What mic should I use when recording taiko drums? The answer, of course – is “It depends.”
When you play the taiko drums, you’re actually hearing several different sounds. There’s the crack of the stick hitting the drum head. The beater head vibrating. The resonance of the shell. The resonant head vibrating. And of course, we can’t forget the sound of the room.
Different microphones do a better job of recording different sounds.
For example, some mics are better suited to record the attack. On the other hand, some mics are designed specifically to record lower frequencies.
Generally speaking, if you want your taiko drums to sound full, you’ll probably use multiple microphones. When you mix, you’ll take characteristics of each mic and blend them to create the sound you want.
Here are the microphones I used to record taiko.
AKG c414 XLS – Jack of all trades. Can also be used on a practically anything including drums, vocals, winds, brass, and strings. Usually not the “best” mic, but usually not the “worst” either.
Shure SM57 – Very common mic both on stage and in the studio. Like the AKG c414, the SM57 can also be used on a wide range of sound sources. Generally more of a “close” mic than the AKG c414.
AKG D112 and Shure Beta52a – Commonly used to record kick drums and other low-end sound sources. Both are dynamic mics with similar form factors, build quality, and price points. The main difference is that the AKG D112 is cardioid, whereas the Shure Beta52a is super-cardioid. The D112 also has a frequency response of 20-17k whereas the Beta52a has a frequency response of 20-10k.
The above article by Kodo engineer Takuro Susaki is an excellent resource to gain insight on how a world-class engineer approaches recording taiko drums.
In the following series, I recorded several taiko drum covers to songs from a wide range of music genres. I wanted to find ways in which I might be able to effectively incorporate taiko into these music genres. This turned out to be a very informative process that includes not only recording taiko drums, but also how they are set up, tuned, and performed.