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Mixing Cymbal & Overhead Mics

Lesson 32 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

Mixing Cymbal & Overhead Mics

Lesson 32 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

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Lesson Info

32. Mixing Cymbal & Overhead Mics

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is how to mix cymbal and overhead mics in a studio recording.


  1. What is the purpose of using overhead mics in a drum mix?

    Overhead mics capture the entire drum kit and add airiness and space to the drum sound.

  2. How can EQ be used to improve the sound of cymbals in an overhead mix?

    EQ can be used to notch out specific frequencies in crash cymbals that can sound fatiguing or ringing, and to remove any resemblance of the kick drum.

  3. Why is it important to find the right high-pass frequency for the overheads?

    The high-pass frequency should be set to eliminate muddiness from the snare and kick drum, while still retaining the airiness and body of the cymbals.

  4. What is the purpose of compressing the overheads?

    Compressing the overheads helps to even out the consistency of the cymbals and create a more solid shimmer across the mix.

  5. How can the room sound be incorporated into the overhead mix?

    By keeping the overheads at a distance of about four feet above the drum kit, the microphone will capture some of the room sound and add life and breath to the overhead mix.

  6. How does the overhead sound influence the use of snare reverb?

    The overhead sound does not significantly dictate the use of snare reverb, but having a more cohesive drum sound from the overheads can make everything sound more connected.

Next Lesson: Mixing Room Mics

Lesson Info

Mixing Cymbal & Overhead Mics

As you can here, I've kind of grouped together all the close mics, and the overheads are here on this final stereo track, and you can see the close mics are really kept quite soft, but I'm not doing anything different to those, than I am to the overheads, they're all being done through this bus over here. And I should show you the difference perhaps of just the overhead tracks versus the overhead tracks with all the spot mikes in place as well. And it is quite a subtle difference, but hopefully, you'll hear the close mics just being reinforced that little bit. First up is the overhead tracks on their own with no processing. (drums beating) So particularly the stack symbol was coming through a lot clearer now that we have more level of that coming through the post mic, that's the one which I'm boosting the most. The high hat mic doesn't really need to be used so much, the hats are really quite nice and clear in the overheads, but it's there just to give a little more directness, a littl...

e bit more articulation, especially in a section, perhaps like this one over here. (cymbals crashing) I really do like the sound of this, (laughs) I'm actually really happy with how this came out. So, EQ wise, I'm really not having to do very much to these at all, they already are sitting really nicely, the cymbals are very well represented, bear in mind, we are mixing through that bit of top end lift, which is giving some extra bilius to the cymbals. I'm gonna look first at this, I've done just a coulpla very small notching EQs, and this is to do with the crash cymbals, crash cymbals often have, and triangles can have too, and high hats, in fact all cymbals can have certain very tight ringing frequencies within them, that when you compress the overheads can really come out. And I kinda zeroed in on these two here, so I'm gonna find a part where the crash cymbals are being hit with this muted, and then I'll put it on and unmute it and hopefully you can really hear the difference, it's just something you have to use your ear to find, but it's like a really high-pitched whistling noise that's very fatiguing on the ear and it's very relieving when those get taken out. I'm just gonna think of a part, I guess it's on the crash right when it starts. (cymbals crashing) Just go back to the beginning now. (cymbals crashing) I'm actually hearing another frequency in there as well, now that we're listening back, I'm hearing one, I guess just a little bit beneath this 3600. (cymbals crashing) Did you hear the difference there? It's quite soft actually, I'm not hearing it so much on these monitors, when I was mixing on my headphones, it comes through a lot more clearly. I hear it when you really boost them. Oh yeah when you really boost them, Take them out, it's a little more obvious. I don't know how many people really do this, most people I know that mix tend to have some kind of process like this, and when we get to rhythm guitars as well you'll find that I'm notching out certain whistley frequencies as well. But just taking that out really, if you don't know necessarily what you're hearing, you might try and pull down that whole area. And if you're really trying to get a cohesive sound from the overheads you don't really want to have to cut too much into the presence area because the drums are really gonna start to sound quite muddy in there. For that reason, I'm not too fond of really bright cymbals, even if they're not too loud, like a zildjrian A custom's a really bright cymbals, that a lot of durmmers really like and a lot of studio engineers really like. But I've often found that they don't lend themselves quite so well to getting a cohesive cymbal and shell sound. However in this case, just by notching out this frequencies, it really relieves some of that piercing nature of the crash cymbal on my ears. And if I'm listening to the whole track and I hear more, I might go in and notch them. I do also tend to copy those exact channels over onto the room mic tracks as well cuz they're getting a lot of cymbals. So once I've found those frequencies I copy them over. You can see I think, that's the EQ there. There's a really massive too much wear on the chain they are and the stock logicy hue can give you a really really narrow cue, that's a hundred cue there, so really zeroing in on one frequency, and if it was a really wider cue, you might want to automate maybe it so it's only on when that crash cymbal is being hit but with such a narrow cue, I'm not worried about just leaving that in place the whole time. In terms of actual EQ, this is what I'm doing here. So, I am high passing but I'm not bringing it all up to 500 ish which would be what a lot of metal producers would do. I'll show you actually what happens as I as well, bypass the cut that we have going on there. But I'm gonna bring this up gradually from the lower end of the range, and kinda show you what happens, especially to the sound of the cymbals. The main thing which I'm trying to get rid of, is any real resemblance of a kick, I don't want to hear that kind of muddying up of the overheads at all. So if we start with nothing. (cymbals crashing) Right around there, the kick drum's really starting to lose it's main, kind of body, you can still hear the attack, and that's not gonna go away, but that's starting to sound really clean to me. Just a little bit further is going to take some of the muddiness out of the snare as well. I don't want to have too much of the body of the snare, down there coming from the overheads, I'm mainly looking for the airiness that the overheads are picking up. The close mic is gonna really reinforce that area too and too much of that is going to yield a slighty muddy snare sound, it could be great too, to be honest, you could probably not even bypass these overheads, they're really nicely in phase with the close mics, so it's not doing anything bad when you combine them, but to me this is just going to yield a slightly cleaner sound. (cymbals crashing) Listening here now, that to me sounds a bit better, a little bit lower down, I think maybe I was taking a bit too much of it out there, but something that I like to do is listen to the whole drum mix and, this is only a luxury you can afford once you've actually mixed the rest of the drum tracks too, so I do have them mixed ready to go. I'm just gonna do a little bit of jogging around, at this high pass frequency with the whole mix going and you can see how that affects things. (drums beating) It is having quite a profound impact I think on the body of the snare, which is reassuring to me, I like the idea of getting some of that snare sound from the overheads. I'm gonna just do that again and I'm gonna try and zero in on the frequency where I feel like it's not muddy and things but it is kind of giving it a bit of body. Thickness to the snare? Yeah exactly. (drums beating) Yeah, right around there is kind of doing it for me. Boy if you go really much past 200 you really feel it drop out. Yeah it's really noticeable isn't it? Yep. It's funny it don't think even I realize sometimes how much of that's coming from the overheads. No it seems like that's that sweet spot where that round sound that I was talking about. Definitely, but I mean obviously the close mic is, it's kind of the interaction between the two of them, but yeah, it's really helping and I love what overheads can bring to a snare sound, to me it would be a real shame to just use those overhead mics, those cymbal mics. If you're gonna do that, then set out to do that, but personally I really like to have the overheads functioning to bring a load of air and kind of space to the drum sounds so it doesn't just sound really separated, like kicks, snare, and tongs, and cymbals. I kind of like to hear like I'm hearing a whole kit. So yeah, around there was the sweet spot, there. And then, I saw a need to dip out some of this seven K area, this would be something that I would have done by ear, by shifting it around, oops, that's not what I meant to do, there we go, and it's mainly when the crashes are playing. You can find that they can really build up a whole lot of extra aggression there, and just taking that out there, but leaving the top end above it intact, so not low passing gives you like the shimmery sound from the cymbal up on top, but it doesn't have the harsh stuff there. I try not to go too far if I can, because that will start to take away some of the power of the drums and the overheads, but we'll just take a listen and see how far we can push that. (drums and cymbals) Like that nasty area right around there, maybe a little bit lower than I had it even. (drums and cymbals) To me, I kind of would describe that area as kind of brassy sounding, I don't know, there's something just unpleasant almost scrapey, kind of sounding about it. And taking that out just makes the overhead sound really nice and airy. Yeah it sound like maybe there's clashing overtones in that area or somethin. Yeah maybe there's more notching that I could do as well, but I try to leave these overheads as in tact as I can. That notching that you're doing, is that on all of the, including the spot mics and the overheads? Yeah, I figure it's definitely gonna be coming you know, the spot mics are primarily there to capture the cymbals, there will be plenty of crash coming through in there, but they're also so quiet in the mix that I don't feel like those notches, if they're not necessary are gonna destroy the sound. So I'd rather do it with one plug in here than maybe having it on a couple of them but not the others. And you know, I've even done mixes where there's been quite a lot of bleed coming through on the snare, and instead of eating it, I've kind of notched out the frequencies on the drum bus itself, and they're so narrow you're not really gonna notice it taking out much important information of the kit at all. And it can, sometimes the bleed in the other mics can be really building up with that stuff. If we had used the sennheiser 421s or something on toms I think it really tends to exacerbate those kinds of whistley frequencies as well as adding it's own. So whenever possible I like to try and use condensers such as those joessons, or actually the C414's that we're using on overheads can make great tom mics as well they're just really expensive and you don't want a drummer to hit one of those, they're a little bit bulkier, so yeah. I don't even know if there's any drummers that I would let have that particular pair mic on their kit. (laughing) I do like to compress the overheads a little bit, as much for evenness as tone. And here I'm gonna use an 1176 style compressor which is really fast, even with the attack as slow as it can go, and I'm gonna start with the mix on 100%, this is something most 1176s don't have, this plug in they decided to add on which is really cool for this kind of usage, because I would really like to try and retain some of that smack of the snare drum, I don't wanna compress the overheads until the drums are being brought down a level, but I do want to even out the consistency of the cymbals a little bit so they're like a kind of more solid shimmer across the top of the mix, rather than being distracting in how they come in and out as you move from one cymbal to the other, so without this, it sounds like this. (rock music) Sorry, just cymbals only. (cymbals crashing) So that's pretty compressed, but that's with the mix on full as I start to bring back the mix you'll hear some of that snare spike coming back and we're gonna get, essentially that compressor's gonna fill out the low detail, all the detailed information is gonna come up in volume, but hopefully we're gonna retain the transients of the original signal. (cymbals crashing) So we are losing a little bit of the snare level there, but I actually kind of like the character it's imparting. We are also sending it to the parallel drum bus with the extreme compression on it, but I don't want to send too much of that there, because that will start to really get pumpy, cuz it's also going into that with a lot of other instruments playing, like all of the other drums that are being sent there are going to interact with that cymbal sound, so it's kind of nice to have a bit of parallel compression directly on that bus, I don't necessarily want my cymbals to be too pumpy. So the final overhead sound is like this. (cymbals crashing) And note that we are actually getting a decent amount of room snap back into those overheads. When I hear that snare I'm also hearing the way the room interacts with it, we spoke a lot, in the segment before about the way that that kind of four foot rule, it wasn't segment four, it was segment three I guess, you know, keeping the overheads about four feet above the kit gave a really really good representation of the kit, but also allowing a bit of that room to come back into it. And it's really nice when I hear that, that makes me happy, to not hear a completely dry overhead sound, we've still got all the detail we want on the cymbals, but you are getting some of that life and breath coming back from the room. (drums beating) How much does that dictate how you use the snare reverb? Not very much. Okay. Especially what I was talking about, getting a really cohesive drum sound, if the overheads are really dry, I find it can be really difficult to make everything sound really connected. I would get around that I think by using, by not high passing as much, letting more of the snare sound come in from that overhead sound. We're doing a fair bit of that here but certainly when I've worked in really small rooms I've tried to use the overheads almost like another pair of room mics. A little bit, yeah, but it's tough, it's a real pleasure to record in a room where you get some more of that information coming back in, and get that really coherent sounding kit sound coming from the overheads, not just cymbals.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Halpern Drum Samples
Micing Guitar Cab
Nolly's Mic List

Ratings and Reviews

Connor Smith

I haven't even finished the course and already my mixes have improved dramatically. Night and day difference. I haven't watched the portions with Matt as I'm using drum samples (GGD specifically), but I have no doubt it's great. Matt is always incredibly helpful and is a brilliant drummer. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Nolly, he's very articulate and his approach to audio engineering is flat out brilliant. I'm so happy I purchased this course. Before my mixes were good (balance and things of that nature) but lacked life and energy. I just wasn't getting the professional level sound I was searching for. Now, I am proud of my mixes and actually think they're getting to the point where they sound professional and don't sound like they were produced by a dude in his bedroom with about half of year of recording and audio engineering experience. The metal genre is difficult to mix as there's a lot going on and the "current metal sound" is very crisp and clear while still being very heavy and punchy. It isn't 80s dad metal where guitars are hissy and flubby. lol I am a huge Periphery fan and it's a privilege to watch Nolly share his knowledge. I really enjoy his approach as its very simple but very effective. He doesn't have insane mixing strategies, he just does what works and it's applicable to any DAW and is helpful for almost any genre of music. Brilliant course!

a Creativelive Student

This was an amazing course! I loved hearing from both Matt and Nolly on their thought process behind drums in general. I love the point they drove home about getting a great source tone. That seems to be forgotten in a lot of recordings and they try to fix it in the mix. Jolly did a fantastic job of making it look "easy" to take already great sounding source tones and making them really shine! Cant wait to put these concepts into practice in my own projects. What a great source of knowledge here. Thanks for this great class!

Adrian Gougov

Best course and overall learning experience I've had in a long long while. Nolly and Matt are superb. Nolly is an astonishing mixing and recording engineer and a great teacher. Not only does he explains his methods carefully and in detail, but also lays down key concepts in an understandable language. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to mix modern heavy music. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to track drums properly. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna see one of modern metal's best drummers track a whole song from start to finish. Props to Creative Live for bringing this material to us.

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