Creating Absent Mics

Sometimes, when mixing other people’s recordings I find something seems to be missing in the sound. This can be due to several things; a lack of time, lack of equipment, inexperience, etc., but as a producer it's my job to make sure that I return the music in the best possible state, to bring the artist's vision to life.

With that in mind, this week I want to talk about creating common microphone placements that can often be missing from fledgling band arrangements, and help bolster your knowledge to enable you to add these tricks to your routine production toolkit.

Let's dive in!

Snare Bottom Mic

This is a very common missing microphone, especially when working with new producers or as we're currently in the midst of a pandemic, those who may be less experienced with setting up microphones to record a full drum kit.

A few years ago, I found an incredible plugin that takes the signal of your main snare track and recreates the sound of a bottom snare mic that picks up the rasp and snap commonly associated with a snare drum. This can be especially helpful when a snare track is lacking top end, or the cymbals are too prominent in the snare track - especially if you try boosting the top end and they start poking through the drum gate, or this creates miss triggers in drum sample replacement.

Snare Buzz from Wavesfactory was a blessing in one particular case when I first found it. I had received the same type of files described above, with several issues across the board but they wanted minimal drum replacement and liked the sound of their kit. In this case, it can be difficult to explain to an artist the 'need' for sample replacement if they're totally set on 'that’ performance; but I saw this as an opportunity to broaden my skills and overcome a problem I could foresee happening again.

The main issue was the snare in the end and I couldn't boost the top end and bring out the crack without having the cymbals poking through in the center image which was extremely unpleasant to listen back to.

Snare Buzz was able to recreate the bottom mic for me using psycho-acoustic design, and thus, allowed me to utilize this 'recreated’ microphone to bring out the lacking upper midrange I desperately wanted!

Lacking Low End from a Kick

In the case of this mix, there were issues across the board, but the Kick drum was another that was a big problem. The inside mic was well isolated, and there was a nice beater sound but the kick was only 20x16 and the outside mic had been placed too far away from the kick to really establish any low end body and thump that I particularly associate with a good sounding kick drum.

I added another WavesFactory Plugin, this time SK10 which recreates a subkick speaker microphone commonly found in studios around the world.

This mic was first created using an NS10 speaker with the wires inverted to pick up sound rather than expel it like a normal speaker would. Its design as a speaker cone allows it to capture primarily majoritively sub low frequencies rather than the even range expected from a typical microphone, which makes it a perfect fit for a kick drum.

The SK10 was exactly what was needed to beef up the subharmonic content of that mix and is a handy tool on any mix, to help reinforce the sub low content, even when the kit has been recorded well..

An Absent Room

Sometimes, time or space dictates our sessions and this can limit options when recording.

In the case of rooms, this can be a lack of time to find the best place and Rooms become unpleasant, or the room is too small to warrant room mics, or maybe you just don't have enough microphones in the first place!

In any case, it's a simple problem to overcome and one that I first became aware of when watching Henrick Udd mix Architects song, Gone With The Wind via Nail The Mix (a brilliant educational platform if you want to learn even more about mixing!).

He has a small compact room where I close mic'd the kit and added a room afterwards to create the ambience of the kit as if it were in a room. Valhalla Room is a great way to go about this, and has been a common plugin for me to reach for when wanting to recreate any sort of room or hall.

More recently, however, I've been reaching for less algorithmic reverb plugins, and more towards convolution reverb as it seems much more pleasant in the mix, and a much truer reclamation of an actual room sound.

Waves Plugins (not to be confused with Waves Factory!) have a brilliant and tried and tested convolution reverb plugin called IR-L, used across countless records. However a more recent addition to my reverb plugins family has been the Liquidsonics Seventh Heaven Professional plugin which is to my ears, the truest recreation of the highly sought after Bricasti Reverb hardware unit loved by engineers across the globe. For me, Seventh Heaven goes above and beyond what 'çonventional’ convolution reverb plugins have been able to do, until now.

To create a room mic, I usually duplicate my overhead track and send some of the shells in a small dose to simulate more of the body sound you'd get from a set of room mics. I dial in the reverb to preference, set the mix to 100%, then mix in to taste. Adding a low and high pass filter to tailor some of the sub low frequencies and tame the wash of the cymbals can be extremely helpful. Lastly, compress to taste and enjoy the new found energy added to your drum mix!