Creating the Best Cymbal Sound - dummies

By Jeff Strong

You want to know one secret to the huge drum sound of Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham? Finesse. He understood that the drums sound louder and bigger in a mix if the cymbals are quieter in comparison.

So he played his cymbals softly and hit the drums pretty hard. This allowed the engineer to raise the levels of the drums without having the cymbals drown everything else out. Absolutely brilliant.

Because having the drums bleed into the overhead mics is inevitable and the overhead mics are responsible for providing much of the drums’ presence in a mix, playing the cymbals softly allows you to get more of the drums in these mics. This helps the drums sound bigger.

Ask (no, demand) that your drummer play the cymbals quieter. Also, use smaller cymbals with a fast attack and a short decay. Doing these things creates a better balance between the drums and cymbals and makes the drums stand out more in comparison.

Small-diaphragm condenser mics capture the cymbals’ high frequencies well, though many digital recordists like the way a ribbon mic mellows the cymbals. You can mic the cymbals by placing mics 12 to 18 inches above each cymbal or by using overhead mics set 1 to 3 feet above the cymbals.