The Mono Overhead

When you use lots of microphones in your sessions, it can become very difficult to make all the sounds work together during mixing. Many times, the most simplest way of recording a source can be the most forgiving and often give the best results. Drums are no exception, but most see a simple mono recording as extremely bland.

mono overhead snare drumEnter the “Fletcher-Munson Effect”. This is a real pain in the butt trick that your ears pull on you every time a sound changes volume. If you take out all the close microphones of a drum recording and just listen to a mono overhead, you are for certain that it was better before. We have to tone down our ears a bit and listen to the simple sounds of recording…the subtleties of sound.

mono overhead 414

Learning to Hear the Balance

It is in the mono overhead that the rest of drum recording build upon. We need to learn to listen to just a single microphone and appreciate how and why it is capturing the elements of the kit.

Is the snare drum louder than the hi tom? Is the hi hat too loud? Is there a crash cymbal that’s louder than other elements in the kit? Does the kick have a good fullness and attack, given the fact that this is just an overhead microphone? These are the questions that we have to ask ourselves when learning how to listen. We will discuss how to add in the other microphones in other articles…trust me.

This episode is all about learning to listen and simplifying. I’ve created the short video above to demonstrate some of the basic ideas behind this. As we add in microphones, they will (for better or for worse) alter the sound and overtones of the drums.

Most of the time if this change isn’t something that your intimately aware of, or if you don’t know how to manage it later down the line during mixing, then it will lead to problems. What kind of problems? Strange EQing. Problems making a mix sound right in your car. Those types of problems. So the more we can get “right” during the recording stage, the less we will have to do in the mixing stage.


Hello, my name is Ryan Earnhardt. I am a personal mentor to audio engineers, and a debt free studio owner, Lumen Audio, located in the mountains around Asheville NC.

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