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Three Mic Drum Test (Glyn Johns Technique)

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Published on Dec 21, 2011

Recording geeks, PLEASE READ (and listen on headphones or good speakers, not your built-in laptop speakers!!)

Initially, this test began as a full miking setup (each drum miked individually, plus overheads and room mic). I hated the way it turned out. I used several mics on the snare and toms, including a CAD Stage 7 mike pack, plus Shure SM57s on snare and the two toms. I disliked each close-mike setup. So I decided to try out the Glyn Johns Technique with some low-budget condenser mics, which is a well-respected, tried-and-true miking technique. The setup takes basically no time at all to get a good sound of, as long as you keep this in mind:

1 Tune your drums, and tune them well (especially the toms).

2 This technique works best in a good room (I recorded this on stage in the performance space at the School of Rock in Fort Washington, PA). From what I read, it can also work in a small, dead room, but I am unsure of the results until I do my next test in one.

In the main Glyn Johns Technique, you use three large-diaphragm condensers... one in front of the kick (on a floor mic stand), and two (above snare and near the floor tom and ride). I modified this technique slightly using an AKG D112 inside the kick for a little more thump and control over the kick volume.

There are many variations of the Glyn Johns Technique... some involve close-miking the snare with an SM57 in addition to the three condensers... others include a kick mic inside the kick as well as a condenser in front of it. There is no wrong or right way for the technique. Whatever you think sounds good is what you should stick with.

When I mention "53 inches" in the video, I mean that the second condenser mic (near the floor tom) is 53 inches from the edge of the snare drum... about the same height as the snare, and pointing right at it (the mic was above my floor tom and basically right where the ride sits, height-wise).

The toms are a little buried by using the 53 inch distance. I also tried this technique with 46 inches and the toms really came forward and had more resonance and "doooom" when hit with a bit of force. The crashes of course were a bit louder in the mix, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I like when you can hear crashes in recordings. Oftentimes, in modern recordings, they're buried, and I don't know why.

I really love the way these recordings turned out, and plan to use this technique for all acoustic drum recordings in the future. As mentioned above, it takes basically no time to set up and get levels (15 minutes tops)... and with a little creative panning (the side condenser panned right 50%, the other condenser straight up the middle)... you really get a great, balanced sound.

I added NO effects or post-processing whatsoever, only panning. What you hear is the drumset recorded in that room... plain and simple (no compression, no reverb, etc). Compared to my original "one mic drum test" video from 2007 (found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VISJfk...), the quality in the Glyn Johns Technique blows my old test (which a lot of people loved) away, so I suggest you try it!

I read somewhere that people prefer the Glyn Johns Technique because it treats the drumset as ONE instrument instead of many small ones. That makes sense. We don't play a high tom and a snare drum on their own... we play kits as a whole... and we like the sound of them as a whole, so why not mike them as a whole? It just makes life so much easier.

And another thought- why fix something that isn't broken? This technique was used on The Who's "Who's Next" album, as well as other classic rock albums of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.... and a lot of studio engineers seem to be miking kits in this manner, to get that "vintage sound." Call it what you want... I think it's a fantastic, usable sound for all types of indie, rock, and folk (I'm going to test this technique with brushes and rods in the near future, too).

Thanks for watching. Please try the technique yourself and post a video response!

Much love,
Chris

PS: YouTube compresses the video and audio so you might hear microscopic "gaps" in the recording, especially with headphones. These are not present in the actual audio track.

my setup:
Sonor Safari bop kit with stock heads
Mapex M Birch snare drum with stock head
Zildjian Avedis 14" New Beat HH
Zildjian A Custom 16" Fast Crash
Zildjian A Custom 20" Medium Ride
Paiste 404 18" Crash
Vic Firth 5A sticks

MXL V67g as overhead
MXL 441 as side mic (or second "overhead")
AKG D112 as kick mic

Recorded into Tascam FW-1082 firewire interface, to Reaper 4 (www.reaper.fm).

Web: http://chriscaulder.net
YouTube: http://youtube.com/chriscauldermusic

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