This is the seventh installment in guest blogger Steve Lagudi’s series on miking drums – today, Part 1 of a two-part post on cymbals, hi-hats and rides. If you missed his latest post on miking toms, you can read it here.
Now, you’ll notice that I labeled this section “Cymbals, Hi-Hats & Rides” – I did not label it “Overheads.” There is a very good reason for it, not just because I am not using a pair of overheads, but the real reason I do not use overheads is because of what the purpose of overheads are. In the studio, overheads are used to capture the entire kit, even though most people associate these as cymbal mics. In the studio I do use that technique, but for live it makes no sense. For metal and hard rock, it’s all about that direct, in your face sound like we discussed earlier. So why would I need to capture the “room” of the drum kit? The kit is sitting on a super loud stage and 99 times out of 100, the stage sounds like garbage. So what’s the point of trying to capture that sound? I’m creating my room sound with the use of a room reverb. Even if I don’t have any reverb available, I still do not use the overhead approach.
I like to spot mic everything. With the large drum kits, you often find that kit is very wide, so 2 overheads don’t really do it, you would need to add in a 3rd or even 4th overhead mic. Then you got cymbals at different heights, so the levels will be inconsistent when they arrive at the mics. Phase becomes an issue as well. Then it also looks ugly having these big overhead mics above the kit. The stands get in the way, it’s a pain in the neck to position them properly because of all the stands and shells, then all the cables, sometimes the drum riser or drum area has lights in the way. It all just becomes a pain to deal with. Add in the time it takes to place them on stage if you’re not the headliner. There is also the risk of the overheads falling over and getting damaged. So with all those variables, it’s not rocket science to see that the bad outweighs the good.
Spot miking cymbals will require more mics (and money) to capture everything, although money should not be the determining factor when you’re trying to achieve the best sounding mix. Plus you don’t need to go out and purchase super high-end expensive mics to get great results, either. For the cymbal mics, I use ATM450’s. They’re amazing sounding mics that will not cost you a fortune. I use the same approach for the ride cymbals as well. I mount each mic underneath the cymbals. Don’t forget, it’s a side address mic, which I aim towards the outer edge where the cymbal gets hit, about 3-4 inches below. Doing this gives you great front to back rejection to the point where you won’t get much of the snare drum bleeding in. The biggest advantage of having the cymbals miked up closely is you don’t have to gain them up much to get the sound you need. Lower gain results in lower noise floors. Oh, and another great benefit – this gives you more control by being able to place each cymbal exactly where you want it in the stereo field with the use of panning.
Hungry for more? Check back next Wednesday for Part II of Steve’s Cymbals, Hi-Hats & Rides post…you won’t want to miss it!