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Fundamentals of Drum Tuning and Recording

Lesson 22 of 29

Overhead Microphone Selection and Placement

Kris Crummett

Fundamentals of Drum Tuning and Recording

Kris Crummett

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Lesson Info

22. Overhead Microphone Selection and Placement

Lesson Info

Overhead Microphone Selection and Placement

Now we have all the shell mikes on there, and we have him set up the way we want, and the next step is figuring out the overheads and there's. One main thing that you need to know or decide when you're setting up overheads is do you want the overheads to have a full kitt image? Or do you want to be more about the symbols? And for me, I kind of lean towards being about the symbols because I like my room likes to be more of the kit sound in the kit image, and I also mix my shell mike's pretty loud in comparison to the overheads, so keep that in mind when I'm showing you these different mikes and these different patterns. Now, I definitely do want the toms in the snare in the overhead that I want them to sound really good, and I want them to be in phase, but I really want a wide image and strong a sense of the symbols. I like the symbols to be really defined, so I don't have them. I don't have the microphones super faraway, um in my normal set up, I would have them, maybe even closer, and...

once we get to dialing in the overheads one hundred percent, they'll probably end up just a little closer, but what I wanted to start with. What is a combination of the different configurations of overhead mikes and the different types of overhead mikes and there's? Three main configurations of overhead mike's that I use and that space to pair would you see right here, which means there's one set of mike's on each side of the drum kit over the top of the drum kit? Um and then the other one would be other ones would be x y and o r t f which both require a tea bar and the mikes were placed in the center of the drum kit but because of the nature of that set up it's really hard to have multiple mike set up that way to compare so for the first uh test we're going to do, we're going to use this space pair and we're going to hear the three major different types of over her tonight's on dh those three types being more focused on the style of microphone it is and not so much the brand or the model though these are all great brands and models of overheads aziz going toe here they sound excellent, but the main thing that I'm concerned with is listening to a ribbon mike which is this first mike listening to a small diaphragm condenser which means that the diaphragm and the microphone is smaller than most it's um about a small is they get for normal drum microphones or normal microphones for studio recording in general and then large dive fram condenser microphones which kind of kind of come in all shapes but this one's ah condenser with that's not too so it's powered by phantom power this is also a condenser that's not tube so it's powered by phantom power you can get mike's like this that are both that both have tubes in him and have their own power supply but for drums usually don't have the spl handling in a mike like that so I like a solid state microphone for overheads and actually you can get to britain mike's by this company but again we're going all solid state here on the overheads so the first thing I want to show you is that I have loosely measured both sets of overheads in the space pair to the distance of the snare now because we have um three different mikes were trying it's impossible to get them all perfect so we'll figure out what mike's we like best and then I'll show you how to find tune your spacing for a space pair set it so but first off we're going toe record a couple beats on let's incorporate all the symbols and all the drums on beacon play for like thirty seconds give us something cool of a little dynamics in it and give it gives something that's got something like fast and detailed in it too because I want to show you how the different types of diaphragms in the mikes effect are are affecting the playing style so I'll arm these tracks and we're going to include all the close mike's we set up to because you can set up over heads on their own but for me I want to hear how they fit with my close mikes that are already carefully dialed in on of course ear protection and this is uh uh three overhead spaced pair test go ahead got some nice detail in there some dynamics that will show us um that will show us how dynamic certain types of overheads can be announced remember when I was talking about the kick drums I was discussing a really large diaphragm which is the sub kick on a smaller scale that's how all three of these work now between the two condensers the large diaphragm you're going to hear a little bit slower sounds and a little bit thicker sounds and the small condensers should pick up all the really fast detail on bail all they also sound full because they're really nice mike's um and ah then the ribbon is going to be a little bit of its own beast because it's actually a thicker dia fran than a small condenser or large condenser it's not really about the size of the dia friends about the thickness when it comes to ribbons so the roy er one twenty one which we have up there is a pretty thick diaphragm because it's made to handle really high as feels but with that thick diaphragm you get a little bit slower of a sound so you can imagine is it's like a vibration so the thicker the diaphragm, the slower the sound, the thinner the diaphragm like a kohl's for oh three eight or a already for is going to be a lot a lot faster and a little bit clearer of a sound on dh not that those air muddy but they're just a little bit slower of a sound which means they're not quite as clear the k m eighty four's are the small condensers on those those would be the fast ones and then the micro tech careful u m th hundreds but will our the large condensers so let's listen back to all three the first one I'm gonna play are the ones that we've been listening to um ones were listening to when we're assessing the drums themselves that's the norman cay m eighty force these are vintage mikes from the seventies and check my level here that looks about right and since they're all coming in with the same input level, I'm going to make the fate of the same level for all three and the last thing before we listened that I need to do is make sure that the phase is correct because different brands of microphones on different models are wired differently the phase has to do with them the grounding in the three uh the the xlr cable connection that has the three pins two pins or reversed on certain brands and microphones which reverses the face so theoretically if your mike's right of phase you could rewire them to be in face but I don't take things that far but the easy way to check that is just to go to this very first snare hit just like I showed you earlier I want to make the way form a lot bigger and I need to make these a little larger to be sure these are the three stereo overhead tracks and it looks like they're all in face see how the first snare hits pointing down and first snare hits pointing down on all of these so they're ready to listen to but we'll just listen to one of the time here's the came eighty fourth and then we'll listen to the which those with small diagram condensers now listen to the large condensers which are the micro tech devils and just for reference I'll play the beginning of the k many four track again you can hear how between the two of those um there's a lot more shimmer on the snare and the symbols on the ride or are more detailed with a smaller diaphragm condenser because it picks up sounds quicker. The large condenser is cool and media and it has a nice feel that that takes her you're a little bit off the symbols and more on the mids of the kit engine in general and that's how a lot of ld cesaire large diaphragm condensers our overheads um but it's not quite as detailed and now play the royal pair where are one twenty ones now the first thing that probably comes to mind when you hear that is that it sounds like there's room mike's going on the room was way more apparent and there's a very clear reason for that and that's because these air figure eight which means that it's like cardboard but on both sides and a lot of a lot of ribbon mike's work that way there's a couple that are bare dynamic makes one or two but they're not really appropriate for overheads um so if you like these mikes and you're selecting them keep in mind you're going to get a lot more room and your overhead sound and that could be cool and that could also let you move the mic closer to the symbol but also get mohr kit sound on dme or reflections if you don't have the option of using room mike's figure it could be a really cool overhead if you don't have two sets of condensers because a lot of condensers have multiple patterns or if you just have ribbons eso back to the ribbon mikes on I'm gonna solo these not only do they have more room but they're also quite a bit thicker sounding because they're slower when you solo on, you realize that there's very little symbol detail on dh that's because they really need to be super close because they're picking up all sides um but they're not picking up all sides, but they're picking up the top and bottom of the microphone, so we'll go back to the large condensers and hear those by themselves because previously we were listening with all of the close mikes and you can hear that that's a little slow. Also, the devils are a little mid rangy in general, a lot of l b c's won't have quite that much mid range, but what's cool about the gospels is that they have a really smooth sound um, as you can hear, but along with that smooth sound kind of like what I was talking about with kicked from mike's, I can open up the e q and go really drastic and get some pretty cool sounds. I'm also going to cut out just a little bit of low end here, not quite that much just about that much so even though a microphone like that appears pretty mid rangy it's, a really smooth, high quality microphone that you can do a lot of cute too, so keep keep that in mind for sure, and then we'll play the eighty four's by themselves which are one of my favorite overhead microphones and based on the design and the small diet friend and you can hear that they're just already really pleasant sounding and all the symbol detail is really nice um and there I wouldn't call him super pretty cute there just a very clear microphone on older norman they're known for being really high quality and really clear microphones so for me that's that's the microphone I want to use on this session so with those microphones I'm going to show you how to dial in in the space pair a little bit better and then I'm also going to show you the other two overhead configurations I talked about um and as you can hear when I play this back, theo snares not perfectly centered and the symbols are a little like what a symbol on one side is a little bit quieter than symbol on the other side, so I'm going to show you right now really quick and easy way to measure this, but in order to do that, I just need to move these out of the way and so we have room to work with just the cam eighty four's now the first thing I do is I want to look here and I want to center the kit around the snare as much as possible because it's, one of the loudest instruments besides the symbols and when you're listening and headphones I don't want the snare to be peaking out on this side or on this side the part of the advantage of this setup is being able to get the snare directly in between the two microphones but that being said we also need an equal amount of these symbols and this symbol over here because mainly just the two crashes because in the end we'll end up with a high hat mike and a ride mike and if we have an extra mike will put it on the splash if not I'll explain how to deal with that in post but so these are our two main concerns but as you can see this symbol is way further away from the snare than this symbol so obviously I'm not going to ask a j to put his crash and well like right in the middle of the kid because that makes no sense it's uncomfortable that's plain stupid it's not going to happen so what I have to do is compensate for that um with these microphones and the best way just because I know how this is gonna work is I'm going to get outside this symbol a little bit and I'm gonna bring these down because I have heard a little bit too much room in the last test and I want a little more symbol focus because we are gonna have room likes this is going to be close to my starting point puller pattern on this is wide enough to pick up just about everything to the center of the kit from here and same with this side, but this side, I'm going to bring this around normally, I would put these stands on the other side, but I'm doing it from the back, so you can see I'll do this one from the side, you know, I would have won. Mike panned all the way to the left in the mix and the other one pan all the way to the right, you know what he means when he would pan these over? Yeah, left and right, okay? And even though they're panned hard left and right, um, the symbols won't sound pan hard left and right, because this still has a wide enough pattern that it is picking up some of this symbol, and this one has a wide enough pattern that it's picking up some of this symbol, so when they're combined together, the sound kind of goes like this. Um, and when you're listening and headphones, you're going to get more of this on this side because this mike's pointed right at this one you're gonna get more of this on this side because this mike's pointed at this one and this one's panned left in the mix in this one's pan right in the mix, but if you took your headphones off, you could still hear this side of the kid in this mike and the side of the kid in this mike, and I'm gonna explain that with the different polar patterns as well, um are not the different polar patterns the diff current configurations of overhead mike's this would be the most wide stereo field when you're listening through monitors or headphones. The next two I'm going to show you are more of a centered sound that will still be stereo, but not quite his wide. So when setting these up, I'm bringing this one on the inside of the symbol on this one on the outside and so far that's about as close as I can get to centering these around the snare, but what I need to do is grab a microphone cable, which I have right down here and you could do this with the guitar cable or a piece of string, but because I have a studio and there's just cables everywhere I use the cable set one end on the snare and I will just measured here you could do this with a tape measure if you wanted but because a tape measure stiff it's kind of hard to do so I'm holding one in on the center of the snare on one end up to the microphone on and I'm just going to swing this one over here and it's clear that I'm pretty far off so right about there is where I want this microphone easily just move it down and over to compensate now that I'm looking at it it was just clearly too high from the get go and there I'm pretty close on that but the other thing I want to consider is it's not just about the snare I want the this symbol in this symbol equal volume in both mikes so I'm gonna go from the symbol here they're just double check I'm going from here and I actually just lucked out and they are pretty much the same distance so I'm going to double check the snare which is the centre one more time and there it looks like I'm a little bit off actually so do this one more time that in thiss means that I just need to move the other mike instead to about there this may not go as quick for you are my go quicker I've done this a million times so it's kind of second nature I'm just gonna check it one more time to be sure quite go far enough one more inch out and again I know it looks like they're pointed in really strange places but the distance to hear uh the amount that this michael pick up here and here is so similar that where it's pointed really isn't the most important thing when I look at this point it down look it in your mind more like it's pointed like this and that's what that's kind of what I see when I'm looking at this so in that field this is part of that so we're sitting here is going to work on when I look in this field of going like this and it kind of ends at the snare their um this is in there too so all that is going to be pretty even on dh now were centered to the stair and were equidistant to the symbols so we'll record this and I can show you how much of a difference it makes to bring the symbols down and to have them perfectly centered to the snare and perfectly distant from each symbol themselves came many fourth space pair these over here so they're out of my way I'm like before select all your tracks shift option to select solo if you want and shift option toe arm the tracks all at the same time all right play something cool for us ah sneaking a drink a coffee there I got caught up watching cagey um so play this back and you're gonna hear that the stereo field's going to be a lot clearer and a lot more even and there's gonna be more simple definition I'm just going to even out all these volumes here's the came eighty four is on overheads cool seeking here that the cam eighty four's have a pretty tight polar pattern and they're really clear because they're small condensers you know they're picking up all the nice high frequencies they're picking up the symbols really well and we're going to hear the symbols in a really nice um a nice separation from the drums because the smaller diaphragms really pick up on on all that attack and shimmery nous from the symbols and next will listen to the ribbons, which are a lot darker and they're also figure eight so when you use overhead with the figure eight mike, you kind of need to be mindful of your ceiling and the space above because it's not only picking up down it's picking up above the mic so we'll get a little bit more of a roomy sound but it won't sound super room because they're dark mikes and also the thing about the reuters that the polar pattern is a little bit tighter even though you're hearing from both sides of the mike it's ah it's not a super wide pattern so it still sounds tight in the symbol and like I said before because ribbons or darker and a little slower you're not getting a lot of reflections, so next we'll listen to the large condensers which are the devils and these devils actually have a really wide polar pattern so they're not necessarily always ideal for overheads if you want to really stereo sound because you're going to pick up a lot of room sound but they're very cool if you don't have room mike's as well and you can even see it in the way of form that it's really there's a lot less attack and there's a lot less stereo separation because the patterns wider it's not focusing on one side of the kit or the other quite as much even though it is um it's it's a little more ominous in general even though it's card we did not on me um and I'm playing back one more time she can hear the overheads just by themselves came eighty four is there really directional at a nice top in but they're not too bright they're actually a little bit of a rolled off mike for a small condenser a lot of small condensers will be brighter but um I can make you them to be brighter if I want ribbons again again pretty mid rangy um you know by themselves they definitely stick out is a lot more awkward, you know you can make you them pretty drastically like this to get a little more normal sound out of them. But it's still a little odd for me. I don't like to drastically e q ribbons is overheads. If I chose ribbons is overheads, it would be for how they sound with the rest of the drums, which I'll play one more time, which is nice and dark, and it really puts the symbols in the back and puts the close drums more up front. And that that's that would be more the purpose for using ribbons as overheads. Um, not so much to get a normal overhead sound. Those arroyo one, twenty ones. And then I'll play the devil's, which is a very wide pattern on almost sounds like room mikes again. It's a cool sound. Um, it sounds awesome, but it might not be ideal for overhead. So if you found large condensers, you might want to use something that has a little bit tighter pattern for overheads. Um, and for me, okay, maybe fours or my favorite in this example. So I think I want to continue with those and that's going to be my main overhead, mike, for the rest of the drum set up that we work on today, so the next thing I want to show you, this is one of my favorite overhead positions but if I feel like it's too wide or I have a guy who plays a lot of symbols on their maura symbols that I'm going to be able to um cat put separate mikes on then I want to do a pickup pattern or ah overhead configuration that picks up all the symbols and is more focused on the kids as a whole and not just capturing the two crashes and then also getting a nice kid image the kit image as a whole is focused in the center obviously and it's in the center where the drummer is playing because it's set up around him everything's kind of equal distant from that point so the logical thing to do if you're trying to pick up the whole kit and all of the symbols evenly is to have something it's basically umm mimics your ears or mimics or starts in the center so these next two patterns they're going to start in the center and be overhead like this of course I can't put something right here because it would just he would hit it with his head and it would just be obnoxious so um let me show you how that's done and that involves what's called a tea bar and the t bar runs both microphones of course he's a phantom power so I had to turn that off before I'm plugging him t bar which is this weird little thing it goes on one stand like that and then it has to two parts on it for two clips and that makes it so I can put to mike's really close together and just use one stand and the other advantage to that is that you can use the one stand to move around and still have the two mikes going around with the one stand so let me show you how these go on the t bar again instead of spending the mike I'm just going to listen it like this and t bar goes on like that on both go on like this both mike's go on just like that so they can make an x y pattern or no rt of pattern putting a second mike on here and with this tape on x y pattern is where both diaphragms that might meet at a ninety degree angle and what this does is keep smoke both microphones perfectly in face because the capsules are in the exact same spot or as close as they can be sorry someone's tape thes how much makes this a little more complicated? So I want these to meet here in here it's about as close as I'm going to be able to get now um with different clips I could get these in a perfect position at a perfect ninety degree angle but that's not gonna happen with these this's the idea behind x y and the point of this is to have one mike that's capturing this part this is the pickup pattern on the other mike's capturing this part so the start is in the center kind of like kind of like a head, but your ears aren't right next to each other they're closer to the mikes air closer together years for their part so it's kind of like you're listening but perfectly and phase so if you put the track and mano the symbols would sound exactly the same and that's one of the biggest advantages to this set up and I'll just put this out a little bit further here mano compatible exactly and being monitored compatible can be important in this day and age where a lot of music is on youtube and what not it's not a huge deal. It was more important in the days of radio and tv when a lot of tvs had just one speaker strangely enough, iphone still only have one speaker, so if you think people are going to be listening your track on itunes mano compatibility is really important and what I mean by mano compatibility is that the mix works coming out of just one speaker as opposed to two speakers um so that's something to consider when you're engineering where the track is going to end up so I will show you the x wise don't do this tangle here I'm wrapping this cable around so it's not just hanging down because it was just hanging down there's a good chance that it could get caught on a stick and with my x y pattern I'm just going to eyeball um it needs to be centred to the whole kit and it's a little less about being sent into the snare and that's pretty close just bringing in then we'll have him play kj will play another beat for us so we can hear the difference in the x y go ahead cool just so you can hear that I'll just play the overhead six since you just heard it all together and that's x y and then your space pair again and obviously you can hear that ex wives not quite as wide but it has a lot more even sound from symbol the symbol on even sound overall and if you have the session and you listen and mono you'll notice that the kit doesn't sound that different when you put it in mono as opposed to stereo as we're spaced pair will sound very different and then the last set up I'd like to show you is an o r t f set up which is really meant to mimic the spacing of your ears um as if your head was right here over the drum set so the simple way to set up a no artie if is just reverse the mikes on the t bar and it's really important to make sure that they're about seventeen centimeters apart and the standard angle would be one hundred ten degree angle for these I've just kind of done these by sight I don't have a protractor with me, so I'm not able to measure them perfectly, but you can really do this however you want, the more you pan these out like this, the wider the sound you're going to get it's going to be a little bit more like a crazy space and here's on the tighter together, the more natural it's going to sound but of course you don't want him just both pointing straight down, so this would be my standard o r t f set up and we can hear how that sounds and how it's a little bit wider the thing you need to remember about this it's more about the kid image but it's not going to give you perfect phase and mono because your ears obviously aren't perfectly together but it's going to be more like a realistic sound if you're listening to the kid yourself so let's hear this the k m eighty four's in o r t a cover cool that was here that back very quickly that's what all the mikes and here is just the overhead and you can hear that it's kind of a combination tonally between space pair and x y on day, I'll play the x y one more time. Just you can hear the stereo field. And those are the three main types of overhead configurations that I use listening back for the rest of the session. I think we're just going to go with the space pair because that's, my personal favorite.

Class Description

Drums are one of the hardest instruments to record, because in reality, a drum kit can be upwards of 20 or 30 instruments being played by a performer at one consistent time. Each drum head plays a huge role in determining the overall tone. The range of frequencies is broader than any other recorded instrument, with sub-kicks extending down below 60 Hz and hihats and cymbals with presence and ring above 16kHz. The dynamic range can include subtle ghost hits and flutters to pounding snares that fill a room, and yet somehow all of this is supposed to fit inside a mix without getting lost in a sea of guitars.

Kris Crummett has over a decade and a half of experience recording bands like Sleeping with Sirens, Issues, Alesana, Further Seems Forever and Emarosa. Kris will walk you through every step of the process to capturing killer drum sounds.

Which Drums to Use?

  • The size and type of the kick drum is a good place to start, and will largely dictate what kind of tone you end up with when you get the final mix. Do you want a modern sounding kit with a big low end and a bright punch or a more vintage tone with a rounder, softer low end punch?
  • Snare sounds can often define the tone of an entire record with a range of sizes, head choices and tuning options. How much ring is left in the resonant head can be deceiving when listening to an drum kit on its own, but can often be lost when blended in with the rest of the band. From maple and birch full bodied and nuanced tones to aluminum or even brass bodies, the snare drum can have one of the biggest impacts on your final track.
  • Drum heads can also have a huge impact on the transients that you capture when recording. Coated heads can offer a punchier, thicker sound while clear heads are a bit brighter. Tuning the top head and the bottom head to resonant together is an essential art that takes practice and expertise.

Which mics to Use?

  • There’s no right or wrong way to mic a drum kit, from the famous ‘When the Levee Breaks” 2 microphone room tone to modern metal drum production with 30+ mics in place.
  • Deciding when to use a condenser and when to use a dynamic mic is dependent upon the style, the drummer’s playing style and even the room in which you’re tracking. What sort of room mic techniques can give you that big open kit sound? What about a tight, small room trap kit sound?
  • Kris is prepared to walk you through all of these choices, with examples from his storied career and tips and tricks that only years in the studio can earn you. With legendary guest drummer KJ Sawka, you’ll have an experienced team to guide you through how to overcome the biggest challenge for a home studio engineer, the drum kit.


Kevin Howard

Kris is methodical and goes over everything related to drum recording in great detail. He covers heads and even how much moon gel he uses for damping the heads, Mic placement, shell choice( size, wood etc ). Listen to Dance Gavin Dance to hear some of his work. I found this class to be super informative and very practical in it's approach. Thank you Kris !


this is a great class! i play drums personally, and i love percussion! he also teaches well


This is an amazing class! Kris is a very scientific instructor. This really opened my eyes to the drum recording process. Take Notes!!!! There are about a thousand unique facts and techniques that you should know. This will help you to record drums correctly at the source so that you can minimize the amount of digital destruction you will do later and thus get a "Professional" sound.