E17 - Drum OHs and Room Mics

This week we are going to take a look at mixing drum Overheads and Room Mics, one of my favourite parts of mixing!



For the overheads my first step is to decide the balance between the OH mics, and the spot mics. In this song the only spot mic was on the High Hat, but if you had multiple spot mics then the process for deciding their level and the processing used will be quite similar. My way of balancing the spot mics is to set the OH level as 0 on the fader, move to a section where the high hat or spot mic is playing, and bring the level up until I can hear it cutting through slightly more than before. I find this is a particularly effective way to adjust levels and panning. I never want to HEAR a spot mic, but I want to use it to draw your ear towards the particular cymal/kit piece. This means you can pan them wider, have them sound unnatural or whatever you want, and use it to subtly enchance your OH mix. For the high hat mic I used some filtering and some distortion to give it a bit of a white noise effect. In solo this doesn't sound too good, but in the mix it helps it cut through without being too loud or distracting!

The next step is to process the summed signals of the OH and Hats. I start like always with cleaning up the mud slightly, and removing some resonances. After that we reach decision point. More often than not, the snare drum pokes through an overhead mic to an uncomfortable level. Meaning that compressors will be triggered aggressively every time it hits. So if you want to dynamically control your OH balance, you will have the whole sound pumping around the snare mic. This can be part of your sound, where you set super fast attack and release times, so you compress the snare, but nothing else, leaving you with a lively balance of cymbals being unaffected by the compressor. The other option is to compress everything heavily and have this pumping effect. My preference is to use a limiter, and aggressively limit the snares until the maximum level of limiting is being done without hitting any of the cymbals and compress the signal again later to control the movement in the cymbals. Then I move on to some tone shaping where I can cut some mud, and boost some clarity to try and get the part of the cymbal that I like to sound out more in the mix. Finally I will compress this EQ’d sound and try to slightly level out some of the dynamics in the crash riding sections. This is a sensitive point where if you go too far the cymbals can simply sound like a wash of noise, as opposed to individual hits. Something to watch out for when processing your cymbals is static ringing frequencies. They tend to be up in the 5k plus region, and can be really fatiguing, so keep an eye out for them!


Finally, a trick I picked up a long time ago, is to pan your OH mics in slightly from fully left or right. In a drum balance this can subtly give the room mics more space to exist, making them more clearly heard without being louder.



To me, the room mics are one of the most fun points of any mix. Creating an explosive larger than life sound is great, and I use it as a way to make the snare really pop!


Mono mics tend to get destroyed. I love to distort them and make them sound really ugly. Like a step far too far into explosive drums! Then I mix them in to taste to help add a little sizzle to the mix. The stereo room mics get a little bit of filtering, but nothing fancy. I then use a snare room sample triggered from the direct mic to increase the balance of the snare in the room mics. If you haven’t checked out my fake room mic video I suggest you do, as this shows you how you can achieve this effect. 


Once I have my balance made up between these 4 elements, I then run them all into an all buttons in 1176. For those of you who don’t know, the 1176 compressor has 4 ratios. 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1. Each of these have a different threshold. But if you push all the buttons in at once, you get them all acting together at different points. This creates an accidental setting that just sounds nuts! This is super common on room mics, but is a technique that is super cool to play around with. In this mix I didn’t feel there was any further processing needed after this, so I left it at that!