Resources for the Recording Musician
September 2, 2008

Glyn Johns Drum Method

Greetings Wise One:

Have you ever used the Glyn John's method of recording drums?  I've been trying to use it.  It seems simple but there seems to be real problems with phase coherence, in particular if you are recording in a small space.

IF you have ver used it, does one place one overhead directly over the snare or is it over the spot where the bass beater meets the bass drum?  I suppose that's splitting hairs a bit.  But if you have any tips I'd appreciate it.  This technique has a really nice sound.


Nope, I've never used that exact method.  I usually set up microphones on the whole kit (e.g., kick, snare, one for each tom, two overheads, hi-hat, and one or two room microphones).  Most of the stuff I do is rock/pop where they are going for that modern sound, which usually requires close microphones on all the drums.

Most of the time, though, the bulk of my drum sound comes from the kick, snare, and overhead microphones.  I very rarely ever need to turn on the hi-hat track when I mix, and I'll usually keep the tom tracks low, or even gated (or digitally edited), and just bring them up when I need some extra punch on drum fills.  Depending on the room and the song, I may or may not use the room microphones.

I've played around with top and bottom microphones on the snare a few times, as well as an inside and outside kick microphone, but it can start to get messy, and is usually not needed with a great drummer with a great sounding kit that's been properly tuned for the room.

I've been fortunate enough to work with Ben Smith from Heart in my studio many times now, and it seems like I can put up microphones just about anywhere and get a decent sound.

Essentially, though, I get my main sound from 4 microphones... two overheads, kick, and snare.  I don't position the overheads like Glyn John does, though.  Haven't tried that yet.  Often I'll use a spaced pair of overhead microphones, and in my studio I have a string that I use to measure the distance from the snare drum to make sure the two overheads are in phase with each over with respect to the snare.  I have also tried using an X-Y position of the overheads basically right above the drummers head, in which case you don't have to worry about phase since they are basically in the same spot.

Getting a good drum sound is all about experimenting with what you have.  The majority of the sound comes from the drummer and the kit and the room.  Getting the kit set up properly and finding the right spot in the room for the kit is half the battle.  The other half is a great drummer who knows how to play the kit right, and can balance his own sound.  If you've got all that happening, it really isn't that hard to get a good sound recorded.

I find that if I've done my job right, the kit sounds pretty close to a finished drum sound without any EQ or compression at all.  Of course, once you get to the mixing stage, you usually end up doing compression and EQ to make everything a bit more punchy and to cut through the wall of guitars and other instruments that have been added since you cut the basic tracks.

Another member responds:  I just wanted to comment that I have always been impressed by Steve's drum sounds from his sample libraries.  I have never tried to mike live drums but have read it's very involved and difficult. With Steve's libraries, I don't think I will ever have a need to.

Thanks for the nice comment!

For those curious, here are links to the libraries I produce for Big Fish Audio:

or, you can purchase and download loop packs on one of my other sites:

At some point in the near future, I'll be putting a lot more drum loop packs up on

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