#35: Drum Overheads Are Not Just Cymbal Mics

#35: Drum Overheads Are Not Just Cymbal Mics

Many people think of drum overheads as “cymbal mics” - but they are (or can be) much more than that.


Overheads are super important for the overall drum sound!

If you are not aware of their impact on the drum tone, depth, width and stereo image, you might choose the wrong approach for the result and vibe you’re going for. 

In this episode you'll discover:

  • the differences between overheads and cymbal spot mics
  • what overheads can do for your drum sound other than pick up cymbals
  • examples of different approaches and overhead setups for different scenarios
  • the mindset and strategy behind choosing and placing drum overheads with the mix in mind

Listen now and up your drum production game big time by using your drum overheads' full potential - no matter if you're recording acoustic drums or using programmed MIDI drums.

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Sennheiser MkH 416

FabFilter Pro-G

Silverside Sound

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 035 - Drum Overheads Are Not Just Cymbal Mics

[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] If you record the drum set and you've got a bunch of codes make sense? I said, overheads, and you pulled overheads out. It's like, you've got drums in space right there. Like shells are just kind of it in there. Usually you don't really want that. Right? You want this glue, which the 

Benedikt: [00:00:13] overhead is really great.

This is the self recording band podcast. The show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are, DIY stuff. Let's go.

Hello and welcome. The self recording band podcast. I am your host then at the time. And I'm here with my friend and cohost Maximo and flood. Hi Malcolm, how are you? 

Malcom: [00:00:37] Hey, Benny. I'm good, man. I'm really good. I had an awesome weekend of recording drums actually, and other things guitars, lots of stuff, but, but, uh, the drums in particular were super awesome.

It was possibly my favorite drum sound that I've captured lav off the floor. 

Benedikt: [00:00:55] Oh, that's fine. That's great. Which studio did you use? 

Malcom: [00:00:58] I was at silverside sound, which is just down the [00:01:00] road from me. I do a lot of stuff there. It's like a big live, very live ambient sounding room. And, uh, it was perfect for the song we were doing.

Very explosive sounding bombastic. 

Benedikt: [00:01:11] Yeah. That's a preference. Uh, both of us, as we've already said, a couple of times anything, uh, specifically like new that you've tried or anything like exciting that was that's worth mentioning. 

Malcom: [00:01:24] Yeah. So a couple of 

quick things. Um, so for some of the podcasts listeners, you may be aware that I do location sound mixing for film projects.

Um, so I'm on set with a mixer recording actors and swinging of boom pull around a lot. And I decided to bring my shotgun mic, um, which is a Sennheiser MKH four 16. Great, great shotgun mic. Um, and throw that up as a mano overhead. Which was really, really cool. Um, which we're going to be talking about in this episode.

Maybe I'll come back to that. I'll circle back to that. But the other thing we, I [00:02:00] did, which we've done before is there's like this big hallway. That kind of leads out of the live room and alongside of the control room. Um, so you have to kind of go through like a few doors to get to the control room. It's pretty removed, but there's this long hallway.

And we usually throw a mic out there at the end of the hallway. And it's so delayed. It's really, I think the door is closed even in front of it. And it's super trashy and delayed is my favorite room, Mike, but I decided to throw a ribbon up there. And it sounded awesome. Super awesome. Darker the better, but I then gated it to only release on the snares.

Um, so it's like this big, huge snare kind of thing that was happening in real time as we tracked it was awesome. 

Benedikt: [00:02:42] Wow. So I was about to ask you, so you did that, um, you committed the gate? 

Malcom: [00:02:47] Uh, yes, but I had them going. So a malt for listeners that don't know is just like an alternate, uh, recording of the, of that to capture.

So. One was going to a, so I had that there, but I just kind of [00:03:00] turned it off. And then I had the gated version that was just accenting, our snares live. Cool. 

Benedikt: [00:03:06] So did you do that with a hardware gate or a plugin? 

Malcom: [00:03:08] No, I actually use pro G I had no idea that you could record zero latency with that fab filter plugin.

And it's awesome. Yeah. And even if it was delayed, it was like, the snare is so behind the real snare, like the close mic, because of the space, like the amount of distance that it, it didn't really matter. Right. 

Benedikt: [00:03:26] Say in real time you don't have look ahead or anything like that, but you don't really need to because you have a couple of milliseconds in between anyways, actually.

Malcom: [00:03:33] Yeah. Yeah, so it worked awesome. It was really, really cool. It was like very mixed sounding already. 

Benedikt: [00:03:41] That's it? Um, by the way, uh, if we have an episode on committing things on the way, like a recording, uh, through compression que Gates. So whatever. So if you haven't listened to that, go check that out because we talk about exactly that thing.

In this episode and like, yeah. Talk about when and why [00:04:00] and why not to do this. So it's like, yeah. It's episode 34. So the, the, the episode before today's episode, if you haven't checked that out yet, go listen to that. And yeah, it's all about that topic. Yeah. It's basically everything you just said is right on topic because today's topic is also about drums.

It's about drum overheads specifically. And I want to hear more about the mono overhead thing that you did there. But first I want to tell you what today's episode is exactly about and it's the title is drum overheads are not just cymbal mics, and that is because many people think of overheads as cymbal mics, but they can be much more than that.

And it totally depends on what you're trying to do on your Sonic vision, on the vibe you're trying to get. And. We feel it's important because overheads are super important for the overall drum sound. It's just a big part of it. And choosing the wrong approach here can potentially be. I grew in the whole drum recording.

Basically. You can totally go off in the wrong [00:05:00] direction if you choose the wrong overhead approach, because that can really dictate how the oral drum kit sounds. And we're going to show you the difference between like what we call overheads and like cymabl mics like, what's the difference here and why there is a difference we will talk about what overheads do or can do to your drum sound other than pickup cymbals.

And we're going to talk about some examples and specific approaches and specific overhead setups for different scenarios. So yeah, that's what today's episode is about. And. I'd like to hear why and you chose to use that mano overhead and what it did for you and like, what was the goal? Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:05:38] So it's the perfect discussion because you said the title is overhead.

So not just cymbal mics. So there, we should talk about placement before we get into it. Yeah. And depending on where you place overheads, you're going to get more shells versus more cymbals. And how close you get to things also is going to affect that. Right. Um, and. Yeah. A lot of [00:06:00] people might think that they're just up there to get the cymbals.

So they just play some like directly overtop of the symbols and you end up with no or very little shells or worse, bad sounding bleed of shells. And that can be fine. Um, and we'll talk about why sometimes that might be the, the desire thing as well, but generally a good starting place is to try and get an actual kind of picture of the kid.

Right. Um, where you, you could listen to just the overheads and it sounds pretty awesome. It sounds like the drummer is really kicking kicking ass now where I was running into problems, not problems, but I've been doing a lot of mixing and I was like, okay, I want more kick and snare up the middle.

Information, but still with that kind of roomy sound that overheads half compared to a close mic. So I went with my space pair overheads as usual, which is, you know, for anybody that hasn't done it, they're spaced out over the drum kit left and right. And that just by default puts them more over [00:07:00] the cymbals than something up in the middle would.

And that sounds great. But again, I wanted more of that middle stuff, so I threw up this shotgun mic. Um, in the center and shotgun mics are a figure eight pattern that have extremely good rejection on the sides. Um, there, people kind of think that they can just like hone in and point across football stadiums and hear the other side.

And it's not quite like that, but it's, it's fine to think of it that way in that they are very directional, um, and just have awesome rejection. So I pointed it in center kind of angled it so that the sides were kind of hitting the symbols as much as possible. And just got this really. Like awesome.

Mostly kicking snare mics going into that, which kind of filled the hole in my space pairs. So the sum of those three parts kind of equaled a really full picture, I guess. Um, so yeah, that's why I went with it because I wanted more kick and snare without [00:08:00] cymbals. 

Benedikt: [00:08:01] Yeah. That makes total sense. I mean, our shotgun mix, just to clarify, is it really, um, is it really a figure eight or is it just something like a super narrow like hypercarbia or something like that?

I think because, Oh, you could think of, of it as a figure of eight, but narrow. Right? So. 

Malcom: [00:08:17] Yes. Yeah. Yeah. But it does have a, like a back access, like can figure it 

Benedikt: [00:08:23] out. Yeah. The more directional it gets, the more sensitive it is. It is on the like, affects like the backside  affects. It affects us to the sides then they should basically.

Yeah, yeah. 

Malcom: [00:08:32] Yeah. I think technically you're right. It's like a super car too, but. You have to be aware of that, that backside with a shotgun mic, because like, if you're, you've got like a low ceiling, a reflective low ceiling, it starts sounding weird. 

Benedikt: [00:08:44] Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. Yes. Super cool. So how does the bleed of the cymbals then sound in that mic?

Is that, is that a problem? Because obviously you have less symbols on the sides, but that does the bleed sound pleasing still? 

Malcom: [00:08:58] Yes. So that's, [00:09:00] that's a great, uh, thing to bring up because. That was something that took me a long time to learn. And I want our listeners to really watch for that. Is that less bleed?

Isn't good enough if it sounds terrible. Um, so for like your high hats are just like the most deadly sounding things in your, like your snare mic or whatever, or whatever, you know, it, uh, that's really bad. It will come back to haunt. You. You want your bleed to be pleasant? I would, I would take a little extra bleed if it sounds good.

You know, and in this case it was so smooth band. I couldn't believe it. It was, it was great. Awesome. Um, yeah, which probably. Because they did, they, uh, they kind of designed these shotgun mikes to be directional, but they also want the off ASCA off access to sound similar, like frequency wise. Um, even though quieter, they pretty much, they just want it to be quieter, but at the same frequency, because there's normally just one guy swinging one mic around and they have to capture like two actors.

So let's post bring up the quiet channel and hopefully have a similar frequency response. Okay, cool. Um, so yeah, man, it was like, [00:10:00] It was so awesome. I'm going to do it every time. 

Benedikt: [00:10:03] I'll have to try that. That's that's a great idea that I've never tried. I did that with ribbons for, because of the figure of eight, but with a shotgun mic, I've never tried it, but it makes total sense.

So, uh, awesome tip here. And like, you kind of said it already, like the, the whole thought process behind is whether you want more shells or cymbals and whether you want like, Depending. I think the two scenarios, the two extreme scenarios is one. If you're going to rely heavily on the close Mike's or even samples, you're going to want to pick up more cymbals.

And if you want to have a real organic. Um, three dimensional representation of the whole kit, including shells. And you want to more roomy, a little more distant. Yeah. Organic type of sound. Then you probably want to get more of the shells in the overheads because otherwise you get a very upfront, um, direct sound on the, on the shells.

So these are the two. The two extreme scenarios and everything in between, of course. So in your [00:11:00] case, it's kind of a mix. You want it, the cymbal clarity, and you want it to the stereo width and everything with an added, like punch and, and yeah. Like power from the, from the shells, from the kick and snare space.

Malcom: [00:11:13] Yeah. And now I've got control over that, like blend. Right? I can, I can turn down the center channel. You might call it, um, if I want it to get wider or vice versa. Um, so I was just really happy with the resultant that could cover my basis. Pretty good. Cool. 

Benedikt: [00:11:29] So the, the reason why I wanted to do this episode, the, the main reason is the following problem.

Oftentimes when people send me stuff to mix these, that they recorded themselves, they view overheads as cymbals mix. They put them right above the cymbals to capture all the symbols and the don't really care about the kid. And then they often. Don't have the best, most consistent like playing, or they didn't put enough attention to like on like the tuning and how the individual shell sounds.

So they have to close Mike's as well, but they don't particularly [00:12:00] sound really great. So the only option I have then is to either replace them and then I'm fine with the symbols, but if they want the real kit to come through and they want me to use the close Mike's, but they don't sound really good. I'm like, I'm stuck with these.

Like, yeah, not really good sounding close mics they often have a lot of bleeds. They're inconsistent. I have to compress them a lot, which makes the bleed problem even worse. And if there is more of the whole kit in the overheads, that's less of a problem because I have to use less of the close mics to make it work because I have plenty of snare and Toms and stuff in the overheads.

And I just need the close mics to like give a little extra push, but it don't need to rely heavily on those less than ideal. Signals. So when people say they don't really care about the close mics, they just want to use samples. Then I'm pretty okay with cymbal mics. If every cymbal is represented well, and if that's the goal, but if they want a more organic sound and they want their real kit to come through, then I'm kind of stuck.

If the [00:13:00] close mic suck and the overheads don't really have shells, then what am I supposed to do? You know? So that's the main, the main reason why I bring this up and. So it's worth thinking about before you even put a microphone on your drum kit, I think, and before you start recording, it's worth thinking about the aesthetic that you want.

And if the goal is organic three-dimensional, um, wide and accurate stereo field and everything, then you should have a, a well-tuned drum kit be a room that works, see a good drummer, of course. And then you should choose an overhead configuration that represents the whole kit as good as possible. And then in addition to that, you put all the close mics in there.

So that's basically how you should approach it if that's the goal. 

Malcom: [00:13:41] Yeah. I totally agree with it. Like recording with the end in mind is an awesome approach. If I know that it's going to be like a very modern, punchy kick, that's probably going to be a sample. I'll try and like, you know, pile moving bank it's on top of the click or on top of the kick story to try and pull, pull it out of our overheads, [00:14:00] you know?

Cause the more information of the shells that are in overheads, the kind of harder it is to replace them. If they're bad sounding 

Benedikt: [00:14:06] right. 

Malcom: [00:14:07] Um, cause there's, again, there's sample replacement or there's sample, like, and that's the difference, right? Yeah. Is it like, do we need to replace this and try and make it sound like that bad sounding drum never existed?

Or are we just trying to reinforce it with a different sample? Um, 

Benedikt: [00:14:24] Yes. 

Malcom: [00:14:25] Yeah. So I think a really good thing to watch out for is the overall balance of all the elements of the kit and overheads. So if you're, even if you're just going with cy,bals, have the drummer play through every piece. And if something sounds like twice as loud as everything else, even if it's a cymbal, that's going to be a problem.

Right. It needs to be really balanced. I think that's like a really good thing to strive for is that nothing seems over, 

Benedikt: [00:14:51] uh, exactly what you mean. Overhead balance is really everything. And depending on the amount of inputs that you have, there are different things you can do. So if you'll [00:15:00] have limited inputs, you have to find an overhead company that just lets you capture the kit.

In a balanced way, but if you have enough inputs, the other thing you could do is you could go with the overhead, the configuration that you like, and that gives you the, the amount of room sound and like the sound you want. And then if something is like, Under represented. Um, then you can just use additional cymbal spot mix, so you can use those overheads, but if there is like a writes on bill or a China or an additional crash or whatever, that's just too quiet and the overheads, you can just put the spotlight on that cymbal and feature it that way and bring it out.

Yes. Um, so that's the other way you can, you can do it, but in most cases in the DIY scenarios, if you're limited to eight, it puts you'd need to find an overhead. Pair that just works and it's going to be a compromise often. So you probably won't have the clearest most direct cymbal sound and get all the shells really [00:16:00] punchy with just one pair of mics.

It's going to be somewhere in between I think, but that's totally fine. You just have to experiment and do what, what Malcolm just said, a kit, every piece of the kit and listen closely. If that is the balance that you're going for. 

Malcom: [00:16:12] Yeah. And like the balance in volume, but also in placement, right. If you've got your mic set up kind of in a wonky position, it might sound like your, your floor, Tom is like four leagues away to the right.

And then your snares up to the like way off to the left, you know, and that's going to be, that's not how drum kits sound. Right. So you want to be careful with that stuff as well, make sure that it, it sounds like you're standing in front of a drum kit or add a drum kit depending on how you kind of. How you perceive things, but, um, yeah, I think I've always been happiest when my overheads sound like a drum kit.

It's like, I just solo them and it's like, okay, this sounds like a good drum kit rather than like, okay, this just sounds like the crash and the ride, which there's a time and a place for that. But again, it's, I would really recommend you [00:17:00] start with going for a balanced picture of the kid. Yeah. That's, that's like almost always a good call unless you've just got the worst sounding drums and then you really want to avoid the shell.


Benedikt: [00:17:09] Agreed. The only exception I can think of where it is clear from the beginning that you don't want to do that is maybe if you want to do a really modern, heavy. Upfront the metal drum sound where it's clear that you're going to use samples more than anything, and it should have this aesthetic. So if that's the goal, then maybe try to keep the shells out of the overheads as much as possible and just really use symbol mix.

Maybe even aim them away from the shells a bit. So sometimes what I sometimes do is I. Um, I have a space pair over the crash cymbals and then spot mics on each individual center. Well, and then I just angle them in a way, the way that they rechecked a little bit of the snare and cake and everything. Do you only do that if you really are sure that the, the majority of the close mic, the shell sound will come from the firm samples in all other cases?

Yeah. Like basic rock music, or especially if it's something, something organic, like imagine a [00:18:00] blues recording or something like that. And you want a vintage kit, like in full. Full glory, you know, like the whole kit, like how it sounds in the room. You don't want cymbal mix. You want overheads that capture the whole thing and you don't, you probably not don't even need as much of the close mix in there.

Yeah. If it's done, right? 

Malcom: [00:18:16] Yeah. Like that kind of style is overheads with sneaking in the close mics to reinforce that picture. Right. Like you've got a full picture with your overheads or your rooms, and then you're using the closed mics to kind of beef it up a little. Yeah. And yeah. So it is a different approach.

Um, if you can, and we, we, we realize that not everybody can, but if you can do both, you know, like cover your cymbals and get like a, pick a kit picture from the overheads, um, there's a lot of energy that comes off the shells off the, the whole performance. If you have like a full performance capture from up above it's, that's what makes people boogie, I think.

Benedikt: [00:18:53] Totally, totally agree. And before you do all that one, um, Piece of advice that we need [00:19:00] to put in this episode is the phase is very, very crucial, very important with all of this. We don't need to go to go into all the details in this episode because we have a whole episode on that topic. So if you haven't yet go listen to episode four of the podcast, which is all about drum phase, because this is Janine to understand this, especially the more makes you, you're going to add to the whole thing.

The more complicated. It gets, the more you're going to run into face problems. And unless you understand that concept and get that right, it doesn't make real, it doesn't really make sense to add more microphones. So go listen to episode four, it's called how to improve your recording spec time and get punchy drums by avoiding phase phase issues.

Um, and that's just a, a crucial episode that everyone needs to listen to. Whoever wants to record drums, period. 

Malcom: [00:19:44] Yeah, definitely. That, I mean that episode's helpful for other instruments too, so definitely worth the listen. Yes. Um, Do you ever do mono drums, 

Benedikt: [00:19:54] like a mano overhead or monitor the whole drum kit motto?

Malcom: [00:19:58] Let's see both. 

Benedikt: [00:19:58] Yeah. Okay. So [00:20:00] Mo mano overheads. Definitely. Yes. I haven't tried the shotgun thing, but I tried other mano overheads in addition to the space pair. So that yes, sometimes it's my center of the kid. Mike's trash mic thing that I use. It's not an overhead, but it does a similar thing in the center of the drum kit.

So that's one thing I like to do and motto drums. I don't, I think I've ever made a record with completely monitored drums, but I've definitely made some with like pretty narrow drums. So there was a little bit of a stereo image, but pretty narrow. Right, but I like to listen and that's something I recently discovered or rediscovered again, I was into that a couple years ago and now I really discovered it.

There are some records, even some pretty heavy modern records like that. That seemed to be super wide. Just because the drums are basically mano or do they are mono. And then the guitars seem super wide because there is this gap between the drums and the guitars. And it's kind of like watching a band on a big stage with a drum kit in the middle and the speakers left and right of the stage or something like that.

[00:21:00] That's, that's something that I kinda like because. I think in many modern productions when there is this white rum image, it's kind of, we heard that the symbols or the high hats are inside of the guitarists sometimes, or at least somewhere where the guitars are. So the drum kit is basically everywhere.

And then you have the guitar player left and right. And with a more narrow or even mano drum kit, you have like this more realistic yeah. Image of a band because the drum kit is more or less. No, if you watch it on a stage, you know, so. Um, yeah, I'm kind of into that one record comes to mind. I even mentioned it on the podcast.

Once. I think it's by a biobank called coat code orange. They used to be called code orange kids. Now they call it now. They were called code orange and I think Kripalu did the record. I'm not entirely sure, but I think, and they have mano drums, very heavy mano drums and super white guitarists. And it sounds insane.

So cool. 

Malcom: [00:21:49] Yeah. Cool. Yeah. I just wanted to mention it because it is an approach you can consider just throwing one mic up there and, and going further, all the drums come up in the middle. It's always the cymbals that [00:22:00] I'm like, Oh, I wish I wish it wasn't so motto, but, uh, I've done it a few times and it has been cool.

And it's when you picture it with the guitars, it can really be interesting. One time I did it and it was all mano, but I still pan by Tom mix. So we kind of had like those moments where like, Ooh, kind of thing. Otherwise it was coming up in the middle. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:22:21] Yeah. Um, another thing that I, I would like to mention is when we're talking about what overheads can actually do to your drum sound other than pick up cymbals.

So one thing is the width and the depth and the realism and the room we were talking about. But another thing is, I feel like. Some, like, I feel like transients come through in a cool way and overheads. So the T the stick attack, the. I dunno, like overheads usually don't get crushed as hard as close mics you maybe have a little limiting going on or maybe a little bit of compression, but if you leave them kind of natural in the mix, then you have a very, uh, you pretty natural dynamics in there.

And a pretty, [00:23:00] pretty cool transcends. If they're a good mics, if they're good condenser, mics, or ribbons or whatever, you have this very precise, almost like audio file, you know? Transients that, yeah. Yeah. That's just something I really like if done. Well, that's just cool because it adds dynamic dynamics to the sample or overly compressed close mix, and it just, just makes it more lively to me.

And I kind of like how that sounds, especially because usually you tend to add a bit of top and to the overheads to make the cymbal shine more so that even that brings out this stick attack and the, the highs, the treble in the, in the shales even more. And I kinda liked that. I also liked the way the snares, so the sizzle sizzly stuff of the actual snare sound on overheads.

So if I, if, if I have that in the overheads, I don't need as much of the snare bottom mic. And I often prefer how a snare sounds with a little distance compared to the close near bottom mic. So that's also a thing that I'm pretty into. [00:24:00] And sometimes even the way a kick Peter sounds and the overheads can be cool and add realism to, to a modern kick drum.

That's usually pretty heavily processed that doesn't sound as realistic anymore. And just there's something to how drum sound from a distance basically that I just like, and that overheads can give, can I give you if you, yeah, if you have like a lot of shells in there, 

Malcom: [00:24:23] it's more accurate to how drums actually sound.

Right. They've jumped. Don't sound like your head's up against the snare or, you know, like you're inside the kick drum. Like that's not how drum sounds. So the overheads are a much more accurate picture of what we hear when we're in a room with a drum kit. Um, and when you, if you record the drum set and you've got a bunch of colors, make sense, I said, overheads, and you pulled overheads out.

It's like, you've got drums in space right there. Like shells are just kind of floating there and then you start bringing it back in until it kind of like the picture becomes is complete. Um, and you know, some music, it seems to be fine with the drums and space thing, but [00:25:00] usually, yeah, you don't really want that.

Right. You don't want it like this seem like your kicking scenario being played by different people. You want this glue, which the overheads really bring. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:25:09] totally. And another thing is. If you're unsure about drum tuning, it's, you're still learning here and you have maybe a weird ring in there, or like you have weird carpet, like Tom, like resonance.

So whatever I feel that the stuff is way worse than the close mix than it often is in the overheads. So sometimes when I have a really ringy or annoying snare that I actually don't want in the mix, or when I have a weird frequency that just bothers me in the Tom close mics, oftentimes in the overheads.

It's not as, as, as bad. And if there's a lot of shells in the overheads, then I can bring back some of the natural drum sound without like having to use the crappy, close mics again. So I don't know why that is, but I think I can get away with less than ideal tuning, more in the overheads than I can in the close max.

So yeah. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:25:57] Yeah. Every once in a while I get to make something that's like [00:26:00] kind of meant to sound crappy. Yeah. You know, like, like it's just like this grungy drum kit, broken mic pair, and like everything sucks. They recorded it too hot. Uh, but it's like suits the songs to start in an ugly. And in those cases, it's almost all the overheads in the room mix, you know, it's just like, This natural kind of thing.

It doesn't need that close mic stuff. Um, and it it's. So in those cases, the tuning is always terrible and it just works in that case. But if it was a close mics, like I'd never be able to make it sound vibey, like they want 

Benedikt: [00:26:31] yeah. Okay. Question for you. Um, yes. Because w we should mention that because I think a big part of our audience doesn't record real drums, but they program them.

And if you program drums or if you would like have client program drums for something you are about to mix, would you like have bleed like shell bleed in the overheads or would you program cymbals only? So would you rec mimic the, the shall sound and the overheads. [00:27:00] In case of programmed drums, because that's what people always ask.


Malcom: [00:27:04] I would, um, yeah, I, I told the word, I think, I don't know, think I'd know what to do without. Yeah, without that bleed. Yeah. Okay, cool. Cause it's not bleed in an overhead. It's not bleed. It's part it's meant to be they're 

Benedikt: [00:27:17] expensive, but it's called weirdly day. You're totally right. Clean enough on some plugins or like we're children, kids, they call it bleed and you can adjust how much snare and the overheads for something like that.

And I feel like people are afraid to use that dial and like dial in snare and Toms and they just, they just sent only cymbals because they think the more separation, the better. But again, then we are left with this drums in space thing. Yeah. Even more so with programmed drums, maybe. Uh 

Malcom: [00:27:44] huh. Yeah. Uh, so yeah, bleed bleed can exist in an overhead unless it's like from another instrument, like a guitar cap, you know, but bleed can exist in close mics and, and, you know, arguably you should as well, but that's where you want to minimize bleed as the club close mics.

Cause that's the point [00:28:00] you're trying to get like. As much of a isolated signal to noise ratio on a specific drum with close mics, but with overheads and rooms, that's not, not the goal. Um, that said, I realized now that at the beginning of this episode, I said, I threw up a shotgun mic with the sole purpose of trying to reject symbols.


Benedikt: [00:28:21] Yeah. Just base pair in addition to that. So it says it's served a specific purpose. There. There's one thing that I would leave. Out of the orange, or I wouldn't leave it out of the overheads, but I would turn it down maybe more than, than dial it in is the high hats, because the high hats, if there is a close mic for the high hats, and if there is a little bit of that in the overheads and the rooms, they are almost never too quiet are almost never yeah.

Too quiet. So, um, that's maybe the only thing that really bothers me with overheads is if the crashes are where they are and the balances right. And everything, but then there are super loud hi-hats in there and they are not really. To the side either. So they're somewhere like in the [00:29:00] center of the, in between somewhere floating around and super loud.

And I can't get rid of them. That's pretty annoying. So other than the balance, it's a balancing thing. But other than the balance between the crash cymbals of the, the kit itself, the shells, I would pay extra attention to how loud the high head is, where it is in the stereo field. And I would try to have it as quiet as possible.

Because it's always going to be there and with program drums as well, I would be careful to have too much high head in there. In the overheads. So that's maybe the only thing. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:29:34] Yeah. I w in the session, on the weekend, that was definitely something we worked on was the, we went through the kit and the high hats just seemed like twice as loud as everything else.

So we had to sort that out. Otherwise I would have been totally screwed come mixed town, 

Benedikt: [00:29:49] which brings us to another thing, which is. Stuff for an entire new episode, but simple choice obviously makes a big difference. So, uh, if you have like really loud, annoying [00:30:00] fix cymbals, especially hi-hats, that's going to be a real problem.

So you want to start with, by choosing the right symbols obviously, but yeah, there's a lot to talk about there. Maybe on another episode we already said, we want to do an episode on instruments, so maybe we should do yeah. That and talk about the, not about microphones, not about recording techniques, but about the instruments themselves.

Malcom: [00:30:18] Definitely. I mean, one thing I think I would say though, is we keep saying that the overheads are a picture of the drum kit. Yeah. Right. Ideally and yeah. You have to understand that how you set up that picture is what it takes a picture of. So the placement where you position the cymbals, how high or low makes a huge difference.

So in the case of this, I wanted the highest to be lower or further to the left. The drummer has to be flexible to do that. I think in this case, we ended up repositioning the mix, actually the balance it out better, which again, that works too. If you're, you can keep the drums in the same spot and move the mix to compensate, but something's got to move in those situations.

Otherwise, you're taking a picture from a bad angle. You know, you got like the double chin selfie thing going [00:31:00] on. Yeah, yeah, totally. 

Benedikt: [00:31:05] Um, I wanna bring up like specific, not like things that are not so common, but good to know. And some, some, some tips and tricks other than what we've been talking about. So one thing that you can do that I like to do it's a little, yeah, I just, I just did it on a session last week, actually in a recording session.

One thing you can use overheads for also is you can use them as glue for the whole band. And what I mean by that is if you track the whole band in the same room and you're doing an overdub, so you don't, you're not doing a live performance to do drums first, and then whatever comes next, if you can. It can be worth leaving the overheads where they are after you've recorded drums and recording them with the guitars, the bass, the vocals, even everything else.

You record, just leave the overheads where they are, leave the settings as they are, and just record them with everything else. And then see if you can blend some of that in, because that kind of gives overdub [00:32:00] sessions. This can the feeling that the band has played in the same room and it kind of, I don't know, it works really well.

So the overheads, what has been overheads for the drums become. Room mics for guitars and vocals, basically. Right. And that's a cool trick that I just used last week. And I really like how that sounds. I don't know why that, I mean, I know why, but, um, I don't see people, you do that often, but it kind of works for me.

I don't know. 

Malcom: [00:32:23] Yeah. I've done that with my room pair a few times. It's just like, no, let's just leave it there. Keep it tracking to go. Still. Sounds good. We'll keep using it. 

Benedikt: [00:32:32] Yeah. Yeah. And then another thing, I don't know if you've done it personally is the separation thing where you track cymbals and shells separately.

Right. And leave the overheads you have. Yeah, I haven't done it. Um, it's just it's I get the concept. I just, I, I think I, I don't know. I, yeah, I just haven't tried it yet. I couldn't convince it. Run to do it. Or like yeah. But it 

[00:33:00] Malcom: [00:32:59] was, yeah, it was a weird experience. Um, it, it, it was a certain song, you know, we had, I think, four songs with that band and, uh, this one just needed to be different.

And we were also kind of writing the drum part on the fly and changing it, a lot of stuff. And it was like, okay, this is the way to do it. We're going to just like work on shells only. And then we're gonna come back and add cymbals in. And, um, so we can just focus on patterns kind of thing. And we knew we wanted it to sound more drum machine than the rest of the songs.

Um, and it ended up working, but it was not quicker. It was not a time saving thing, which I think people might think it is. Um, I, I think unless the drummer has practiced playing without cymbals, extensively, it's not going to help you save time at all. Yeah. And it's way more work on the computer side of things.

Yeah. Tons. Yeah, I agree. 

Benedikt: [00:33:49] But if you do that, that, that was why I was asking or why, why I was bringing it up to you. I mean, you record it one, pass all the shells, one pass all the cymbals. Let's say you do like that. Do you [00:34:00] leave the overheads up there and you recorded with the shells or when you do shells?

Malcom: [00:34:05] Totally. Okay. Yeah. That's actually the biggest advantage I think is that you have these room mikes and overhead mikes of the shells that don't have symbols in them. So you can really. Go nuts on them and get like that room activated in a big way with compression and stuff. That's definitely the biggest advantage.

The close mics were almost irrelevant after a certain point. 

Benedikt: [00:34:24] That's what I was asking, but I think that some people, because I've seen people try it, they've heard that some record has been done that way. And what they often do is they record cymbals with overheads and then they move the overheads away and then they set up the kit without symbols and they just record close mics and they think that's.

How you do it, but I think they kind of missed the point actually, if they do that. Good. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:34:45] Yeah. Cause like you said, the title of this episode is overheads are not cymbal mics, not just cymbals. Um, yeah. Yeah. That would be the misconception. There is that they think those mikes are there just for that job and that is not the case.

Benedikt: [00:34:57] Cool. Cool. Um, before, before we wrap [00:35:00] it up, let's uh, bring up some examples and possible scenarios. So. One could be, if you're doing it in X, Y pair, for example, we've been talking about that in another episode, if you do an X, Y, and the kind of in the center above the snare somewhere, um, spot of the drum kit, you're gonna end up with like a lot of the, the shells probably, and a little narrower image, a realistic image, but a narrow image of the kit.

And that could be a case where you might want to use additional cymbal spot mics, if you don't, if you're not able to capture. Everything in this X, Y pair, but you gotta make sure you position them in a way and angle them, or like turn them around until you have the cymbal balance as well with an X, Y that's what I wanted to say.

Basically, having 

Malcom: [00:35:47] done a lot of X, Y in my day, experiment with the height as well. Yeah. Do affect that, that balance to kind of the higher you go, the more you're going to introduce into the stereo field. 

Benedikt: [00:35:57] Oh yeah, of course. And the less, uh, body of [00:36:00] the shells you'll get and more symbol, um, Stuff. Yeah, totally.

So that's, that's one set up then. Yeah. What'd you just describe the space pair. Would you describe it at the beginning, the space pier, maybe with an additional motto thing, it could be an option where TF is somewhere in between. 

Malcom: [00:36:18] Yep. Yeah, that's cool. Uh, we, there's just the motto, which is not for the faint of heart, but we're experimenting with, for sure.

You know, I think you'll know when you want that. 

Benedikt: [00:36:30] Yeah. Yeah. And then, and then there is the really cymbal only shells only approach. And I think the more you go in that direction, if you choose to replace the drums and you want to have really as much separation as possible, the more you do that, the less important that gets to have the center.

Correct. Like with all the other techniques that X, Y the RTF, the space pair overheads, you want to have that line through the kick and snare. You want to have the kick and snare in the center, basically. And you want to [00:37:00] position the mix around that, but the more you go into the, the extreme close mic setup.

Like, it's just not as important anymore. And all you want to have is like maximum separation. Yeah. So yeah, that's, that's, that's basically it. I mean, yeah. Anything else that comes to mind or any, 

Malcom: [00:37:18] I mean, there's like the Glyn Johns thing and stuff, but yeah, there is, yeah, I'm sure. There's a ton that we people have probably started naming their own approaches and stuff.

And we don't know them all, but like, those are the big ones. And I think our listeners hopefully get the point we're making is that you don't, they're just not only cymbal mics. Almost always. You want to get some shells. Yes. 

Benedikt: [00:37:42] And, um, place them with the end result in mind. That's just the, that's the main takeaway.

If you only like, remember one thing from that episode, it's gotta be that. Imagine how you, how the things should sound in the end. Think about productions. You really like listen to them. How they, how they sound. Do you hear a larger than [00:38:00] life unrealistic, super close up wide drum kit? Or do you hear something that sounds like a drum kit in a room and that should dictate your approach?

Malcom: [00:38:09] Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:38:09] that's great. Alright, cool. So one, um, call to action for you guys here. If you. Want us to get feedback on your drum recordings, if you, um, are unsure what the right approach is for the music you're, you're trying to make, or, uh, if you're still playing around with this and you're not sure what the right things to do, you can send us your drum recordings.

You can do that by email. Like personally, we will, uh, we will listen to it. We will give you feedback. And the way to do is. Do it is you need to be subscribed to the email list. If you're already on the list, just reply to one of the emails I'm sending out and sent me a link, a Dropbox link, or we transfer or whatever you have.

And I listened to your. drum recordings, maybe add some info on like, what, what are you trying to do? Um, maybe some references, some, something that I just so that I know if this is going in the right direction, maybe [00:39:00] some info on your set up the amount of inputs you have, the more info, the better. And I will have listen to Malcolm as well.

We'll have a listen and we will send you feedback back. And if you're already on the list, as I said, just reply to one, two an email. And if you're not on that list, the way to get there is. Go to the surf recording band.com. Download any of our free stuff there. The 10 step guide to successful DIY, why recording the essential gear guide or the mic placement, cheat sheet, any of that will get you subscribed to the list, and then you can just submit your stuff.

And I always like to do that. I always like to interact with people and I love to get to get emails like that and to be in touch personally, basically. So. Yeah. I just encourage you to take advantage of that and get some free advice and coaching there, basically. 

Malcom: [00:39:43] Yeah, absolutely. 

Benedikt: [00:39:45] Awesome. Yeah. That's it for this episode, curious to hear your results, curious to hear your drum sounds and yeah.

See you next week. Thank you for listening. [00:40:00] .

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