Drum Mixing Tutorial

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We know a lot of you cats mix and produce your tunes yourselves. That’s why we decided to share with you a nifty little tutorial for mixing your drums, written by Fragm3nt. Now, remember, this is but one way of doing it. Some people might not like using a lot of EQ, or saturation, and the frequencies mentioned might be different for you, depending on how your drums are tuned, but – it’s a good reference point. Now, if anybody has any different advice, don’t just silently curse us under your breath. Send it our way. Help us share the love.

DRUMS

Have your kick and snare hitting at about the same level. Kick: boost at about 80,cut at 500,tiny boost at about 3khz (all these with eq obviously). now with each of the following plugins, you try and get some more db out.It is a step by step process and you will get much better results by minor tweaks rather than drastical ones. Feel free to experiment with the chain order -transient shaper -compression -eq -harmonic exciter -saturation –limiter (careful on the gain reduction, trust your ears). Make sure you do not sacrifice the transients for overal loudness. Your kick and snare should be cutting through the mix and that is based on clean transients. So sometimes you might wanna cut the first 30 milliseconds of the drum hit and have it on a separate channel where you keep processing minimal, and then on the other channel have the tail where you can process it heavilly to get the rims out of it.

Snare: when you look at a snare through a spectrum what you wanna see is a dominating huge transient at about 180-200 hz and a hole in the midle so it doesnt interfere with the mids. Boost at 180-200 hz, and cut at about 3 and 8 k. Also, lowcut at about 80-100hz(remove unecessary low end trash-from everything besides sub!) -compress -saturation -transient shaper -harmonic exciter -limiter reverb (through sends and returns, avoid adding a reverb straight to the channel as you’re destroying the dry signal.

Everything else: hihats,cymbals etc,make sure you highpass them quite aggressively,at about 3-5 kHz.Also,i would suggest you sidechain everything to the kick and the snare/vary it, cause it helps adding syncopation plus at this stage winning you a tiny bit more headroom, as you want your kick and snare the loudest things in the mix and when they hit, everything else should be ducking. Your master channel can never exceed 0 db. So when the kick or snare hit for example, because they are that dominant, but having other things above them without ducking will make the sounds fight for headroom, but since you cannot exceed 0 db you end up loosing some of the sounds or they get muddy, in general your mix sucks! This is where the art/nerdiness are coming into production, by controlling the peaks, making the loudest mix possible. Research ”Frequency specific sidechain” for this. Everyone can make a nice sounding mix, few can make it sounding LOUD!

After you have your main drum elements, make sure you send them all to a buss (in ableton, group tracks, in other daws theyre called auxiliary channels). You name this bus DRUM BUSS and the first thing this helps with is that if you wanna alter the drums volume, you affect them all at the same time, rather than having to do each layer! (Sometimes my drum channels are like 18 and stuff, depends how complex of a beat you wanna make).

What the buss realy helps with, though, is glueing the sounds all together and win the final extra dbs! So in the buss you add a compressor (pref a nice buss compressor, cytomic the glue is the standard atm.) make sure you are gentle with the settings, dont exceed -4ish db of makeup gain. Also,a really nice pluggin to use on the drum bus is called oxford inflator. Make sure you also parallel compress the buss. Google parallel compression if you dont know how to do it.

Further on the buss, add a stereo imager (i recommend Isotope Ozone 5 or a plugin like stereo placer) on the stereo imager make sure you send everything aove 6-7 k really wide and mono everything below 250-300ish. This helps at making your beat really wide and gives you the feeling of fullness.

Now if you really wanna take your beat to the next level, experiment with overheads processing. Either straight from a VST like Kontakt, adictive/supperior drummer etc. or by simulating the overheads on a send channel. Don‘t be afraid to process them heavily but if you do that make sure you‘re only sending the kick and the snare because cymbals can generate some pretty nasty frequencies here at about 8kHz. For more club oriented tunes, sidechain the overhead signal to the original signal, so that the transients are cutting through the mix nicely by themselves, not cluttered by anything else. Very fast attack on the compressor here.

Getting the drums right in my opinion is the most complex thing to nail down but once you have them down nicely, you got half the tune ready, anything you add on top sounds instantly dope! EXPERIMENT a lot and watch loads of tutorials.

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