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Thread: Recording Drums: Need help recording cymbals

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    Recording Drums: Need help recording cymbals

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    So, I'm a drummer, and wanted to record drums for fun. I bought myself some equipment (mics, audio interface etc), but am not getting the sound that I'm looking when it comes to the cymbals (the rest is fine). The main problem for me is that the drum recordings and drum covers that you see around the internet have the crash cymbals sounding quite high pitched (at least to my ears). I have a 16" and 18" crash, which are not particularly large crashes, but they sound very different in my own recordings, than they usually sound in professional recordings, the main difference being the pitch of the sound (mine sound a lot lower pitched). I'm very new to recording, so this might be a stupid question, but I was wondering how the sound engineers achieved this 'higher pitched' sound. Is it mic placement? EQ? Pitch shifting?
    I've set up my overheads as a spaced pair.

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    Add a high shelf at 8k and add 10db. Take out some 800hz.
    Jay Walsh
    Farview Recording. I am also the forum spokesmodel for Terasyne Amplification

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farview View Post
    Add a high shelf at 8k and add 10db. Take out some 800hz.
    Thanks for the response. What's a high shelf?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1Drumz View Post
    Thanks for the response. What's a high shelf?
    It's an eq filter that affects everything above a specified frequency.

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    I've never been good at mixing drum, but the sizzle of good cymbals is what's lacking in cheap ones, and eq on the dull cheap ones just doesn't make them sparkle. So listen to the kit with your ears, and if you have an app on your phone, look at the spectral balance of the cymbals. See if they really do have all the sparkly HF stuff. If it's not there, EQ will work happily on the spill and not the wanted sound, making the kit sound even worse. I'm not clear why you say the cymbals sound higher elsewhere, but for you they're lower? It could be the room soaking the HF up with you and the room where they sound great enhancing this end of the response? I certainly won't be pitch shifting because overheads pick up everything, so any attempt at pitch shifting would lift the toms and snare too! The location of the mics is quite important though - nearer the edge produces more upper harmonics, with the lower ones coming from centre - like on your ride where you hit it. The other thing could be the mics if you are using a frequency limited mic. However, most condensers go perfectly high enough. If your kit records well somewhere else, then it's mic position and the room I suspect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    I've never been good at mixing drum, but the sizzle of good cymbals is what's lacking in cheap ones, and eq on the dull cheap ones just doesn't make them sparkle. So listen to the kit with your ears, and if you have an app on your phone, look at the spectral balance of the cymbals. See if they really do have all the sparkly HF stuff. If it's not there, EQ will work happily on the spill and not the wanted sound, making the kit sound even worse. I'm not clear why you say the cymbals sound higher elsewhere, but for you they're lower? It could be the room soaking the HF up with you and the room where they sound great enhancing this end of the response? I certainly won't be pitch shifting because overheads pick up everything, so any attempt at pitch shifting would lift the toms and snare too! The location of the mics is quite important though - nearer the edge produces more upper harmonics, with the lower ones coming from centre - like on your ride where you hit it. The other thing could be the mics if you are using a frequency limited mic. However, most condensers go perfectly high enough. If your kit records well somewhere else, then it's mic position and the room I suspect.
    Its not the quality of the cymbals for sure. I have pretty high end cymbals that sound very nice. What I've noticed is a large disparity in sound (especially pitch imo) between real life cymbals and the sound you find in records.

    I found two videos on youtube demoing the exact same crash cymbal, the first which has the typical crash sound found in professionally produced records/covers, whereas the second gives a more realistic impression of what the crash actually sounds like:



    Right now my recordings sound like the second video (much better quality though), but I would like to achieve the sort of cymbal sound going on in the first video.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bouldersoundguy View Post
    It's an eq filter that affects everything above a specified frequency.
    So like a high pass filter?

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    The difference between those two is a properly miked kit in the first, and control over the levels, and the second, re-inforced by the snare sound towards the end, is an on camera mic with AGC.

    Remember the old test to see how your system is prone to distortion on the HF end is the keys test. Jangling your keys produces excess HF that gets past the level meters and messes up auto gain. I'm guessing that the cymbals are generating lots of sizzle at the top end, but it is being squashed and clipped. It's not like ordinary distortion which you hear as 'fuzzy', but the overtones getting distorted but leaving the fundamentals pretty untouched. Have you tried setting the gains to where the meters suggest, then back off quite a bit, and recording that? I've just had this happen to me - not cymbals but with a very old and large tambourine. Nothing but green lights on the interface, but I couldn't eq it to sound nice AKG 414 mic about a foot away. The meters in Cubase looked fine too - maximum indicated was -4.2dB turning the input gain back a quarter turn sounded so much better.

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    Cymbal thickness and mic type and placement and the room/kit placement are the keys to good cymbal sounds. The thinner, faster crashes tend to be easier to record for me. Since cymbals have so much high frequency content the sound is going to bounce off of anything hard and start comb filtering(changes the tone essentially) so placement of everything is pretty important to controlling what get's to "tape". First thing get your headphones on and monitor what the mic is picking up . I suggest standing with the mic in one hand and stick in the other and just move the mic around until you get the closest to your ideal. Then you can put it back on the mic stand and place it where you found best. Keep in mind that you can change the tone and decay some by cymbal to floor angle, parallel to the floor is usually the loudest and slowest decay but experiment. Finally , if it sounds as you want it in the room with someone else playing or from where you are sitting then mic type and placement are the first places to look. Put a condenser above your head when playing and see what that picks up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1Drumz View Post
    So like a high pass filter?
    No. A high pass filter takes away everything below a certain frequency. A high shelf boosts or cuts everything above a certain frequency. It's what a treble control does.

    On a parametric EQ, you will have a high shelf, a low shelf and one or two sweepable midrange controls. If you are lucky, the high and low shelf will have a frequency control to set the corner frequency.

    The difference between what you hear on CDs vs. the natural sound is just EQ. A lot of times, the lower mids are attenuated and the upper frequencies are boosted to get them to sparkle.
    Jay Walsh
    Farview Recording. I am also the forum spokesmodel for Terasyne Amplification

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