Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

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Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Ray Thomas »

A general question about OH mic selection for the Glyn Johns method. I have the kick (D112) and snare (SM57) sorted, but wondering about OH choices.

The majority mentioned commonly seem to be either LD condensors (occasionally SD like Line Audio CM3 or CM4) or ribbons….and these are also mentioned in countless articles and YouTube videos, and also by Johns himself.

However I’m curious as to why dynamic mics aren’t mentioned (in fact are studiously avoided) in this regard.

Is it due to their typical HF rolloff (but classic ribbons do this too), a lowered sensitivity compared with condensors (again, passive ribbons have similarly low output)…or their typically shorter ‘reach’ (which is an asset on a live stage, to avoid monitor feedback) …or some other factor ?

For example, I’ve never heard of a pair of SM57’s being recommended for GJ OH’s (ok, not a good choice in terms of flat response, but very available to most folks !)

There’s a relatively rare class of omnidirectional dynamics still made by EV: the 635A and a few others. These are lacking in proximity effect and tend to have reduced bass below 200Hz. Could these be contenders ?

So I guess my query is two-fold: (1) what performance characteristics generally make for a good Glyn Johns method OH mic….and (2) what is it about dynamic mics as a family (cardioid or omni) that has always seen them bypassed or avoided by users of this drum miking method ?
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

Ideally you want a mic with a smooth and extended HF response which, back in GJ's day, was most easily achieved with a high-quality capacitor mic.

Or where a gentle roll-off and creamier sound was desired, a typical ribbon might fit the bill.

But what you really don't want is a mic with a strong presence peak and/or a lumpy HF response, because that will colour the cymbal sound in an unpleasant way.

Most moving-coil dynamics — especially vintage ones — tend to be quite peaky through the upper mid and low HF, and then drop off very steeply (much faster than a good ribbon). There are exceptions, of course (the AKG D224e comes to mind), but once someone famous puts 4038s or C414s as overheads, everyone else does too! :lol:
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Ray Thomas »

Thanks Hugh, that makes much sense !

As a general principle therefore I’m guessing the 2 ‘overhead’ mics in a Glyn Johns array would best not have any particular ‘voicing’ of their inherent character….in the way that a kick mic or a harmonica mic or some vocal mics do ?

Better to aim for a flatter, more neutral character, without peakiness, lest they would tend to make cymbals overly bright ?

In terms of pickup patterns, would you similarly suggest avoidance of supercardioid …in favour of cardioid or wide-cardioid ?

How would a pressure omni fare….it would pick up a lower bass component, emphasizing kick depth, would be good at capturing the spatial width panorama of the entire kit….but possibly be hobbled in capturing too many room reflections into the bargain ?

Could you please comment on the above parameter: the pros and cons of cardioid/wide-cardioid vs omni, for GJohns overheads ?

In looking at the current EV dynamic mic range, there is no mic which matches the flat and extended response character of this (now long discontinued) EV model: https://www.coutant.org/re55/index.html

To finally posit a cheaper, current and well known example (assuming it could handle the SPL levels, which is questionable, and assuming the relatively high inherent self-noise could be ignored….a safe bet with drumkit)…how might the very flat, extended response of the Behringer ECM-8000 omni fare… as a Glyn Johns OH pair ?
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

You're obviously aware of the pros and cons of different polar patterns. Why not give it a go and see what you think? The best way to learn is to try it.
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Wonks »

Note that those ECM-8000s are very variable in quality. Some are almost flat response but most have a lot of dips and bumps. Certainly you couldn’t rely on two of them having a similar response without testing.

It’s old, so things may have changed in the meantime, but this website shows graphs from 85 different ECM-8000s.

https://www.cross-spectrum.com/weblog/2009/07/
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by MarkOne »

I bet a pair of Aston Elements would make an excellent overhead solution.
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by resistorman »

I use Blue Encore 100 dynamics for overheads on outdoor stages. They have a neutral response, take EQ well and are very well behaved in all sorts of unfriendly conditions. In the studio I generally use a Royer SF12 for overheads, but I bet the Blues would give a good accounting of themselves.
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Ray Thomas »

It’s a puzzle that nobody has tried it…or at least not to come back with either a positive endorsement nor a grave caveat to avoid the use of dynamics in this context ?

I wonder if it’s simply down to habit….that dynamics are usually deployed in close miking situations only, and are perceived to lack the reach or area coverage to stretch across a full drumkit adequately ? The wobbly response of most directional dynamics (as Hugh mentioned earlier) would also come into play as a non-incentive !

The exception to this ‘rule’ would be the use of ribbons (which tend to have similarly restricted reach) as room mics for drums….although even here it’s arguable that condensors are the go-to room mic ?
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Wonks »

I’m sure people have tried it, but they tend to write about their successful recording methods rather than those that failed or didn’t sound quite as good.

Also don’t forget about historical context and precedent and people’s tendency to continue to use what worked.

In the early days of multitracking, the drums almost aways got printed to tape first, then ended up bounced to tape several times before the final mix was done. As a result the initial sound needed to be bright to counter the loss of high-end that occurred with every tape bounce (as well as som treble boosting). Plus it’s very likely that there would be compression printed to the drum tracks, again loosing a bit of treble. The reduced upper frequency content of a dynamic mic compared to a capacitor mic must have worked against their employment as overheads in this instance.

So capacitor mics (if available) became the weapon of choice for overheads, which is where historical precedent and the tendency to do what you did before steps in.

With today’s DAWs, unlimited track count and no frequency loss on bouncing down, the necessity for capturing a very bright sound at source has gone. Neodymium magnet dynamics have a wider frequency range than the traditional ferrite magnet dynamics, so as long as those with a very strong presence boost are avoided, there’s no reason not to at least try some out.
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Re: Glyn Johns drum method and dynamic mics as OH’s ?

Post by Ray Thomas »

Thanks Wonks, that’s some very solid historical context behind the choices of mic types. Of course before the dynamic and condensor mics the RCA and other ribbon mics were ubiquitous, for both PA application and recording purposes…and we’re now seeing a resurgence in their popularity, not least for drum miking….as well as brass, guitar amps and other loud sources. The cyclical nature of history eh !
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