Does anyone use overheads?

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Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Theo_Karon » Sat May 19, 2018 4:38 pm

I mean, really.

This is sort of embarrassing, even! Maybe it's funny. But - I've been making records professionally for a good long while now - I can usually get the drums sounding pretty good - and so many techniques I've read about or seen other engineers use have clicked into place over time.

But overheads, the way they're often described in the literature - as the primary sound source for a drum kit, with light augmentation from spot mics?

Nope. Not in a million years.

I mean, sure, the occasional naturalistic jazz session where I'll do Glynn Johns with another LDC out in front of & slightly above the bass drum ends up leaning on them pretty heavily at mix, but still that mono front mic is gonna be 60- 70% of the sound. For more 'modern' drum sounds I'm often using ribbon OHs - R84 or 4038 - and they pretty much end up as cymbal mics. The lower they get, the better I like them. Or it's a mono ribbon OH that ends up just adding some glue & realness with the top cranked through a Pultec or whatever. I'll often lean heavily on a single mic in front of or over the kick drum, or under the drum throne, sometimes almost completely to the exclusion of the close mics - there's presence, solid low end, clarity there. It's a sound.

Not so with the overheads. They just sound some or other variety of anemic on their own. The fundamental of the kick drum is nonexistant. The snare sounds diffuse and soft. The cymbals and toms sound pretty nice, but they're seldom the main attraction (even the way that many jazz players approach the kit these days is pretty kick & snare heavy.) I've tried to push myself - OK, I'm just gonna spend some time with these, really get them sounding great on their own - no dice. I always end up wanting to at least 'augment' them, and then the augmentation becomes the main attraction. Because it sounds a lot better.

Sometimes I'll ditch the overheads entirely, and they're almost never anything more than the last 10% of glue &/or naturalistic counterbalance to heavily processed close mics.

So - does anybody actually like the way drum overheads sound on their own? WTF are you doing if it works for you?

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Magnetic Services » Sat May 19, 2018 4:51 pm

We all just nerded out about this recently:

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=89181

A good variation you might want to try, though, is peeking a mic over the drummer's shoulder, sort of trying to capture what they're hearing. If it sounds anemic, point it more toward the kick and snare or use a darker mic.

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by joninc » Sat May 19, 2018 6:16 pm

i can usually get 75-85% of my drum sound from the overheads - either coles, 414 or u87... mono or stereo....

kick is usually the thing that needs more reinforcing. but a mono coles gets great thump on the snare and toms - not what i'd call anemic at all.

tuning is way more critical in lots of ways IMO....
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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by losthighway » Sat May 19, 2018 6:43 pm

Yeah, I was also going to say like some others on here- with a ribbon pointed towards the rack tom/snare zone, a really well tuned kit, and a drummer with great kit balance it can sound pretty great. Put another one over the floor tom, pan a little, tickle them with some compression and it can be a pretty great image of what's going on.

You're right though, needs a kick mic.

A lot of the classic soul, funk, R&B recordings have 2 or 3 mics on the drums and sound great. Richard Swift and Dap Tone are two modern practitioners of this approach.

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by kslight » Sat May 19, 2018 7:31 pm

I’m the opposite, I’m more likely to throw away other drum mics in favor of overheads. As they say though, no wrong ways to do it...whatever works for the song..

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Magnetic Services » Sat May 19, 2018 8:13 pm

joninc wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 6:16 pm
i can usually get 75-85% of my drum sound from the overheads
Same here, except often it's a room mic, front-of-kit mic, or over-shoulder mic. Some time of whole-kit capture gives me most of the sound.

...hmm, but now I want to try using only close mics.

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Theo_Karon » Sat May 19, 2018 8:34 pm

Huh. Seems like y'all just like the way they sound.

I mean, I'm being a little dramatic - I'm almost always using overheads to glue things together and get a picture of the cymbals / natural top end from the skins - but I can count on one hand the number of times I've pulled up the overheads by themselves and thought 'great, there's my sound, just needs a little reinforcement here and there.'

And those times have all pretty much been jazz, brushes, Glynn Johns.

I LOVE one mic sounds from over the shoulder, under the throne, front of kit - and, I've even had good luck a couple times when appropriate with 'underheads' for pretty much the entire kit sound (you get a great picture of the kick & toms this way, but cymbals can sound a bit weird from underneath depending on their position & the player) - but these all yield very different results from overheads that are actually overhead. Those options all seem like something I can usually build the rest of a drum sound around. Overheads hardly ever. Maybe because I'm thinking from the bass drum up, often?

Thanks for sharing. Curious to try to hear things a bit more the way that you all are. To be more specific - is there anything in particular you're listening for? Assuming the obvious phase & reflection issues are under control and the player is good - any specific quality in the overheads that you enjoy and seek out? Or is it more like when you put up a pair of overheads you just generally like how that sounds? I swear I'm not trying to troll anyone here - it's just quite remarkable sometimes how preferences express themselves.

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Magnetic Services » Sat May 19, 2018 8:50 pm

Theo_Karon wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 8:34 pm
Thanks for sharing. Curious to try to hear things a bit more the way that you all are. To be more specific - is there anything in particular you're listening for? Assuming the obvious phase & reflection issues are under control and the player is good - any specific quality in the overheads that you enjoy and seek out? Or is it more like when you put up a pair of overheads you just generally like how that sounds? I swear I'm not trying to troll anyone here - it's just quite remarkable sometimes how preferences express themselves.
Sometimes I struggle to get a good snare sound, then I flip to the overheads and go "why doesn't it sound like that?!"

Just having some space helps things sound natural. You can have a thick, slammin' snare sound with top & bottom mics, compression, etc, but unless the genre really calls for extreme deadness/tightness, you gotta have some of that natural space. This goes for kick and toms as well. It also kind of mixes itself if the player is good -- you get to just capture how they're balancing the relationships between all those drums.

A little guitar bleed is nice too :)

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by kslight » Sun May 20, 2018 5:05 am

Theo_Karon wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 8:34 pm
Huh. Seems like y'all just like the way they sound.

I mean, I'm being a little dramatic - I'm almost always using overheads to glue things together and get a picture of the cymbals / natural top end from the skins - but I can count on one hand the number of times I've pulled up the overheads by themselves and thought 'great, there's my sound, just needs a little reinforcement here and there.'

And those times have all pretty much been jazz, brushes, Glynn Johns.

I LOVE one mic sounds from over the shoulder, under the throne, front of kit - and, I've even had good luck a couple times when appropriate with 'underheads' for pretty much the entire kit sound (you get a great picture of the kick & toms this way, but cymbals can sound a bit weird from underneath depending on their position & the player) - but these all yield very different results from overheads that are actually overhead. Those options all seem like something I can usually build the rest of a drum sound around. Overheads hardly ever. Maybe because I'm thinking from the bass drum up, often?

Thanks for sharing. Curious to try to hear things a bit more the way that you all are. To be more specific - is there anything in particular you're listening for? Assuming the obvious phase & reflection issues are under control and the player is good - any specific quality in the overheads that you enjoy and seek out? Or is it more like when you put up a pair of overheads you just generally like how that sounds? I swear I'm not trying to troll anyone here - it's just quite remarkable sometimes how preferences express themselves.

Cheers

I like when drums sound more like drums than samples. When i put up an overhead or two that should basically sound like the kit. Close mics on drums sonically don’t make a lot of sense in that context...you ever listen to drums from 2” away?

For me, overheads and or room mics are the body of the sound, close mics add some articulation/transient if required.

Not doing jazz, mostly doing rock/metal.

Here’s a band I did live to tape. 2 mics on drums.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=12mcy1 ... lTm3STwIea

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sun May 20, 2018 7:08 am

What styles of music are you working on? I often get most of my drum sound from ohs or fok but things like modern rock, metal, and more electronic based musics demand more focus on close mics.
A big chunk of my work is roots based and singer songwriter types and in those cases I can usually build the kit picture with 2-3 mics (and almost never close mic toms).
Have you ever tried splitting the difference between your ohs and the front of kit position? OHs out front of the kit at head level or a little lower angled towards the tom/snare will give you more kit to cymbal and give you a nice picture of everything. The trick is to stop thinking of those mics as overheads and start thinking of them as overall mics. Put them where you get the best overall picture of the kit. If the OH position makes them feel like cymbal mics move them around until you get more kit than cymbal.

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by drumsound » Sun May 20, 2018 10:17 am

When I checking the drums I start with the overheads. They give a general picture, but I do very much like close mics. I usually have room mics going as well. How much of the sound is OH vs close mics and how much of the room I'm using depends on a multitude of things, mostly the production, but the genre and player play into that a lot. I use ORTF overs a lot, and that often gives me more cymbals that whole drums set, because of my placement and how the mics are pointing to the edges of the drum set.

That said I've done plenty of 2-4 mic things that worked and sounded great.

I will say this, if I have a snare mic, then I want tom mics. So often the OH, BD SD thing that people tout really doesn't do justice when it comes fills with the snare, or grooves with toms. I'd rather just a mono overhead and BD (maybe room or stunt mic in addition).

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by vvv » Sun May 20, 2018 11:16 am

I'm-a give the old man answer, it

Image

Kidding aside, I prefer the OH's with close mic support model, but sometimes the OHs are a single OH, or they suck and I only use the close mic's.

Then there are times that the close mics for whatever reason are unavailable (if they are clipping, or I only have OHs, etc.) and then I use gates and compression and EQ to make a fake close mic track, ex,. a kick track, to use in the mix after appropriate processing and sometimes alignment. You can augment the thump or or body the click, etc., this way. And if ya do it onna snare or toms, you can use compression and reverb to stereoize or augment those ...

And if for some reason the OH(s) suck)s), I'll often reamp the close mics by blasting the submix into the room and recording that - I have been known to just nuke (compress) a submix for such a result, also, sometimes using a room reverb on the submix before I re-mic. Typically doing this, I high-pass heavily.

That said, I never use just close or OH's, and almost always including when I get a complete two-mix of the drums, because that mix down will need to be adjusted in the song's mix.

Finally, obviously it's material-dependent, because a Bonham kick ain't usually gonna work onna double-pedal thrash tune.
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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Recycled_Brains » Sun May 20, 2018 12:04 pm

I'm pretty much in the same camp as the OP, except I do use OH's in some way 100% of the time. I do try to get a nice overall image of the kit, rather than just the cymbals with them (I focus on the toms and batter side of the kick moreso that the snare), but it almost never works on its own, or even mostly on its own.

The key is def. the drummer and style of music, so I think I just don't know enough drummers who can balance themselves well enough to do very simple setups or get 85% of a drum sound from an OH even when it would be appropriate for the genre. I record a lot of heavy / loud stuff where everything has to be louder and more extreme than the next thing in the mix too, so I don't even consider this approach 90% of the sessions I do. There have been exceptions of course, but it's so few and far between that it works out that way.

Having said all that, my favorite drum sound I've ever gotten was an M160 under the ride cymbal, pointed between the rack/floor tom at the side of the snare at about the height of the top of the kick drum + an re20 outside the kick. Just got lucky that time though.
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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Magnetic Services » Sun May 20, 2018 1:32 pm

A.David.MacKinnon wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 7:08 am
The trick is to stop thinking of those mics as overheads and start thinking of them as overall mics. Put them where you get the best overall picture of the kit. If the OH position makes them feel like cymbal mics move them around until you get more kit than cymbal.
Yeah!

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Re: Does anyone use overheads?

Post by Cirrus » Mon May 21, 2018 3:33 am

As per the other thread, I quite like having the "overheads" down at or below cymbal height, and positioning them for the best overall drum sound/ balance/ stereo spread, which often means one in front and one on the floor tom side.

Even so when it comes to mix time, quite often I start with good intentions of leaning heavily on the overheads, then by the time the mix is finished (it's usually alt/ heavier rock) it's loads of close mics, and the rooms rather than the overheads providing the air/ tone/ cohesion. That said, I do most of my drum compression at the bus so the stuff in between the close mic hits is brought up.

I usually get to a place where the overheads are basically being rode through the mix to get them out of the way, then bringing them up when I want splashes of brightness/ detail like in fills or going into a chorus where I want it to have more life.

It's a different story if I don't have room mics, then of course I can't be so fast and loose with the overheads without the entire drum kit seeming to leer in and out of the mix.

I often find myself using dynamic eq to get some of the harshness or ringing (washed rides can be bad for this) out of the cymbals. I don't know if that's just because I've not found the right cymbals yet...

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