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Hi all

Seems like I get myself in the same problem over and over again lately. How do I get the drum OH's to have some life without them sounding like an 1/8" drill bit in the ear drums. This is how I've been recording them lately

- 2 Audio-Technica's at2020's in XY config about 3 feet above the cymbals
- 2/3 of peak on the input of the pre's
- little eq on the OH's other than a high pass around 100hz
- some compression, usually a tape saturation setting or something close to it
- a drum room preset aux send or a small plate

I realize it can be anything causing this harshness, but what are the likely causes. Also the room I have is very dead (ceiling tiles on the walls and cielings and bass traps in the corners with carpet on the floor). So here are the possiblilties I'm thinking of and am wondering where to start

- harsh mics - I do notice when doing vox that these mics are quite harsh around the 2k area

- Room - The drums aren't sounding harsh to my ears in the room, but with all of that deadening is it causing problems when Micing them?

- digital recording efx - could this be a factor? How much of a limitation is this?

- don't know what the hell I'm doing - I'm hoping this is the reason more than the room and mics as it's more enjoyable to work on.

Here's some things I was considering
- putting the OH's through reverb with eq to soften the sound
- using a tube pre, (I'd have to buy one)
- using a different mic or even a differnt kind of mic, wondering if anyone's used 57's as OH's and what they sound like

You can hear a sample of the OH's on the "recording live" in this forum



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anonymous Fri, 09/19/2008 - 20:11

Fiddle around with the placement.... if its too close/too far you will lose some of the resonance.

if not...then fiddle around more with the EQ.... if its really tinney, try the 500 range.

reverb i dont think would make it more full.

give compression a shot for kicks.

before you decide you need to get something new, try fiddling with some of the basics.


BrianaW Sat, 09/20/2008 - 00:56

I've had this problem when the room has low ceilings and the OH's are high. The reflections bounce of the ceiling and then back to the mic, and of course those are the high ugly ones. Sometimes in that situation I just opt to put the OH's directly over the cymbals and I get a tighter sound on the kit but a splashier washy sound on the cymbals. I know exactly what you're talking about so try different placement as mentioned above, or use a low pass filter to roll off those highs. Some guys even roll off down to 15k and just don't deal with it. You could also try a notch filter around 2k where you are saying it's harsh... or even a de-esser.

I'd say the best way to test would be to pull everything from the chain and start dry. Then start adding and see if the sound gets worse. Are you using any room mics? Those can help too in a bad OH situation. Just more ideas.

Davedog Sat, 09/20/2008 - 17:15

Those are not particularly 'harsh' sounding mics as a rule. A bit 'peaky' but not harsh. Because they are an LDC you may be better served to spread them out rather than being in a true X/Y. Their patterns are a bit large and you're definately getting some overlap and therefore some frequencies are summing each other at the overlap of the patterns.

If your room is as dead as you say, then this would present itself a bit more clearly.

Watch your phase relationship when you spread the mics.

I also agree that taking all EQ, EFX and such out of the chain is a good starting point to narrow down your problem.

steppingonmars Sat, 09/20/2008 - 17:27

Ok I did some homework and did some drum tests click on the link for the sound files. My apoligies for anyone who has to listen to my horrid druming, but maybe we can learn something, here's the list

1) 2- At 2020's front of kick in xy config
2) 2- At 2020's xy config on top of kit
3) 1 - At 2020 FOK
4) 1 - Superlux mic 3 ft away from kit
5) 1 - superlux mic FOK close below the cymbals and above the toms
6) 2 - at 2021's spaced pair

I didn't do the "recorderman" set up as it would be a problem recording everyone live and the back mic would be facing the guitars.

I like the sound of #5 myself and it's practical as it's one less mic and there's less bleed/phase issues from the rest of the instruments, but by all means tell me which ones you think are better and why. I'm not too concerned about a stereo image if it means I can get a good drum sound. I'm also thinking I should get my "space" horizontally instead of vertically. Let me know of any other configs/areas to try


soapfloats Sat, 09/20/2008 - 18:41

I agree w/ Eric.

The spaced pair OHs has always worked well for me as well.
I've done XY (pencil condensers) for many live bar recordings, and some for OHs, too.
It's a nice stereo/room capture, but not so much for drums, imo.

I like to place them (OHs) about 3 ft above the cymbals, placed so the cymbals hide the toms/snare to some degree. Move them up/down/around until you find the right spot(s).
As you can hear, you'll still pickup plenty of the toms/snare. I prefer pencil condensers for this reason.
(Of course, I don't have any nice LDCs I like as OHs, and close mic everything else)
If you're only using the OHs to mic the kit, in that case, include them (tom/snare) in the mics' "image".
If you decide to get more mics and do a full drum miking some day, keep that AT2020. I really like it as a high-hat mic.

Just my personal preferences. Sometimes the 1 mic over the kit and 1 in front / to the tom side is a nice combo as well. Just trust your ears.

And take note of what Dave says as well, especially about the phasing. He's pretty smart. :wink:


steppingonmars Tue, 09/23/2008 - 17:05

Re: Harsh OH's
« Reply #24 on: Today at 08:03:16 PM »

Ok here's what I did. I put the mics behind the drummer in ORTF config as in the pictures on the links below

Here's a sample

The first clip is the original one I posted as XY, the one with them hung 1.5 ft from the ceiling, the second clip is them recorded in the config below. I'm noticing a lot less of the bad echos, I'm assuming that's flutter echoes and I think the harshness is reduced somewhat. I'm also using AT2021's instead of 2020's and the gain is set down a lot less so I used automation to keep them at about the same level. Am I getting somewhere with this? Are there any issues with the second clip? The only thing I noticed is that the 1st tom is a little quiet, possibly due to it being partially hidden by the drummer, but I've also noticed the skin is a little dead. I also noticed my kick is in dire need of tuning as well as the snare, but first things first. I also put the kick and snare mic in for comparison as well.

If this is still gonna be harsh, where do I go from here, do I start putting absorption materials on the walls? Different mics?

jordy Sat, 09/27/2008 - 16:46

hey... i don't know if this would be helpful, seeing that i only have a little experience so far with overheads and drums......
but, a fellow engineer down the street from me showed me an OH technique he was trying out lately : he would put the overhead behind the kit, facing it cymbals rather than in front like usual. he said it was giving him a more live feel, but he didn't know if he was completely sold on the technique yet....just something to maybe give a try?

also i've been seeing that people are also putting the overheads under the cymbals facing up at about the mid high tom level.....idk

good luck

steppingonmars Sat, 09/27/2008 - 22:02


Thanks Jordy,

That's basically what I did, I put 2 pencil condensors behind the drummer about 6 feet in the air in the corner facing towards the toms, it got rid of the ceiling comb filtering issue, the toms are nice and loud, the image is good and there are no mics in the way, it also helps fill out the kick as well, you can see the adaptor stand in the pics in the previous post. A lot of the harshness is gone now and it's a very practical set up. I also tried ORTF config as well as the recorderman and spaced pair set up, this one had the best sounding kick of the lot. I'll have to post some clips sometime, thanks again!

BrianaW Sun, 09/28/2008 - 02:01

Just another opinion. A lot of this harshness you are hearing could also be from the drums being backed up in a corner like that. All of the ugly higher frequencies are going to be bouncing back and forth off of the walls and that could lead to a mishmash of harshness. Your pointing the mics away from the walls toward the kit could be sounding better because their null points are facing the walls. Your tracks all sound pretty good to me, except for the one rack tom. I'm not completely sure which one it is, but I assume from the pictures that you posted that it's rack tom 2. It's completely facing the mic, whilst the other is facing more toward the ceiling. This would obviously accentuate the attack from that particular drum and the others would be less pronounced (including the snare and floor). Of course, I'm not suggesting you do anything differently... if you are satisfied with the results you are getting then use them! I just noticed that the one rack tom is much louder than everything else on the kit.

But the sound you are getting now is much cleaner and less harsh than the original tracks you had posted. I really do think reflections coming off of regular wallboard can sound pretty harsh, and being backed in a corner like that only amplifies the situation, for cymbals especially. Maybe a blanket on the wall behind the kit could help too. Just throwing some more ideas out there, not really expert advise. :)

steppingonmars Sun, 09/28/2008 - 06:59


Thanks Briana

Yeah I'll pull the kit out of the corner if I'm recording just the drums, but I just don't have the space to pull it out of the corner when recording the band live. Also there's a bass trap in the corner as you can see by the pictures full of absorption, so when I put the mics 6 feet in the air, the mics are in front of the trap for absorption, I might go a step further and do the walls a bit further as well. I'll work on the rack tom a bit as well as I noticed it too, I think one issue is the skin is pretty much toast, but I re- tuned the drums the other day and it helped, thanks for the input though

steppingonmars Mon, 10/20/2008 - 12:06

Ok some homework completed

Did a test with the OH's behind the kit sorta in a space pair technique. close mic'd the toms and gated them just for the rolls, added guitars and bass to get an idea of how they sound in the mix.

Everything was done by me on this one, drum playing needs work. A limiter is the only thing on the stereo bus. Let me know if you hear any phase issues on the OH's and also I'm wondering how the mix is translating to other systems. I'm thinking I better re-amp the bass listening to it