Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dynamic Mics for Drum Overheads?

I don't know if this is a pro audio tip or a trip down memory lane.  Both I guess.  About fifteen years ago I was out mixing for some bar band and the drummer was bugging me about an overhead mic.  We were in a bar that was maybe just a little bit bigger than my dining room table, maybe.  I eventually gave up on trying to convince him that the crowd would hear his new twin china boys just fine and dug out my last free mic, a Shure 57.  I stuck it up there and pretended to tune it up during sound check and then promptly forgot all about it.

Years later I was doing a spot of last minute recording for a band before they left for LA.  We had one night between dinner and whenever we finished to get half a dozen tracks down so they'd have a demo to take with them.  I didn't want to set up a lot of inputs because I only had eight tracks to work with, so it was just kick and a 57 overhead, guitars and vocals, done.  It actually came out pretty good, I heard the drum kit in a whole new way, more like what it actually sounded like in the room.

From then on I was a lot more open to the idea of overheads in small rooms.  I eventually worked my way up to using condenser mics and relying on them not just for cymbal sounds but also for the crack of the top heads and then I'd fill in the presence of the snare and toms with the close mics.  Turns out I had stumbled on to the way that the big boys do it.

So there it is, from placebo mic to sloppy shortcut with a dash of happy accident and you have the decade-long evolution of my drum micing skills.

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