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Feel Drummings: Mixing Drums that Match & Knock
Once you’ve picked the best drum sounds you can, chances are you will still need to adjust to make it sound like these drums from different sets not only knock but are a part of the same set. Manipulating EQ and Group Dynamics will help you create this illusion.
Equalization: Space & Knock
EQ is the quickest way to get your drums to knock but will also allow you to put the drums in a similar space. The idea is that a snare and hat recorded in the same room will have a similar amount of high frequencies, so you want to adjust the high and low frequencies on each drum to put them in a similar “room.” Here’s an abbreviated frequency overview for drums that will give you some areas to start exploring:
20-10k is where you will find that sexy shimmer on hats and cymbals.
10-5k is where you’ll find the sound’s presence, meaning how close it seems to you. More importantly how close it is to other drums.
2.5k – 900Hz is where you will find the attack or “thack” sound in your snare and especially kick drum. This frequency range will allow your kick to be heard on small speakers like on laptops.
500-400Hz is a range you can adjust to change how fat or thin the sound seems.
200-100Hz is where you will find the knock of your kick especially. Start at 125Hz.
80-40Hz is where your low end comes through. This is the “Thud” sound in your kick.
Now lets get to the knock. When I think of knocking drums I think about the kick and the snare or clap. Lets start with the kick. I adjust three areas on the kick when needed. The “thack,” “knock,” and “thud.” It’s really easy to fall into the trap of continually adding bass to get the kick to cut through the mix but the problem usually lies in the knock or thud. Play with it until it feels right to you. If you want to get surgical use EQ to put each frequency range on a separate track and compress each one differently. Mike Chav put me onto this technique. He mixed Jay Electronica’s Exhibit C. He goes into more detail about this here:
With the snare and clap I won’t lie, I usually only adjust the presence at 5k and body around 125Hz. I adjust the presence to make sure its bright enough to interact with the hi hat and the body to maintain it’s relationship with the kick drum. More on that below in Group Dynamics. Individual drum compression is a good way to get your snare and clap to snap the way you want but be careful. A lot of the sampled drums we use have been compressed a lot and the last thing they need is more compression. But keep in mind there are no rules. If it sounds good you win.
Group Dynamics: Relating & Pump
Drums played by a drummer have an interaction or relationship that carries emotion. If your drums don’t relate to each other they will sound off. Compressing the drum set together (Group Dynamics) will help create the illusion that these drums “go together.” I do this two ways. To establish a general relationship within the set I route the output of all the drums to an aux or bus track. Lets say Bus 5 for example. I set up a bus compressor on Bus 5 that will kind of glue the drums together. 2:1 ratio with 2-4db of reduction. I’m not looking to create a huge effect with this, just a feeling. From there the drums go to the master fader. Most compressors can be used as a bus compressor its really just a title based on its use.
I use another compression method to create a pumping effect to make the drums breathe like an old break. Set up a send on each drum track, to lets say Bus 6. On Bus 6 you can set up a compressor or limiter of your choice and smash the crap out of the drums. Adjust the release until you hear the compressor release or pump in rhythm with the kick and snare. Bring this fader all the way down and then slowly add it into the mix until you hear it without affecting the knock of Bus 5. Adjust to taste, have fun with it!
Here’s some more information on advanced compression techniques:
With Hip Hop and Rap drums have always been the most important part. Now that stretches to Pop, Rock and even some Country. I am always hearing of new techniques to use on drums so plan on hearing more from me in the future on my blog: http://audiblemention.blogspot.com/
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