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Sound Advice

Using Ribbon Mics for Percussion

By John JenningsJJennings

While at Revolution Recording in Toronto for an event organized by HHB Communications Canada, Royer Labs Co-Owner John Jennings spoke to Professional Sound about recording situations where some wouldn’t consider using a ribbon microphone but it might be a good solution. Here is such an example…

There are some applications that people just don’t really consider putting a ribbon microphone on but where they excel. For example, tonight, one of the percussion players, who’s excellent, kind of flipped out that we were putting a ribbon microphone on him. We put both condensers and ribbons on him and he said, “You can use a ribbon on this?”

Ribbons are a really natural microphone choice for percussion because a lot of percussion instruments have very sharp transient response and a lot of condensers do what they call “overshoot,” where the transient response is actually stronger than what they player is giving you. So you record some great congas or bongos and you end up having transients that are too sharp. You have to compress it, you have to sort of cut the top off, or EQ it, or carve into the track a little bit to tame those transients.

With a ribbon microphone, it responds to the transients very naturally so you get a really balanced performance. You can’t make a ribbon mic overshoot, so you get a balanced performance and they sound wonderful on percussion. We had cowbells and cymbals and djembes and congas and all sorts of things going tonight and ribbons were all over this stuff and it sounded wonderful.

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