The Glyn Jones Method - Big Ambient Drums
Glyn Jones is a legendary Producer/ Engineer, who has worked with The Kinks, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and, Led Zeppelin amongst others. He has a unique approach to capturing sound and a unique attitude towards music. Through all his work within rock n' roll, he has remained drug-free to stay focused on his job but has always kept details about those he works with private. I can relate to that and I believe as a producer it is important to be like, a doctor or a priest to the artist, someone they can trust enough to be open with and be themselves. Glyn Jones had his own approach to recording and a unique way of thinking about sound. He is famous for developing the Glyn Jones Method for recording drums, which creates a big open drum sound with a panoramic stereo image. Since this drum sound first hit people's speakers, musicians and engineers have been keen to emulate the Glyn Jones Method.
The Glyn Jones method is a way of using the overheads in an unbalanced way in order to achieve a balanced result. With one overhead directly above the snare and one on the right side of the kit (Drummers perspective) also aimed directly at the snare. This gives you one microphone that gives you a picture of the kit as a whole and one that gives you the perspective of the kit near the ride cymbal and floor tom which is where most drum fills will end. This sounds unbalanced but then is balanced with panning which creates the feeling that the drum fill is moving across the speakers more dramatically than other overhead techniques and is usually reinforced with a mic on the kick and sometimes on the snare.
Straight from the man himself
Glyn Jones first discovered this technique by accident while recording Led Zeppelin Recordings so we decided to use this technique for our Zed Leppelin project. The same technique was also employed in our class project for the Dagwood Dogs. Through much of my own research and through putting that research into practice I’ve learnt a few things about this technique.
Me setting up the Glyn Jones Method for Zed Leppelin
First of all, you need to be very aware of phasing between the overhead mic's. The general rule of thumb is to make sure the 2 overheads are equal distance from the snare, to avoid any phasing and to then use the panning to centre the kick and snare, the prescription is usually top mic panned 50% left and the right mic positioned 100% right (or flipped if you want an audience perspective). It’s important to check the phase relationship between the two overheads in mono and stereo also because if there is any change in frequency when you switch to stereo you may be slightly out of phase.
One of the problems with this approach is it doesn’t take certain things into account. What sort of kit the drummer has and where they position parts of the kit, especially the cymbals. Often drummers will have a large ride cymbal very close to the floor tom for this technique you do want the ride cymbal clear and distinctively on that side of the stereo field, however, you do not want it to drown out your mix and underwhelm the power of the fills. it is also possible to get phasing with the other cymbals depending where they are positioned and because you are relying on using these overhead mics to reinforce your kick, snare and to carry all the weight of the fills the last thing you want is cymbals drowning everything out. This can easily be avoided, it’s just worth being aware of.
I would definitely use the Glyn Jones Method when recording a blues or vintage style rock band. I think it could also be quite effective for other genres if an ambient drum sound that still has power is the goal. If a band had a sound with a lot of room I might suggest this technique, maybe for something indie or shoegaze, it would really depend on the band and the situation.
In conclusion, the Glyn Jones Method is an extremely useful production technique that I have added to my arsenal and feel I can confidently use on many projects in the future.