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How to Fix Flat-Sounding Overheads

Dec 25, 2019

Drum overheads are sometimes recorded poorly and lack the excitement, energy and brightness needed to drive the mix forward. We offer 4 tips on how to remedy this issue.

How to Fix Flat-Sounding Overheads

“Flat” sounding overhead recordings, or OHs that sound “dull,” are easy to fix with the right processing techniques. We’ll look at how you can create exuberant overheads for your mix using transient shapers, EQ, reverb, and saturation.

1. Increase Attack with a Transient Shaper

A transient shaper allows you to control dynamics in a way that doesn’t rely on a threshold level, as opposed to compressors. This makes transient shapers, like Smack Attack, perfect for sculpting the attack and sustain of dynamic overhead recordings.

Overhead mics are usually positioned further away from their sound source than other drum kit mics. If the overhead mics used weren’t able to pick up the detail required to produce a dynamic recording, try increasing the attack level on Smack Attack; the result will be overheads that sound lively and exciting.

2. Add Top-End Clarity With EQ

The overheads are often the only mics that capture a drum kit’s cymbals. If your cymbals sound dark, this can cause the overall drum tone to feel “dull.” Try boosting the top-end of your overheads using an EQ, like the PuigTec EQs, so that they become a little more exciting and don’t get lost within your mix; they’re meant to dominate the upper-frequency range in a pleasing manner and add energy to the song. Experiment with high-end boosts at different frequencies on the PuigTec to see which one best suits the source material and overall mix.

3. Use a Bright-Sounding Reverb

It’s quite common to send all your drums to the same reverb, but applying a separate reverb to a finicky set of overheads may be what’s required to prevent them from sounding “flat.” Abbey Road Reverb Plates has a shimmery personality and allows you to filter its output signal; this helps separate the reverb from the input signal. Send a small amount of your overheads to an aux track with this reverb, and apply a high-pass filter around 300 Hz and a low-pass filter around 3,000 Hz for a sustain that sounds bright and shiny on your OHs.

4. Control Harshness with Saturation

Some of the processing techniques discussed may have made your overheads sound more lively but could also have introduced some top-end harshness. You can control harshness using a saturator like J37 Tape. Saturation will distort problematic harsh frequencies, and essentially mask them. It will also apply compression to your audio signal which can help tame resonance. Turn up the input level on the J37 until you’ve dealt with the harshness that’s present in your overheads.

Want more quick mix fixes? Get tips on fixing boxy vocals here.

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