How to mic tablas

Recent clients have had some tabla tracks on their album and these little hand drums can be tricky to record. There are usually two drums that rest on the floor supported by a circular cushion. The musician sits on the floor and plays the drums with their fingers and palms. Just to give you an idea of what I'm about to describe for the mic setup.

The drums have a rich tambour and resonating swell that are characteristic of the drums. I first started with a sm7 on the wooden drum that has a higher pitch and a Beta52 on the lower pitched brass drum. Focused the mics on the sweet spot of the drums and angle them away from each other to help control the bleed. This gave me good results, but it wasn't quite the sound that I was trying to capture. After listening to the recordings a few times, and talking to the musician, I decided to try a more traditional drum approach. I set up two condenser mics, one directly over the drums slightly in front of the musician about the same height as the musicians ears. The other mic was set up just off to the side of the musician about the same height as the top of the drums. This gave us a great sound for the over all presence of the Tablas drums. However, we lost some of the low-end the came from the brass drum. So I decided to put the Beta 52 just off to the side of the brass drum. This brought all the low-end presence back into the mix and gave us a solid performance the musician was happy to put on the CD.