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Drum overheads: favourite mic type and configuration
Old 24th November 2022
  #1
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🎧 10 years
Drum overheads: favourite mic type and configuration

I'm not too hung up on the specific microphones used, nor do I want to delve too much into specifics (for example, choices are sometimes dictated by style). Also, I'd like to focus on stereo overheads.

My usual choice involves two small-diaphragm condensers in an ORTF configuration, either to the left of the drummer or over the ride cymbal (in other words, along the snare-kick axis). I find that this configuration is the best compromise between width and monocompatibility, while also ensuring a certain "transparency" due to the lesser off-axis coloration and greater linearity of most small-diaphragm condensers. I don't like spaced pairs (including the Glyn Johns configuration), too messy for my liking. Maybe large-diaphragm condensers can work better if you want a more "vintage" sound on drums due to their greater coloration.
Old 24th November 2022
  #2
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
huge topic...

my choice depends on a multitude of factors (room, instrument, drummer, setup, sonic goals, full representation of drum kit vs cymbal mics, use of centrally positioned mono mic, alignment etc.) but except when mixing live, i'm hardly ever using a/b anymore: in the huge majority of cases, i strongly favor m/s both live and in the studio (schoeps or sanken in my case) if not using equidistant l/c/r+kick in the studio (again more often schoeps than anything else).
x/y, nos or ortf may be okay-ish but i got no love for gj or recorderman (or any other technique which cannot portray the instruments in their correct panorama position)...

...and then there are surround and immersive formats (which add another level of fun although they imo are rarely a 'necessity') for which i'm using either double m/s or ambinsonic mics (and double ortf for the height channels) ;-)
Old 24th November 2022
  #3
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🎧 10 years
I find them all useful:

Glyn Johns with LDCs on a big Bonham sized kit for mid tempo hard rock in a big room? Hard not to like that. But have to be really careful that the side mic isn't at the same height as the crash, or it gets phasey when that crash rocks back and forth through the plane of the mic.

ORTF, but I have it above the drummer's head and slightly behind, aimed to split the kit in the middle.

Spaced pairs bisecting the line between kick/snare (so each LDC is essentially pointing down towards the small space between rack tom/snare/crash and floor tom/ride/2nd crash)

Recorder Man, gives a really good kit representation, but can be kind phasey too depending on height of cymbals; also irritating as a drummer having that mic so close to your head. I've bopped it a few times for sure.

X/Y is fine too, but kind of narrow; placement is a breeze though and a single stand is always nice when you're tracking on the go or with limited space.

M/S, I just can't get that to work for some reason. I've only ever tried it with Beyer M160/M130, so maybe the hypercardioid isn't great there for Mid over the mic. I love that combo on room mics though: love automating the spread a bit during choruses by pushing up the side channels to add excitment and width to the drums.
Old 24th November 2022
  #4
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I've tried everything but typically settle on somewhere between ORTF and AB, but behind the drummer; not overhead. However my current room dictates that as I play to the overheads/balance everything out while only listening to the overheads. Note it's just me, not other drummers these days.

For mics, Sanken CU-44 Mk II, Schoeps (MK2, 21, or 41), R84s. DPA 4006A side fills sometimes.

Last edited by Aural Endeavors; 24th November 2022 at 04:45 PM..
Old 24th November 2022
  #5
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Drumsound's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
I'm ORTF on the SD/BD bisecting line most of the time. I was at the Welcome to 1979 Summit 2 weeks ago and I think I'm going to try Ray Kenedy's version of a spaced pair, about a foot over and behind the drummer's head about 4 inches wider at a 45º angle to the floor.
Old 24th November 2022 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound ➡️
I'm ORTF on the SD/BD bisecting line most of the time. I was at the Welcome to 1979 Summit 2 weeks ago and I think I'm going to try Ray Kenedy's version of a spaced pair, about a foot over and behind the drummer's head about 4 inches wider at a 45º angle to the floor.
I've been doing that off and on since the 80s.

Edit: Not 45 degrees to the floor, though. I point them generally toward the toms and low-height cymbals.
Old 24th November 2022 | Show parent
  #7
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gravyface's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound ➡️
I'm ORTF on the SD/BD bisecting line most of the time. I was at the Welcome to 1979 Summit 2 weeks ago and I think I'm going to try Ray Kenedy's version of a spaced pair, about a foot over and behind the drummer's head about 4 inches wider at a 45º angle to the floor.
Love a new technique! Not seeing much on that googling.
Old 24th November 2022
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
After fiddling with these concepts for years I've concluded that there isn't a best. Most of the classics can work well.

X/Y- the safest. Maybe the most boring, but if there's other exciting stuff going on, it's hard to argue with phase coherence and clarity.

ORTF- It's like X/Y plus. A little wider, almost as safe. My brain always grapples with the theoretical idea of the snare being off to the side, or "softened" by being in the middle of the spread. In practice neither seems to be palpable once the waves are wiggling the air and the snare close mic is in play.

Spaced pair- I started following a George Massenburg approach I learned in a video. You point the mics at the toms and ignore the cymbals which will be loud anyway. Do the measure thing to get each side equidistant from the snare so the mic over the floor tom is clearly lower in height compared to the one on the hi hat side. It always looks pretty when you see production photos of big LDCs way up high, equally high, perfectly symmetrical, but sometimes it sounds better to lower the right side, or put it by the drummer's head to get less high hat on the ride side etc.

Also, I did L-R-C, three mic setup a while back with SDCs spaced out and a 4038 in the center. Measured from the snare again, but most of my biases and guiding principals around minimalism were challenged, especially with an outside of kick mic and an under snare mic. The channel count was way higher than I usually go for, but I'll be damned if that session didn't produce some of my best drum sounds. Sometimes the phase gods smile upon you in their chaotic wisdom.
Old 25th November 2022
  #9
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🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
Love a new technique! Not seeing much on that googling.
I heard Ray talking about that at Welcome to 1979 Summit a few weeks ago. It's how he did Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
Old 25th November 2022 | Show parent
  #10
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gravyface's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound ➡️
I heard Ray talking about that at Welcome to 1979 Summit a few weeks ago. It's how he did Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
Let me know how it works out.

While I have all of you here, going to try a 3 mic setup, hopefully to get more snare out of the center mic and then have decent spread/cymbal coverage with the other two.

I'm thinking a ribbon over the snare, either an M160 or a Royer R10... thoughts on polar pattern/positioning/mic type for the other two?
Old 25th November 2022 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
Let me know how it works out.

While I have all of you here, going to try a 3 mic setup, hopefully to get more snare out of the center mic and then have decent spread/cymbal coverage with the other two.

I'm thinking a ribbon over the snare, either an M160 or a Royer R10... thoughts on polar pattern/positioning/mic type for the other two?
I'm an oddball so don't listen to me Lol. I am going to try a 3-mic setup again but not because I want more snare in the overheads (never a problem for me, probably because it's just too much fun hitting it hard and/or with rimshots), but rather, to fill the center hole with more of everything else BUT the snare. In my case 3 R84s, the center one on its side, over the drummer's head, facing the toms and cymbals and not the snare utilizing its tight figure 8 pattern to somewhat null it out. The other two R84s over the shoulder, which I love by themselves except the spread is too wide, and the hi hats end up too far to one side. That's the only downside I hear to that configuration, other than the kick ending up to the right, however in the end never a problem due to the level of the other kick mic(s). Yeah I end up boosting highs but it still sounds good to me with no apparent phase issues at all.

In other configurations I've tried where the R84 is above or near above the snare, that sounds better to me than AB spaced above the kit. Note the ceiling above though, where the M160 could fair better if the ceiling is relatively low and/or not treated. In my room, I'm guessing 3 M160s overhead would work better than figure 8 mics because the sound up there behind the mics just sucks in my room.
Old 25th November 2022 | Show parent
  #12
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aural Endeavors ➡️
I'm an oddball so don't listen to me Lol. I am going to try a 3-mic setup again but not because I want more snare in the overheads (never a problem for me, probably because it's just too much fun hitting it hard and/or with rimshots), but rather, to fill the center hole with more of everything else BUT the snare. In my case 3 R84s, the center one on its side, over the drummer's head, facing the toms and cymbals and not the snare utilizing its tight figure 8 pattern to somewhat null it out. The other two R84s over the shoulder, which I love by themselves except the spread is too wide, and the hi hats end up too far to one side. That's the only downside I hear to that configuration, other than the kick ending up to the right, however in the end never a problem due to the level of the other kick mic(s). Yeah I end up boosting highs but it still sounds good to me with no apparent phase issues at all.

In other configurations I've tried where the R84 is above or near above the snare, that sounds better to me than AB spaced above the kit. Note the ceiling above though, where the M160 could fair better if the ceiling is relatively low and/or not treated. In my room, I'm guessing 3 M160s overhead would work better than figure 8 mics because the sound up there behind the mics just sucks in my room.
Cool, yeah, I'm trying to go for no close mics, but there is some articulation going on with the snare that I want to make sure I capture as well as the meat and potatoes tone; I plan on keeping it pretty low.

I'll play around. I just haven't done much with 3 mics but I know some dudes like it.

There is the Weathervane method I might try too.
Old 26th November 2022
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
Let me know how it works out.

While I have all of you here, going to try a 3 mic setup, hopefully to get more snare out of the center mic and then have decent spread/cymbal coverage with the other two.

I'm thinking a ribbon over the snare, either an M160 or a Royer R10... thoughts on polar pattern/positioning/mic type for the other two?
Conceptually, I'd consider toeing out a pair of condensers so that the ribbon is center and drum focused and the condensers are width and cymbal focused.
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