Who Is Glyn Johns?
Glyn Johns is a rock and roll producer and sound engineer who has worked with many famous artists on brilliant albums. Most notable for me are: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Steve Miller Band,The Beatles ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Abbey Road’, Led Zepplin’s self titled 1969 album and The Who’s ‘Who Are You’.
Why Glyn Johns?
As part of the studies on the Music Technology course I take at Coventry University, I was given a group project to work on. In a group of three our assignment was to record and mix a track of our choosing and emulate the techniques of a chosen producer. The producer we chose was James Ford, probably known best for his work with the Arctic Monkeys on all their albums post ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. In a Sound On Sound article from 2011 James Ford claims his drum recording style for the Arctic Monkeys’ album Suck It And See was heavily influenced by Glyn Johns’ ‘pared down approach to drum miking’, and so we set about researching this technique.
The Drum Recording Standard-
The focal point in Glyn Johns’ drum miking technique is the positioning of the Overhead microphones. The standard position that most producers/recording engineers adopt is to place two ‘Overhead’ microphones at the same height looking down over the drum kit. One looking at the left side of the kit and the other to the right. When these two audio channels are panned left and right in the mix they create a stereo image of the drum kit.
The Glyn Johns’ Technique-
What Glyn Johns discovered (apparently by accident after leaving out a microphone from an acoustic guitar overdub) was that a great position for one of the overheads is at the side of the drum kit, looking in at the drums, instead of above. With one overhead above the drum kit looking down, and the other looking in from the side over the floor tom at the snare drum, it produced a very spacious and open drum sound. With these two microphones panned left and right it creates a very wide stereo image. This technique works best with two large diaphragm microphones, and for the recordings we made we used two AKG C414s.
Below is a Youtube video with Glyn Johns demonstrating his famous technique in a studio.
In the video he is asked ‘do you ever measure the distance between microphones?’ and he replies ‘no…. it’s bullsh*t’. However, he does say that the mikes need to be roughly equidistant, and this is very important. Mainly to prevent phasing, but also to make sure the snare drum sits in the centre of the mix. An easy way to check this is by taking a spare microphone cable, and whilst holding one end down on the top snare skin and pulling the cable up taught to the first mike you can then check the length of the cable reaches the second mike, ensuring they are roughly the same distance.
Here is a small sample on Soundcloud from the recordings we made. This audio is completely unaltered. With no EQ, Compression or FX of any kind added.