Drums are a fundamental part of a song. They are important for punch, rhythm, and they even fill out a lot of the frequency spectrum. Your drums should sit perfectly in your mix. Today I'll show you how to mix your drums!
Table of Contents:
3. Noise Gate
1 - Balance
The first step you should take is balancing. Balance your kick, snare, percussion, cymbals, and all other drum sounds you have. And while you're already into balancing, balance your drums with the other instruments that are present in your song.
Don't play solo instruments or drums during this process. It's important to listen in context to achieve the best results. Usually, your kick and snare are the main elements since they add a punchy and rhythmic touch to your song. These should be the loudest elements. After them, bring in toms, percussion, and cymbals.
If you feel uncomfortable with balancing different elements in your mix, you can use a reference track to give yourself a little guideline.
2 - EQ
If you feel like some drums could get a little more punch or crisp in certain areas, you can use an equalizer.
Here are some guidelines for EQing drums:
<50Hz: Unwanted Sub Frequencies
80-200Hz: Punch Area
200-450Hz: often muddy frequencies/boxiness
2.5-4.5kHz: Hard Slap
20-150Hz: unwanted Low Frequencies
500-800Hz: Boxy sounding Area
<80Hz: unwanted Low Frequencies
100-300Hz: Body Area
<900Hz: unwanted Low Frequencies
3,5-4,5kHz: Body/Click Area
3 - Noise Gate
If you record your own drums, a noise gate is highly recommended.
Get yourself a noise gate plugin and choose the threshold so that the gate is closed when the drum isn't playing.
This will remove sounds from the background you don't want to hear.
Be careful with those noise gates since they often make your drums sound less quality. Try to do a clean recording so you don't have to remove that much noise in the processing part.
4 - Drum Compression
Compressing drums will help you to control the dynamics of the drums, enhance the punch, and overall to glue all elements together.
If you want to learn how to use compression you can click HERE!
But if you want to learn how to compress your drums, you're at the right spot!
Let's talk about the kick first. Before applying compression, think about what you want to achieve with it. Do you want a more punchy kick? Or a thicker and more heavy kick? It doesn't matter what you've chosen. If you decide on a more heavy kick, use a fast attack time. If you're looking for more punch, go for a slower or medium attack time.
Do you know what's the best thing? If you want to compress your snare, you can apply the same rules as for the kick. Fast attack time = thicker snare. Slow/Medium attack time = more punchy snare.
5 - Drum Bus Processing
For the last step, let's talk about drum bus compression.
Drum bus processing will give your drums that extra 10% of perfection.
First, make sure you send all your drums to a drum bus if you haven't done that already. All effects you put on this drum bus will affect all your drums. So in this step, we try to add color and the final touch to our drums.
I personally like to use an analog-modeled EQ since they add a special touch to a sound. I like to make the lows a bit warmer and the highs crisper.
After that, I usually do some bus compression. This will glue the whole drum kit together for a more tight punch.
For some more crispiness I like to add a slight amount of saturation.
While bus drum processing, make sure you always check if the change you made has a positive impact on the drum kit. You can create a negative effect fast so don't overdo things!
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