Taming open hi hats

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jordaniusrex
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Taming open hi hats

Post by jordaniusrex » Fri May 17, 2013 12:33 pm

I'm working on my first full-length record with my band. As we live in apartments in Brooklyn, we decided to track in an empty house in rural VA my parents own. I did my best with treatment and placement, but we were crunched for time and ultimately couldn't spend hours testing and adjusting mics.

Our drummer isn't a basher, but he definitely goes at that open hi hat sometimes, and on this track I can't figure out how to get it sounding decent. Maybe I've got my head in it too much, but I find it very distracting. I've tried subtle de-essing, dipping EQ around 7k, cutting sustain with a transient designer, using only one overhead mic in mono, and riding the overheads in that part. Nothing great. So for now I've opted for the minimal approach.

Full mix: http://db.tt/hCFqOWtq
Overheads dry: http://db.tt/wEKiYxtK

Mics: Recorderman-style overheads with two MC012s, RE20 on the kick, 57 on the snare, SM7b on the floor tom, and a mono Fathead for the room. I'm mixing ITB.

Any ideas for getting that hi hat sounding good? Any other thoughts while we're here?
Last edited by jordaniusrex on Fri May 17, 2013 2:17 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Fri May 17, 2013 1:47 pm

It really depends what else is going on with the drum track. Is it up tempo or slow? Is the hi-hat constant? Is it bad in all the mics or just the snare mic?
If it's the odd hit or even on a few beats of the measure you could try automating down those hits. If the snare mic is the main offender you can try gating that mic. Sometimes I even reamp the snare mic into a speaker on top of another snare drum and record that. You'll get more snare buzz/rattle that you can mix back in with the original track allowing you to pull the original down in the mix without the snare going away.
If it's bad in the overheads and room mic you can try turning those down and building your drum mix out of the close mics. I'll often re-do bad room mics by pumping select close mics (usually snare and toms) into a speaker in the live room and recording that.

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Post by JWL » Fri May 17, 2013 1:50 pm

Yeah, that's a tough one really. Options I am familiar with are:

* physically dampen the high hat (try throwing a set of keys in between the HH cymbals.... yes I'm serious)

* use an acoustic panel between the HH and any room mics (as many mics as you can actually though practically this is difficult)

* move the mics so their null points (except maybe in the overheads) aim toward the HH

* EQ and especially de-essing (or multiband compression) in the mix

* put a mic on the HH connected to a high voltage generator with electrodes on the drummer's skin, such that the harder he hits the HH the higher the voltage (joke, people!)

Good luck!

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Post by jordaniusrex » Fri May 17, 2013 1:56 pm

Thanks for the replies! Unfortunately, it's a mixing problem at this point because we can't go back and re-track the drums. We used really dead sounding 70s Camber hi hats to try to tame its sibilance, but in retrospect it didn't really help much here. It did give a nice chunky closed sound.

I'm pretty certain the problem is in the overheads, since the snare bleed isn't too terrible. Perhaps it's just the lousy off-axis response on the MC012s. You can hear the song linked in the original post and the overhead track. It's uptempo, and the main problem is the open hi hat for the duration of the second and third verses.

You can check out the audio files in the original post.

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Post by vvv » Fri May 17, 2013 2:43 pm

I don't know - I've recorded much worse!

A little EQ, and consider a parallel gate/compressed snare and kick track underneath?
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Fri May 17, 2013 6:34 pm

That is a pretty "hashy" hi-hat sound. A couple things come to mind as specific "fixes" for this particular track. One is just turn down the drums. They're pretty "in your face" and that seems like what you're going for, but they could also stand to come down a bit, musically speaking, and still be a valid choice. In this same vein, you could "push them back" by rolling off the highs in general and adding some verb or delay. Put them in the back room and the highs get rolled off.

The other thing I'm thinking is that they sound distorted to me, that could just be MP3 artifacts, or whatnot, but that's probably how most people are going to hear it anyway. So, you could mask that hashiness a bit by putting some distortion on other things, like snare, guitar or even vox. Maybe a combo of these two ideas. A bit [more] distortion on guitar, vox and drums and roll off the highs on the drums a bit. I recognize that this track seems pretty stylistically clean and everything in your face and punchy, but there are other aesthetics that you might want to embrace here.
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Post by jordaniusrex » Fri May 17, 2013 7:58 pm

Carl, thank you for your thoughtful feedback. I really hadn't thought of submerging it in distortion. It's an interesting idea I will definitely play with, although I'm not sure how that will work with the rest of the record. Rolling off the top and pushing it back could also be interesting. I'm definitely still learning how to deal with front to back space in my mixes.

Do you have any good reference examples that do these things particularly well? I'd be into hearing them.

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Sat May 18, 2013 12:03 am

Hey V, didn't you do something like that with some drums of mine a few tunes ago? Do you have before and after? The one with the M/S guitar I think?

Honestly though, it's something I learned conceptually from reading about here on the board, I've tried it a couple times and liked the results, but I can't say that I know too much about the technique from a practical perspective. I still consider myself a student, not a teacher of this stuff. I'm sure one of the more masterful engineers on here can provide a few examples.

But just intuitively we know that things get more mono, less trebly and more reverby (with respect to dry signal, in a room) the further away they are. I'm just saying doing all that together would give you an excuse for rolling off the highs that might sound more natural than just rolling off the highs but having all the other cues in place (dryness and wideness) that would make the ear miss them.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Sat May 18, 2013 7:04 am

How do you fix this?
When you have extrememly short time to record?

You hire an engineer.
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Post by chris harris » Sat May 18, 2013 7:58 am

Why bother posting just to be a dick? You think you're helping? You think you're selling your professional services by being a dick to a home recordist looking for honest help? What an asshole. Questions like this one used to be welcomed here. And, they used to inspire some fun discussions. Now, just an excuse for haters to hate.

I'm just starting a session, so I don't have time to listen right now. But, hang in there. There are still some good folks who care about helping people. You'll get some good suggestions. Just ignore those who would discourage you.

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Post by boid » Sat May 18, 2013 9:34 am

just some random thoughts trying to give some perspective here

you're OHs sound pretty decent
and realizing that most of your drum sound is indeed from the OHs i'd say you're fucked
kidding:)

but i agree that this issue is usally best dealt with before recording
you'll spend 1 hour while setting up...
if you don't you'll probably be spending 4 hours trying to fix it while mixing
...ok but that is over now so what to do

first off i'd say that I can hear what you find distracting
and if I were you I'd probably be trying to fix it too

although I have to say that it's not something that is breaking your mix
I've heard much much 'worse' things on "professional super-engineered" records
(talking about loud distracting hats here)

another thing is that on the OH track the hihat isn't that distracting
what did you do to the OH tracks on the mix you posted?

think about what is making the hat distracting.
you can obviously tell it is somehow in the way, too loud, whatever.
look at what the hat is distracting from.

the vocals are pretty low throughout, AND some pretty loud,
short delay/reverb on it right?
i have to really really concentrate to get a glimpse of the lyrics
i like how it sounds but i don't understand a whole lot - and that is in the parts with hihat closed

if i had a guess I'd be saying it's the singer mixing, not really confident with his performance, right?

so what I would (personally!) do is something like this:

bringing up the vocals at least 2dB

lowering the wet delay/reverb signal a bit (or *maybe* use two slightly different ones and move them out of the center or something like that to less cloud the center vocals)

or get some inspiration here for ducking the delay
http://messageboard.tapeop.com/viewtopic.php?t=81046
and automate the vocal delay a bit, you have a lot of space between the lines
especially on the parts where the drummer is on the toms or around 1:37 where he's only playing the snare "...mooooree"
maybe turning up the delay and feedback at the end of a line a tad or even using a second longer delay
just a thought really!

also worth a try: comp on the OH sidechained by the vocals, but only with TINY bit of GR and only in the open hihat part


in combination with a bit of the stuff you already mentioned, automating the drums
in that part like bringing the OHs 1 or 2dB down, slightly taking out highs with relatively wide q and maybe boosting the vocals at the same frequency (talking 1db here nothing crazy)

once your vocals are on top of the hat, i can't think of another reason why it should stick out too much anymore, I like that it's loud in those parts!

another unrelated thing: some deessing or automation on the eses might be helpful on some spots

i really like the song and sound overall as it is!
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Post by kslight » Sat May 18, 2013 9:54 am

Your overheads sound pretty bright and loud to me overall in the song mix, I think you could definitely stand to turn them down and dim the high end and be most of the way there. Automate if necessary on the open hat parts, but really across the board its a brighter and louder overhead sound than I'd go for. Since you have a room mic, I'd almost be inclined to try to pinch the overheads out completely. I'd even try making the mono room mic pretty muffled and dark on its own but a little loud for body, then bring in the overheads slightly for detail.

How are you EQ-ing your overheads? I like to pull out a lot of around the 700hz range, always sounds ugly on cymbals to me.

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Post by joninc » Sat May 18, 2013 12:22 pm

this is a cool tune. why not just turn down the overheads? the hats are louder than the guitars.

i'd bring em down and darken the top end a bit... probably try d-essing a bit too - not just a small tight region either - something wide like a shelf .. 5 or 6 k up.

this kind of stuff reminds me of the national and their drummer is a genius at avoiding cymbals. allows for thicker, louder drums with less biting top problems.

also - micing OH with ribbons can help a lot in future.
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Post by vvv » Sat May 18, 2013 12:35 pm

Snarl 12/8 wrote:Hey V, didn't you do something like that with some drums of mine a few tunes ago? Do you have before and after?
Aiight, here is linked a 6mb *.zip with 3 short files:
1. Stereo raw track;
2. snare isolated via gates & EQ; and,
3. my mixdown of the two, adding a stereo plate reverb to the snare.

While not addressing the OP's specific problem, this was the quickest example of my approach I could find.

Re the OP's situation, as I said, I'd isolate the snare and kick and bring them up parallel to decrease the overall level of the hats in the mix.

Note that when doing it this way, you can EQ and compress/process the isolated parallel tracks, as well as time-shift them.
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Post by eh91311 » Sat May 18, 2013 3:42 pm

We musicians are just so hard on ourselves. I think kslight and joninc's suggestions are good, but if you didn't touch the mix and left it alone, it wouldn't be terrible.

I think the song and performance is very good.

Personally, I'd just turn down the drum overheads some. Maybe compress the vocal a little more with a low-ratio compressor to even it out and then bring up the level a tiny amount. Focus more on the vocal because that's where the words are and people listen to the lyrics a lot more than you would think.

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