The Polar Pattern of Cymbals

Just like a microphone, cymbals also have a null. They have a large null at the top (pointing at the ceiling), and a very narrow null at the edge (pointing at the drummers chest). You can use the top null as a tone shaping tool and it can be really helpful. If I want to hear less of the cymbal ring, I can arrange my overhead directly over my crash cymbals to help mellow them out.

If I need more shimmer out of the cymbals, then I can move them back toward the drummers head and away from direct top of the cymbals. For rides, placing a microphone in the area that is right over the bell gives you very little sustain, and quite a lot of stick attack, which is great for a thin ride that you still want to hear the attack of the ride in a dense mix. See the video to hear how this effects the color and tone.

The edge of the cymbal is the dangerous null. This null is so narrow that you don’t hear the sound of the cymbal go away unless you stoop down so that the cymbal is pointed right at your ear. You’ll noticed that the sound just vanishes.

This null isn’t too much of a problem except in the Glyn Johns Method. The side microphone is often lower than usual and this puts the mike right in the dangerous area where the null will swing into the mike. So as the cymbal rocks on the cymbal stand, this side mike will hear the cymbal come in and out. Pan this with the overhead microphone and you end up having a cymbal jump across from one side to the other.

A cool effect, but make sure that you really want this. There’s no fixing this effect later on.

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