The Over-The-Shoulder Drum Mic TechniqueMay 24, 2013
One technique I’m growing more and more fond of for recording drums is an over-the-shoulder position. Specifically for right handed drummers, putting the mic over the right shoulder at roughly ear height. Whether as a mono drum overhead, one of a pair of overheads, or even as your single microphone for recording a whole kit it’s a great option.
Drums The Way Drummers Hear Them
Probably one of the simplest reasons why an over-the-shoulder approach to miking drums sounds great is because that is how the drummer hears his kit. He doesn’t hear it from the front of the kit (although other people do), nor from floating 9 feet up in the air.
Placing a microphone at roughly his right ear position gives you a realistic view of the kit. And if you allow the drummer to only monitor this microphone in is headphones, he’ll naturally balance the drums because he’s hearing them the way he’s used to hearing them.
Great For Not-So-Great Sounding Rooms
Many of us aren’t recording drums in great spaces. Bedrooms, dining rooms, and garages are the name of the game for many of us. So when recording a drum kit we actually don’t want to capture too much of the room sound, because…well, the room doesn’t sound that good.
This over-the-shoulder mic approach is a much closer to the kit technique, eliminating some of the room sound right away. It also is angled down at the kit, primarily at the kick and snare so it primarily hears those transient heavy pieces. Again, if you think of this position as just about where the drummer hears his kit, it can sound good in any room.
Helps Avoid Cymbal Wash
It isn’t too hard to throw up an “overhead” microphone on a kit and get too much cymbals in the balance. Let’s face it, cymbals are just too loud. But I personally don’t want my overhead mics (or my only mic for that matter) to be overwhelmed by cymbals when the kick and snare are more important.
Having this over-the-shoulder mic solves the issue in two ways: first the mic is pointed down only at the beater side of the kick and the snare. By angle alone it will hear those two elements more than the cymbals. Second, the drummer’s body is literally blocking the microphone a bit from the hi-hat. This is great because an open hi-hat can take over your drum balance in a flash.
Try It Out For Yourself
Whether you are interested in a mono drum overhead technique that gives you a better balance of the kit, or you only have one microphone to use for the drums period (like we did on this week’s little challenge), give the over-the-shoulder approach a shot. You might just fall in love.
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