How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

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How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by losthighway » Wed May 02, 2018 7:12 am

I was setting up last night for some tracking today and realized in all my overhead mic'ing experimentation (spaced pair, ortf, xy, various Glyn Johns, Massenburg style configurations, mono), I kind of fell into a range of height that seemed to work and never really experimented much.

Working alone you tend to pick things up through experimentation, or seeing pictures of other productions. Most people I've seen in photo or video seem to be sitting in a similar 2-3 feet above the cymbals altitude that I do. Once in a while I'll see someone lofting those things up a lot higher. My primate mind always goes, "Yeah, look at those mics up so high, I bet that sounds HUGE!".

Last night I recorded a clip with the typical setup, then without stressing phase I just roughly pushed the mics up another 3 feet into the 'fairly high' range. It might have been mostly phase relationships talking but it mostly seemed to just soften the sound a little. There was a little bit more room sound but it seemed to take away some of the assertiveness which might be handy for a singer-songwriter, or jazz thing, but not optimal for the rock we're recording.

My ceilings are nice and high, about 14 feet, and pretty treated- several clouds hanging.

So that's my story. What's yours?
Last edited by losthighway on Wed May 02, 2018 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by Recycled_Brains » Wed May 02, 2018 7:50 am

It depends. haha.

If I'm using my Josephson C42's, I typically put them up a bit higher than other mics. This serves 2 purposes for me. The 1st being that I find that the way the high frequencies are captured by them becomes a bit more linear at a slightly greater distance. The 2nd being that I dig the way they pick up the general ambience around the drum kit and the air they add to not only the cymbals, but the rest of the kit. I get a little more of that space pulled into the signal with more distance (if the room is decent). They stay quite detailed at any distance, which is pretty unique to that model.

With ribbons, like an M160 or the like, I might put them pretty close because I like how the snare and toms sound, plus they naturally tame the cymbals a bit.

For heavier / faster music where I'm relying mostly on the close mics for everything other than the cymbals, I'll find a middle ground somewhere.

Edit: I like Royer 121s a lot as OH's, and it kind of dawned on me that with figure 8 mics, I can put them closer to get more meat out of the drums, and the back lobe serves the purpose of adding that extra ambience that I like.

I never used to give much (enough, really) thought to any of this beyond just making sure everything is in phase and the snare is relatively centered and nothing sounds really lousy. Lately I've been paying more attention though.
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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by kslight » Wed May 02, 2018 8:17 am

I usually do a spaced pair not super high, probably 3-4 feet above the snare, but trying to get a symmetric picture of the kit. The reason for this is partially because I don’t usually have good stands that I would trust to hold mics super high... I also like to pull most of my drum sound from overheads and room. When I recorded a concert recently I was channel deficient and resorted to bass drum and one figure 8 overhead behind the drummer pointed at the snare. Sounded great (especially since other stage mics inevitably picked up drums anyway).

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by Gregg Juke » Wed May 02, 2018 9:22 am

Somewhere between not-that-high and higher. And it does depend on mikes.

I used to use stereo overheads and stereo room. The revelation for me was going to a mono room mike; sometimes when channel-deficient even in lieu of overheads(!). Sounds great crushed.


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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by Recycled_Brains » Wed May 02, 2018 11:29 am

Gregg Juke wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 9:22 am
Somewhere between not-that-high and higher. And it does depend on mikes.

I used to use stereo overheads and stereo room. The revelation for me was going to a mono room mike; sometimes when channel-deficient even in lieu of overheads(!). Sounds great crushed.


GJ
See that crushed room mic is another topic I'm interested in, because it has only worked for me like 1 time. haha.

Anyways, not gonna derail this thread. :high:
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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by losthighway » Wed May 02, 2018 2:17 pm

Recycled_Brains wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 11:29 am
Gregg Juke wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 9:22 am
Somewhere between not-that-high and higher. And it does depend on mikes.

I used to use stereo overheads and stereo room. The revelation for me was going to a mono room mike; sometimes when channel-deficient even in lieu of overheads(!). Sounds great crushed.


GJ
See that crushed room mic is another topic I'm interested in, because it has only worked for me like 1 time. haha.

Anyways, not gonna derail this thread. :high:
That's a worthy thread topic. I've seen it work, and not work. It can add a lot of smear with cymbal heavy players, but I digress.

Overheads, overheads....

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by Gregg Juke » Wed May 02, 2018 6:34 pm

Yeah, yeah, sorry...

OK, overheads not too high, but probably higher than most people to get a full picture and not be so cymbal heavy. I have done some pre-pro things with just kick, snare, and stereo OH's, and even just kick and OH's that were tempting me to use them as keepers. But the distance is always eye-balled; no set measurements or phase-checking strings involved. And in my studio situation, they are generally set-up permanent-like.


(On the crushed room mike thing, it's been important to use an omni, pointing about eye-height or a little lower towards the kit, about six feet away... It does seem to depend on the player. I haven't tried it on a cymbal basher but I probably wouldn't)

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by TapeOpLarry » Wed May 02, 2018 7:42 pm

I hear recordings where the the room is big/tall and the engineer puts the overhead pair up real high, and then there is no stereo nothing and the room tone gets louder. Seems kinda pointless? Definitely not "bigger"!
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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by drumsound » Wed May 02, 2018 11:03 pm

Generally I have overheads kind of low. A little higher up than the drummer's head (when standing). I don't want or need space in the OH sound, that's what room mics are for. I mostly use an ORTF pair placed with the snare and BD in the center. I kind of wish I raised the OHs a bit last week, as the youngish player were a bit bashy...

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu May 03, 2018 8:25 am

Well, I do different things on the drums each time.

In order of importance:

1. THE DRUMMER. They determine where I can put the overheads, so it sounds good for their style of music. More bashing = further away.

2. The music style. Yeah, ambient overheads are great for ambient music, or music where I want to use less reverb processing. For hard rock? Not so much.

3. How much "Stereo" versus "Mono" I want it to be. The higher up, the less Stereo it gets.

4. Sometimes a MONO overhead is what is needed. Like in some arrangements where the cymbals do not need to envelop the entire band, or where we want to pan the drums to one side either hard panned or just subtly. And leave a LOT of room for the other instruments.
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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by losthighway » Thu May 03, 2018 9:21 am

TapeOpLarry wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 7:42 pm
I hear recordings where the the room is big/tall and the engineer puts the overhead pair up real high, and then there is no stereo nothing and the room tone gets louder. Seems kinda pointless? Definitely not "bigger"!
Good point. I see pictures of classy bands in classy studios with xy up in the rafters. I imagine that would be pretty mono.

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Fri May 04, 2018 10:48 am

i haven't recorded a drummer other than myself in years, but....i put the overhead(s) at eyeball height, standing (i'm 5'9"). just seems to work out well. my old room was huge and reverby, so i definitely didn't want the overheads too high or they'd be fairly useless. new room is big but very dry (it's a mastering room after all), i haven't gotten around to recording drums in there yet but it'll be interesting to see how it sounds.

i usually do a mono overhead pointed straight down at the kick beater. sometimes add an m160 at head height, about a foot to my right (over the floor tom) pointed at the snare. i never got a sound i liked from the 160 in the center overhead spot, but for whatever reason it sounds great over on the right. sometimes i use just that, sometimes just the condenser mic in the center spot, sometimes both. it, as they say, depends.

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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by TapeOpLarry » Sun May 06, 2018 10:09 pm

Almost 20 years ago I recorded Janet Weiss playing drums in a church (Quasi, "Bon Voyage" from Field Studies LP, at Old Church PDX) and I had omni OH mics (Earthworks TC30) and I moved the mics in crazy close to get rid of the crashing reverb of the room. Like a few inches!

One big factor about OH height is, "How high is the ceiling?" You don't want to be at 50% between ceiling and floor! You don't want to hear ceiling reflections too much.
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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by floid » Mon May 07, 2018 7:57 am

On that note, o/h height is kind of relative to room size/ ceiling height. Lower also tends to do better in smaller rooms.
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Re: How high do you like your overheads (and why)?

Post by losthighway » Mon May 07, 2018 9:14 am

I've got about 15 feet to work with, which is nice, but I suppose I could hit that 50% that Larry is talking about without them being absurdly high. Luckily I haven't cared for anything above 6 feet yet.

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