what they say.
posted by doctord at 7:17 AM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: I think I will. Totally intrigued about this.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2010

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