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Overheads Mastering the Art of Recording

Drums
Foundation of Drum Recording

RyanEarnhardt
CreativeSoundLab.tv

Thisguideisaboutcreatingastrongfoundation
foryourdrumrecordings.

Ibelievethatagreatdrumrecordingwillreston
thesoundoftheoverheadmicrophones.These
microphonesnotonlyrecordthesoundofthe
cymbals,butthesoundofthedrums,andthe
locationofeachelementinthestereoimageof
thekit.

Theoverheadmicsstartasanoutlinethatwefill
inwiththeclosemics.

Overheadmicsinthestudioismuchdifferentthansettingupoverheadsforlivesound.Inlive
sound,itdoesntmatterwherethemicsare,aslongastheypickupthecymbalsoneachsideof
thekit.Overheadmicsforlivesoundareoftencenteredaroundthekickdrum,andthesoundof
thesnareismainlyfromaclosemicsuchasasm57.

Instudiorecording,wehavetotreatthedrumsasacompleteinstrumentthatismadeupof
manyelements.Togethertheseelementsmakeasingledrumset,playedbyasingleperformer.
Thereforewetreatthedrumsasacollectionofelementsthatmakeupasinglekit.

What is center?

Inrecording,thecenterofthekitisveryimportant,andslightadjustmentscanmakeabig
differenceinthebalanceofthedrums.Inlivesound,thereisnaturalsoundcomingoffthe
stage,andtheaudiencegetsasenseofwhatthedrumssoundlikebyseveralfactors.In
recording,weareprovidingthemwith100%ofwhattheywillhear,andanymistakewillbe
muchmoreobvious.Nodirectsoundtocoverupamistake.

Withthethreestepsthatfollow,wecanmakesurethatyouareachievingagreatfoundation.
Andwithagreatfoundationinyouroverheads,thedrumtrackswillmixaloteasiertoo.

1 Divide the Drums

Mostlookatadrumkitfromthefront
andthinkofadrumkitsetuponstage.
Onstageyouputtwomicsoneitherside
ofthekit,andcallitaday.

Butforrecordingyouhavetoconsider
whatiscenter,andthenatwhatangle
willyouapproachthedrumkit.(Picture
ontherightshowsthatsnareisNOT
centered,justlikealivesetup)

Thesnaredrumisalwayscenteredinmyrecordings.Itsthedrumthathasthemostrangeout
oftheentirekit,andcontainsfrequenciesthatquethelistenerinonwhattypeofflavorthe
drumswillhaveforasong.Changethesnaredrum,andthewholekitsoundslikeitwas
swappedout.

Thesnarejoinsthelowsfromthekick,(At100120Hz)andthehighfrequenciesblendinwith
thehihatandthecymbals.Thesnarenearlycoverstheentirefrequencyrangeofadrumkit.So
thisiswhyitisalmostalwayscenteredacousticallybetweentheoverheads.

Distance from the Snare is Key

Nomatterthelocationoftwomics,ifyouwantthesoundofthesnaretobeequalinboth
microphones(Thesamemodelofmic),theyneedtobethesamedistance.Thisdistanceis
matchedbetweenthetwomicrophonesandthecenterofthesnaredrum.Ioftenusea10foot
guitarcableforthejob.

Butevenifbothmicsarethesamedistancetothesnare,theycanbeplacedanywherearound
thekit.Therearesomebasicquestionsthatwestillhavetoask:

Howdoweknowwherethetwomicsshouldgo?
Howhighup?
Howfarapartarethemicsfromeachother?
Howarethemicspointed?

Slicing the Drum Kit

Withthesnaredrumasafulcrum,wecan
swingalineacrossthekitfromavariety
ofangles.

Wecoulddrawthislinecomingrightover
thehitom.Orperhapsoverthekickdrum
andridecymbal.Wecouldevencome
overthefloortom,andstillhaveoursnare
centeredbetweentwomics.Remember,
thesnaredrumisthefulcrumthatthe
centerdividerlineswingsfrom.

Forawiderstereoimageofthedrumkit,youshoulddividethekitoverthehitom.Thisisa
classicapproach,andyouwillnoticethatthehihatisnoticeablyofftotheright.Theridecymbal
willbemuchmoreofftotheleftaswell.

Ifyoudividethekitcomingovertheride
cymbal,thenthestereoimageofthekit
willnarrow.Thisisbecausetherideis
nowrightinthemiddle,andthehihatis
furtheraway,butstillclosertocenter.

2 Decide on the Height

Theheightoftheoverheadmicscanbe
fairlysimple.IoftensetthemuptobeaboutheadheightformeasImstandingbehindthekit,
about6feetofftheground.Thisgivesthedrummerenoughroomtoswinghissticksandnothit
themics.

Loweroverheadswillcapturelessroomandmoredrums.Higheroverheadswillcapturealittle
moreroomsound.

Room Sound vs Direct Sound

Firstconsiderationistoaskyourselfhowmuchroomsounddoyouwanttocapturewithyour
overheads.

Perhapsyouaresettinguproommics,so
youdontwantmuchoftheroomgetting
intotheoverheads.Alowpositionof5
feetoffthegroundwouldbeagood
choice,butmakesurethedrummerwont
hitthemics.

Ifyoudonthaveenoughmicrophonesfor
apairofroommics,thenyoucancapture
theroomwiththeoverheads.Ahigh
positionof7feetorhigherwouldbeagoodchoice.Keepinmindthatcompressionofthe
overheadswillbringouttheroomsoundthatisembeddedintherecording.Thereismoreroom
soundthanyoumayrealize,andonceyoucompresstheoverheads,theroomsoundmaybe
toomuch.Takeyourtime,andfinetunethebalanceofroomtodirectsound,bytryingoutafew
differentheightsinyourroom.

Narrowing at High Positions

Anotherthingtoconsideristhatasyoupullawayfromsomething,theangleofviewbecomes
less.Forexample,youcangettheeffectofbeingatamovietheatrebysittingafootfromyour
TVorcomputerscreen.SitfarawayfromyourTVandtheimagewillbeasmaller.

Inthecaseofdrumrecording,apairof
micsthatissetupinXYconfigurationfor
example,willcapturethekitwiderwhen
low,andnarrowwhenhigh.

Application so Far (With


Scenarios)

Wenowhavetwowaystowidenand
narrowadrumkit.
Splittingthedrumkit
Theheightofthemics

Thewidestway tocaptureakitwouldbecomingin
fromthefrontofthedrumkit,andusinga
lowposition.

Thenarrowestway tocaptureakitwouldbetocomein
fromoverthekickandridecymbal ,and
useahighposition.

Ifyouhaveabadroom,usealowpositiontominimizetheroomsoundasbestyoucan,and
thenchooseyourstereowidenessbytheanglethatyouslicethekit.

Ifyouarereallow,youcancomeinoverthekick/ridesothatitsnottooobviousofhowclose
youaretothekit,asthisangleresemblesthenarrowingofahigherupposition,butofcoursea
muchdryersound.

YoucouldalsomakeanXYconfigurationalittlemoreinterestingusingthesetechniques.Tomy
earstheXYconfigurationalwayssoundsnarrowandalittleboring.Cominginfromthefront,or
positioningthemicslowwillhelpwidenthestereoimageofthekitforXY.

3 Choose the Technique (4 General Types)

Thefinalstepforsettingupoverhead
microphonesistochooseyourtechnique
ortheconfigurationofthemicrophones.
YoumayhaveheardthetermsXYor
GlynJohns,andthisiswherethose
elementscomeintoplay.

1 Coincident

Coincidentisastereomicconfiguration
wheretwomicsareascloseaspossible
together.ThisistheXY,Blumlein,andMS.Whichallcanlookverysimilar,butXYiswithtwo
cardioidmics,BlumleinisjustanXYbutwithtwofigure8mics(Ribbons),andMSisXYwiththe
Xmicfacingdirectlydown,andtheYmicfacingthesidesinFigure
8Mode(Oraribbonmic).

CoincidentisveryeasytosetupandgetthingsRight.I
recommendforanyonestartingout,tostartoutwithanXYoran
ORTF(Seebelowinthenextsection).

Astereobarmakessettingtwomicsupaloteasier,butIdidthisfor
alongtimewithoutone.Ittakestwomicstandsandyouhavetobe
carefulnottobumponeofthemicstands.

TheR88ribbonmicpicturedinthevideo(Right)istworibbonmicrophonesinaXY
configuration.Itsregardedasoneofthebestoptionsfordrumoverheadsasitsjustsoeasyto
setup,andgetamazingsoundswithlittleeffort.SomehavecalleditCheating.

Butyoucangetgreatsoundsstillwithtwoofthesamemic,andinXY.Justbringthetipsofthe
mictogether,andpointthemawayfromoneanothermakinga90degreeangle.Usethesteps
abovetodeterminehowyouapproachthekit(Sliceit),andhowhowyousettheXY
configuration.

2 Near Coincident

Thisiswhentwomicsareclosetoeachother,butnotrightontopofoneanother.Thiswouldbe
NOSandORTFforexample.Thereareseveralothers,butmyfavoriteisORTF.Itissupposed
toemulatethespacebetweenyourears,andthephasingthathappensbecausethemicsare
notrightontopofoneanothercanbeverypleasingtoyourears.IfindtheORTFtobeavery
interestingsound,andmusical.

TheORTFiswherethemicsarespaced17cmapart,andatanangleof110degrees.
TheNOSiswherethemicsarespaced30cmapart,andatanangleof90degrees.

3 Spaced Pair

Spacedpaircancomeinmanyforms.Most
willplaceonemicoverthefloortom,and
becausebothmicsareofequaldistanceto
thesnare,thesecondmicwillbetooutside
(Audienceright)ofthehihat.

Itmayappearthatthehihatsidemicrophone
istoofarouttooneside,butifitmeasuresto
thesnarethesamedistanceastheother
mic,itllsoundok.

Ifindthatspacedpaircanbeverychallengingfordrums.Itcantakehourstogetright,andyou
stillmaynotgetthebestresultsfromaspacedpair.

Thisisbecauseonlyoneelementofthekitisgoingtobephasecoherentthesnaredrum.
Everythingelsewillbeofslightlydifferentdistances.

Youwillalsohaveavariationofperspectivefromeachmic.Somemicswillbedirectlyovera
crashcymbal,willtheothermicrophonewillbeata45degreeangle.Thiscymbalwillrockback
andforthonitsstand,andasitdoesitproducesaswirlingeffect.

Thekickwillalsosounddifferenttoeachmic.Onemicwillpickupmorelowend,whiletheother
willpickuptheattackofftheback.Thisjustaddstothemadnesswhenyouaretryingtogeta
gooddrumsound,andwhyIcontinuetorecommendXY,Blumlein,orORTFtolimitthe
variablesthatcomeupindrumrecording.

4 Asymmetric

ThistechniqueismuchdifferentfromanythinginthisPDFguide,butwilltrytoquicklyexplaina
quickoverview.Somedetailsarebeyondthescopeofthisguide.

Insteadofsplittingthekitdownthemiddle,anddecidingtheheightofthemics(Step1andStep
2),asymmetricinsteadstartsoutbyplacingananchormicrophoneatthetopofthedrumkit.

Thisanchormicisoftenabovethesnareor
hitom.Thegoalistomakesurethismic
hasagoodbalanceofthekit.Ifyour
drummerhasaloudhihat(Nearlyall
drummerswillhavealoudhihat),thenthis
microphonewillmostlikelypickupalotof
hihat,thuscreatingaproblemanda
challenge.Ihavepointedthismictoward
thefloortomslightlyandithelpedto
reducethehihatandkeepitfrom
overwhelmingthetopoverheadmic.

Fromhere,weplaceanothermicofftothesideandquitelowbutatthatsamedistancetothe
snare.Itlltakeafewadjustmentstogetbothmicsthesamedistance,andthatsnormal.

ThistechniquesareoneslikeGlynJohns,Weathervane(BrianMcTearandhiscrew)and
Recorderman.GlynJohnshasalowsecondarymicthatpicksupthelowtom.Itoftencreates
perspectiveproblemswillthekickandthecymbals.Suchasmorekickattackinthesecondary
mic,andmorekicklowsintheanchormic.Orsomecymbalsappearingtodimdowninvolume
astheyrockonthestand.

TheseperspectiveissuesaddtothechallengeoftheGlynJohnstechnique.Andperhapsthatis
apartofthesound.

Recordermaniswherebothmicsare
equaldistancestobothkickandsnare.
YouhavetocreateanAshapebetween
themiddleofthekick,andthesnare,with
thetopoftheAatthemic.Youhaveto
pinchthestringandmoveitbacktofindasecondmicposition.

Mostofthetimethesecondmicwillbeoverthedrummer'srightshoulder,andtheanchormic
willbeabovethekit.Thistechniqueworksfairlywellasbothmicsareuphigh,andalotof
issuesareavoidedthatweseeintheGlynJohns.

TheWeathervanemethodwillseemlikeacrazytechniqueforanewengineerandyoushouldnt
tryuntilyouhavepracticedafewoftheothertechniques.Butifyoumust,youcanfinda
detailedvideohere:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9NjecFFoIQ

Questionsorcomments?EmailRyanatryan@creativesoundlab.tv