Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Stereo Drum Recording Started

George Massenburg image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
We take stereo drum recording for granted these days, but you have to remember that for a great many years, the drums were always recorded in mono. The popular miking method at the time was just an overhead mic and another on the kick drum, and that was it.

But stereo drum recording came about in a most unusual way. Here's how the legendary engineer George Massenburg tells it in the interview section of The Mixing Engineer's Handbook.
"I’ve been working with Glyn Johns, and Glyn is a master of the accidental big airy drums, of course with Led Zeppelin. It’s a great story.  
I was having dinner with Glyn and Doug Sax (mastering engineer extraordinaire) one night, and he was telling us about the first Led Zeppelin record and how they set up the drums in mono. They had one 67 right over the snare, but they always needed a little bit more floor tom, so he stuck a mic at elbow level, kind of off by the floor tom, pointing into the snare.  
After he finished the track, he grabbed the mic and put it on the guitar and panned it. When he put it back on drums, he forgot to pan it back. “Oh, that sounds great. I wonder what happens if I take the overhead and pan it right?” 
And Doug and I looked at each other and said, “You got stereo drum miking by accident?” And in that case he became well known for that big airy Led Zeppelin and The Who sound. It was a different sound than what was being done in New York, which was almost all mono, or California, which was a spaced-pairs kind of thing. The earliest stereo that I knew didn’t even include stereo drums." 
Glyn's Led Zep 3 mic stereo drum method still works today. Give it a try sometime. You might really like what you hear.

For more book excerpts from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook and my other books, go to my website.

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2 comments:

VIOZ said...

Excuse my ignorance but: what is to "pan" a microphone?

Bobby Owsinski said...

To use the pan control to place the audio in the soundfield.

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