Mixing Drums – Getting your drums to sound massive !

Drums

How to get your drums to sound massive and thumping ?

The secret to a great drum sound is getting it right during the recording stage. There are a lot of factors that play an important role during the recording stage. Firstly you need a good sounding drum kit, right selection of microphones, a good sounding room and lets not forget, you need a good drummer that knows how to get the best tone out of the kit. If all this is in place you should have a fun time mixing your recorded drums.

There is no right or wrong approach to mixing drums!! Different engineers mix drums differently in accordance to the genre of music they are working with. Right now we are going to be looking at how to make your drums hit you in the chest and sound massive.

 

  •  KICK IN AND KICK OUT : Using a Kick In microphone helps you capture that attack and definition of the beater hitting the drum head. The Kick Out microphone captures the overall tone and low end(Bass Frequencies) produced by the kick drum. It will not capture as much of the beater sound as the kick in microphone. In short, the Kick In mic is for attack and the Kick Out mic is for the thump and low end. Using both the signals together can be tricky since there can be phase related issues due to sound arriving at both microphones at different times. To avoid this, flip the phase a few times and compare them and see which one is in phase. Below are some EQ tips for Kick In and Kick Out Microphones.
  • Kick In : Used to bring out the attack/snap in the Kick drum.
    – Low Cut filter(HPF) till 300Hz (Kick In is for attack only)
    – Attenuate at 500Hz to 800Hz with a wide Q to remove that boxy sound.
    – Slight boost at 2KHz depending on the mix and genre.
  • Kick Out : Used to bring out the thump or low end of the Kick drum.
    – Low Cut at 30Hz to remove unnecessary rumble that may make your mix muddy.
    – Slight cut between 300Hz to 800Hz to eliminate that cardboard/boxy sound.
    – Slight cut between 2Khz to 4Khz depending on the situation and mix.

 

  •  SNARE TOP AND SNARE BOTTOM : The Snare drum is the loudest drum in the drum kit. A good snare sound is achieved by using the right microphone for the job. The Snare top microphone is usually used to capture the body(250Hz – 350Hz) and attack(2KHz – 4KHz) of the drum. The Snare Bottom microphone captures the sound of the snares that make the snare drum sound like what it is suppose to sound. Depending on the drum kit and how the drummer plays it can also capture some serious punch. Once again mixing both these signals can be tricky due to phase cancelation caused by the time difference of the arriving sound at the microphones.
  • Snare Top : Used to bring out the body and attack of the snare drum.
    – Low cut at 150Hz to eliminate the unnecessary rumble and low end.
    – Slight boost between 250Hz – 350Hz will bring out the punch and body of the snare. (This is with respect to the tone of the snare drum and playing style of the drummer).
    – Sharp Cut(Narrow Q) between 600Hz to 900Hz to remove the honkey/pingy overtones of the snare.
    – Slight boost between 2KHz – 4KHz to add some crisp attack/snap.
  • Snare Bottom : Used to reinforce the highs of the snare.
    – Low cut at 150Hz to eliminate the rumble and low end.
    – Slight boost at 250Hz – 350Hz to add punch and character.
    – Slight cut between 6KHz – 10KHz to avoid excessive highs.

 

  •  TOMS AND FLOOR TOM : The roll of Toms in the drum kit or a song is to fill the gaps by playing rolls or fills in between groove pockets. The ideal tone of the toms is determined by the dynamics of the drummer and the tuning. Toms have a more rounded and bouncy tonality to them. Getting your toms to cut through the mix can be hard. Using an EQ and dynamic effects can be a life saver in such situations.
  • High Tom and Mid Tom : Take up the Low Mid range frequencies of the Drum kit.
    – Low cut at 120Hz helps cut the unwanted low frequency hum and sustain of the toms.
    – Slight boost between 200Hz – 300Hz adds body to the toms, but you need to careful when boosting these frequencies as too much of a boost can make the toms sound muddy and boomy.
    – Attenuating between 400Hz – 800Hz helps reduce the hollow boxy tone and makes the toms sound tight.
    – Slight boost at 2.5KHz – 4KHz adds attack which helps the toms cut through the mix.
  • Floor Tom : Takes up the Low and Low Mid range frequencies of the
    Drum kit.
    – Low cut at 50Hz to cut the unwanted low frequency sustain.
    – Slight boost between 80Hz – 125Hz to add low end body and
    punch. (If Needed)
    – Slight cut between 400Hz – 900Hz helps reduce/remove the
    hollow boxy overtones and makes the Floor tom sound tight.
    – Slight boost between 2KHz – 4KHz adds attack and snap which
    helps the Floor Tom cut through the mix.

 

  •    OVERHEADS : These microphones are used to capture the cymbals of the kit. Cymbals take up the high end(1KHz –           16KHz) frequency spectrum of the drum kit.

    – Low cut at 700Hz to cancel the unwanted low and mid range bleed of the other drums. – Slight cut at 800Hz to eliminate the clangy tone that you might not want in your cymbals. – Slight boost between 5KHz – 10KHz adds presence and air to the cymbals.

 

Following these tips and tricks while mixing your drums should help you achieve that punchy/ in your face drums that you want. Always remember that there is no right or wrong way to use an EQ. If it sound good to your ears and if its what you want, then it works.

HAPPY MIXING!! ☺

Check out this great Kick out and Overhead Microphone : WA87

Check out this Overhead Miking Technique


ABOUT THE AUTHOR : 

Prathik SN – India (Recording/Mix/FOH for BrodhaV, Last Remaining Light, Aathma , Bryden & Parth and Final Surrender)

“Being in the Recording Industry for the past 6 years has taught me how to approach the subject of sound and the physics behind it with great passion”


 

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