Purposeful Haze: Re-Create ‘60s Drum Sounds

Mike Setup

On early Beatles hits, for example, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the configuration was limited to two microphones: an overhead and a bass drum mike. Still in production, we used a Coles STC 4038 (formerly the STC 4038) in the overhead position. Start by aiming between the snare and kick. For the kick mike, an STC 4033 ribbon was an early option, but using a fragile ribbon near a kick drum, however softly played, didn’t last long. Soon, the AKG D20 took over. Those can still be found, but often command a premium on the used market. For our example, we chose its descendent, the AKD D112, for kick mike placement.

Place the AKG close to the front head, within 2”–3”. There is a secret “third mike” in this setup. It’s a room mike set in the distance. I suggest a tape measure. Measure the distance from the overhead to the snare/kick. Now, place the room mike any multiple of 3’ from that. For example, if the overhead is 3’ above the kick/snare, place the room mike 9’, 12’, or 18’ from the snare. It won’t be a perfect alignment, but this will reduce phase cancellation. Assuming you don’t have a long-body Neumann U 47, use any quality large-diaphragm condenser in omni and you’ll be fine.

Drum Sounds Of The 60s

Fig. 3 The RS127 Rack is similar to the 127 Box, but without the transformer-induced harmonics found in the smaller version.

Mix-Down Techniques

Mix-down is relatively simple as you only have two mikes. Blend them, with more focus on the overhead mike. After you get a nice balance with these two mikes start to bring the room mike up. Resist the urge to add too much room mike, as this should be providing bleed, not full support.

If you want to go the extra distance, mix these with no EQ, or use only the Abbey Road Plugins Brilliance Pack (FIGS. 2–4) Next, using a real tape machine, or something like the Universal Audio Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder (FIG. 5), bounce the entire mix to one track. (The Beatles used different models, but this plugin will work). Set the tape speed to 7.5” per second, and the tape type to 250. Next, process the same track with the same settings a second time. (You heard me — do it twice.) Now you have the bounced-down sound the engineers would have had during mix time. If things go well, you should notice a loss of snare definition. Ringo often did snare overdubs at this point because the bouncing obscured the snare. Have the drummer replay the part, and feather it beneath the mix, keeping it about 12dB below the main feel. The idea is to get just a little more snare.

Drum Sounds Of The 60s

Fig. 4 The RS135 (aka the 8k box) will boost 8kHz up to 10dB. This was very useful for bringing back top end from ribbon mikes or lost from track bouncing.

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