OH technique - front to back?

JohnRick

Member
All,

Just finished in the studio, tracking seven progmetal tunes in one go (8 hours).
Now, me & the guitarist are sorting the files, but it just now hit me that the engineer chose to OH the kit with one mic in front and one in the back (?).

Normally I prefer, and quite frankly assume, that they are going to use either X/Y, A/B or M/S-technique, but with this one he used, it would basically be two mono options, and I don't see any possibilities of achieving a wider stereo image. Sure, the drum sound is great, and when panning OH back/OH front fully, the image become wider, but basically big mono, with the china, ride bell, hats etc. equally in both speakers, so not much point in panning the spot mics.

Anyone got any advice on what to do here?

The thing is that the tracks will be fairly busy, and bass, guitar, vocals and backing tracks will fill up the space. How would you go about this?
 

Cymbalise

Senior Member
I'm afraid I can't help you with your question, but I'd just like to applaud your feat of getting 7 tracks recorded in 8 hours!

It took the best part of a day for me to get just 4 songs down on my bands last recording session.

Kudos!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Hard to know what the engineer's goal was, there's either something going on that's not obvious just by looking, or he's completely inexperienced. Or, he's playing a joke. :)

Some engineers have uncommon miking techniques, and it sometimes involves phase cancellation. Assuming the engineer is experienced, and knows he's not getting a stereo picture of the kit, my guess is that the OHs are out of phase to help clarify the overall kit sound. I'm not aware that it's been done on one of my sessions, but that sounds like a well-thought-out procedure that could have some merit. I don't know what kind of havoc it might wreak with the sound when it's played in mono - such as on an iPad or iPhone speaker - but there must be something to it if the engineer deliberately set them up that way.

Bermuda
 

Retrovertigo

Senior Member
you should definitely just ask the engineer what's up. phrased politely of course. it's not out of the ordinary for a mix engineer to ask the recording engineer about tracking the session.
 

Diet Kirk

Silver Member
I take it you guys are mixing this yourself and the engineer was purely facilitating your recording?

If so, didn't you notice where the mic's where when you were playing? It would have been prudent to me if you are mixing it yourself to get the engineer to record what you wanted recording!

Perhaps this is a cunning ruse from the engineer to make sure you use him for th mixing as only he know what to do with those two channels?
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
You can eq the channels differently. That will simulate some sense of spread. Put cuts in different places, try to avoid boosts so things don't jump up in volume when they hit that boosted frequency. You can see how they sum (the phase cancellation may create it's own eq effect allowing different parts of the kit to stand out depending on the mix) and then use a decorrelation routine like the "widen" function in Ozone to create a sense of space on the mono track. You can also do the old trick of delaying one channel slightly while panning them apart to create a sense of space. Less sophisticated than a decorrelation algorithm but may be sufficient if the drums aren't the focus of the song.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
I had the same issue with an engineer's results recently. He placed the overheads on the outer extremities of my kit, and I was only using a four-piece with four cymbals, so the resulting image was unnecessarily wide with no clear imaging when the overheads were soloed. (I would have gone with a Massenburg spaced-pair setup.)



The farther apart the microphones are, the wider the stereo image is, and the bigger the "hole" in the middle of the sound is. It's a valid choice to keep too much information out of the middle, where your bass, kick, snare, and lead vocal will be. It's generally a "cymbal mic" sort of technique in that super-wide spaced overheads don't pick up a whole lot of the rest of the kit a lot of the time.

I wouldn't worry about it too much. Fill it in with the rest of the microphones on the kit and you'll have a pretty good sound. It's usually not a good idea to be super critical of a sound when it's soloed unless it also sounds really bad in the mix.

And by front/back, I assume you mean left/right?
 

JohnRick

Member
I had the same issue with an engineer's results recently. He placed the overheads on the outer extremities of my kit, and I was only using a four-piece with four cymbals, so the resulting image was unnecessarily wide with no clear imaging when the overheads were soloed. (I would have gone with a Massenburg spaced-pair setup.)

The farther apart the microphones are, the wider the stereo image is, and the bigger the "hole" in the middle of the sound is. It's a valid choice to keep too much information out of the middle, where your bass, kick, snare, and lead vocal will be. It's generally a "cymbal mic" sort of technique in that super-wide spaced overheads don't pick up a whole lot of the rest of the kit a lot of the time.

I wouldn't worry about it too much. Fill it in with the rest of the microphones on the kit and you'll have a pretty good sound. It's usually not a good idea to be super critical of a sound when it's soloed unless it also sounds really bad in the mix.

And by front/back, I assume you mean left/right?
Actually no - by front - back, I mean literally front - back. He put one mic right in front of the kick, in line with my head, and the back mic was right behind me a few feet up. And the drums are fairly important here, since we're doing progressive tunes (think DT).
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Actually no - by front - back, I mean literally front - back. He put one mic right in front of the kick, in line with my head, and the back mic was right behind me a few feet up. And the drums are fairly important here, since we're doing progressive tunes (think DT).
Were the mics angled? They could have been placed front to back, but if one diaphragm was aimed left and the other right, it could be fine. Ask to hear the overheads solo'd, and listen for the hi-hat left and the ride right (or vice versa). You might not have noticed this directionality if the mic housing is cylindrical, and you couldn't see the diaphragms through the grill.

If the mics weren't pointed left and right, then yes, this is indeed some bull****, and you should ask for a re-track, or negotiate for the release of the recordings, minus crappily recorded drums, for a discounted portion of the tracking fee.

If the placement is indeed front to back, and they tell you there's some artistic reason for it, don't buy it. Tell them to experiment on their own records, not yours'.
 

David Floegel

Silver Member
I know from quite a few studios pretty uncommon mic-techniques you'd never know they work.

I would love to hear the "overheads" tracks tho.
Maybe he used the mic behind you as a "mono" overhead and the other one as an "ambience" mic.. OR MAYBE the mic behind you was a stereo-mic??
 

richkenyon

Silver Member
How does it sit in the mix with the other mics? I mean, your HH will have be close-mic'd, right? If you had two HHs then there's a stereo view, or if the Ride had a dedicated mic?

Again, if you used 2 snares and certainly for the music you describe I would expect a multi-tom setup, so more stereo info available.

Put it all together and what does sound like? If it sounds right is it right, at least in my book. Not that I am saying you're wrong to question the O/H approach - you're not.
 

Drum-El

Member
That's a pretty strange setup unless he was aiming for a Glen Johns type setup with one above the snare and another one over your shoulder point toward the floor tom. That can sound kinda cool.

I personally prefer a spaced pair pointing at the bell of the two main crashes about18" above each one. Then I'll spot mic if there are china cymbals or splash trees on the kit. You get less phasing sound in the cymbals if you mic a point on the cymbal that doesn't move when struck.

From the way you describe it, it sound like the stereo image of the kit would be as if you were standing beside the drummer looking at him sideways?
 

JohnRick

Member
OK - uploading a snippet of about 45 sec from one of the tracks. Two files - self explanatory:

One is "OH back", the other is "OH front". Two mono files, completely raw (without fade-ins).
The hats are supposed to be to the left and the china to the right if I were to pan them, but do as you please.
 

Attachments

Retrovertigo

Senior Member
that is odd. you'll have to rely on the close mics to provide a sense of stereo image. and just roll with a mono OH. that sucks man. you should really ask what the engineer had in mind with that placement. nice playing btw.
 

JohnRick

Member
OK - attaching the same bridge, now with slightly edited drums, I have panned OH back fully left, and OH front fully right. Toms have also been spreaded a bit (drummer's view). The bass is also on this one, since we're tracking bass at the moment.
As you notice, the hats, china, ride etc cannot be positioned clearly.
 

Attachments

brentcn

Platinum Member
OK - attaching the same bridge, now with slightly edited drums, I have panned OH back fully left, and OH front fully right. Toms have also been spreaded a bit (drummer's view). The bass is also on this one, since we're tracking bass at the moment.
As you notice, the hats, china, ride etc cannot be positioned clearly.
Sweet playing!

But those overheads are bull$$$$. You can hear the crashes wander from right to left as it sustains, and the hi-hats are way out to both sides of the mix. The engineer (or the assistant) was an absolute moron, and you have every right to be infuriated. Re-tracking or withholding payment are totally reasonable in this case.

Overhead micing isn't rocket science or organic chemistry. Ribbon mics have a figure-8 pattern, and a pair of them can be used in a Blumlein configuration to get an utterly fantastic stereo spread. This technique is in every single decent book about recording techniques, not to mention a quick Google search.
 
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