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There are a few ways to use overhead mics, and the method you choose depends on how live your room is and the sound you're trying to capture. Let's look at the way to use the overhead mics more to capture the sound of the cymbals, rather than the overall kit. Condenser or Ribbon mics are usually used for overheads. The reason is that the cymbals have a lot of short burst of energy, which those types of mics are good at picking up. The overheads you use to pick up the ride and crash cymbals and give you an ambient stereo sound of the drum kit. If you're recording in a very live room, you may want your overheads closer to the kit to reduce the amount of room ambience that's being picked up.
That's also the case if you're recording in a room with a low ceiling, since the splash off the ceiling can potentially room the sound. Cymbals are loud, so make sure you switch on the -10 dB pad if you're using condenser mics and select any high-pass filter, since it will help the sound of the cymbals to be heard more clearly. Don't worry that you're not getting a totally isolated cymbal sound in these channels because the overhead mics are meant to add an overall ambient sound of the drum kit to the mix, and are naturally going to pick up the other drums and cymbals as well.
Place the left and right mics parallel to each other and over the bell of the crash cymbal on each side of the drum kit at about 24 inches high, pointing down over the bell of the crash cymbal. The reason why it's pointed more at the bell than at the edge of the cymbal is that the edge can give you an undesirable gong or swishing sound as the cymbals rock back and forth, especially if the mic is placed close. (music playing) Have the drummer play just the cymbals while you listen on the monitors.
Make sure that you hear each cymbal, and that one isn't louder than the rest. (music playing) If that's the case, move the position of the mic away from the loud cymbal to try to equalize the volume. (music playing) Now listen to what happens when we move the mics closer to the cymbals. (music playing) As you can hear it gets a bit more clanging and thicker sounding.
Now listen to what happens when we move the mics away from the cymbals. (music playing) Usually the cymbals sound better when the mics are moved further away from them. The problem is that now they'll pick up more of the kit, more of the room, and may also pick up some bad sounding reflections from the ceiling. Place your cymbal mics where you have the best balance of sound, room, and reflections. So that's how we use the overhead mics to capture the sound of the cymbals.
Place the left and right mics parallel to each other over the bell of the crash cymbal on each side of the drum kit at about 24 inches high, pointing down over the bell of the cymbal. Move them down a bit if you want more isolation, and move them further away for a better sound or with more spill from the other drums. Try to keep the mics from pointing towards the edge of the cymbals to prevent them from capturing the swishing that occurs when the cymbals vibrate.
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