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4 Drum Mixing Techniques

Transcript
Warren: Hello, it’s Warren Huart. Hope you’re doing marvelously well.

In this episode, we’re going to have mister Glenn Fricker — Yes, the great Glenn Fricker — mixing drums with no drum samples. Mister Bob Marlette mixing with some drum samples and blending them, Ulrich Wild mixing with some drum samples and creating rock and roll hysteria, and of course, Cameron Webb doing some Punk Rock drums.

So this is going to be four different guys’ interpretation on drum mixing. So stick around and watch this. All of these guys are part of a ten song pack that we do called the ultimate Rock bundle, where basically, you can get ten different approaches on mixing rock, punk, you name it.

As ever, please subscribe, hit the notification bell, go to Produce Like a Pro, sign up for the email list, get a whole bunch of free goodies, and watch these videos, and enter to win one of three ultimate rock mixing bundles.

Bob: Here’s the original snare that was recorded with nothing on it. The only thing I put on there is a little bit of gate, just to control the ring, so I don’t have too much ring on it. That’s the snare that’s recorded without the gate.

So I’m just sort of controlling it. So this is with no EQ or anything. Then, the next zone is all about focusing the low end. Getting as much of the thump as I can out of it. Same essential process as the kick, having a gate on it, and then the EQ, making sure I get a pretty good bump at 200, because that’s kind of where most snares have a — you know, that’s kind of the bottom, and almost all snares have roughly the same frequency of bottom where you find that kind of bump of the low end, it’s going to be around 200.

This one, I’m taking out a little bit of the mids, so I can really focus the low end, so I’m subtracting a little bit at 2.5kHz, but you know, as always, it’s a per case basis. You listen to it, make a decision on what you want you snare to sound like, whether you’re being influenced by another record or whatever. That’s always a good thing to do is don’t be afraid to A/B against other records and go, “Wow, I listened to that record, every time I hear that record, I love the sound of that snare, or that whatever.”

Don’t be afraid to put up that song, put up that reference point and listen to it, and analyze what they’re doing, and go, “Okay, now how can I be influenced by that?”

Next track here is the mid. More of that crack, you know? So — and then the next one is the top. Then I have the bottom snare, which is our super bright kind of thing.

So now, when you stick them all together, you’ve got your low thump, and then you have from the snare, you’ve got kind of all of the aspects that you need. Now, generally, I derive more of the lows from the sample side.

[sample snare]

That’s the sample. So that’s a lot of the body and depth, and a little sizzle of the top, but when you listen to that, you go, “Well, that doesn’t sound anything like what the actual final snare is,” but you blend in the real snare, it just sounds like the real snare with a lot of body and depth to it.

Same principle as the kick. You get certain components from the samples, and you get certain components from the live, and it’s blending the two in together to create the perfect sound.

The toms…

[toms]

There’s the top. The top has a lot of top end. I pretty much maxed out the low end, because I need it to compete with the other sounds in the track, so it’s got to be pretty radical. Then here’s the low — the bottom mic.

The two — there, you get that nice, sort of punch to it that will cut through a track. Remember, same principle. Everything has to have enough energy, body, fatness, to be able to cut through this massive track.

So now let’s add essentially the same thing. There’s the top mic of the 16 inch floor tom. See, now you add that low, and all of a sudden, there’s that big body you were looking for. So you stick this…

Then, let’s add…

[tom samples]

There’s one set of samples. There’s the second set of samples. Those are a little bit more aggressive and bright and chopped. Stick the two together, you’ve got a combination of the body and the attack.

Add in the others…

[all toms]

And there you go. Nice tom sounds, right there.

Ulrich: The main thing to know here is that I recorded this — produced and recorded it. We started out with live drums. As we came to mixing, it became clear that we wanted to have a more processed sound than just a good, natural drum sound.

We ended up with this here drum sound. We’ll just play the whole kit for a minute.

[drums]

So we have mostly natural sounding toms and cymbals, with heavy dosage of kick and snare samples that are actually distorted and mangled in some ways. As you can see right here, we’re not even using the live kick, because well, it was just sounding boring to us at that point.

[kick]

It’s a decent sounding kick. This is the — we’re not ashamed of having recorded it. We used this one kick sample here.

[kick sample]

It’s simply just a one sample sound that I had loaded into the sampler here. Just to show you what it is, it’s the Flexer kick. It’s just one kick, one sample in the actual Logic sampler.

We doubled it up. Same sound, same MIDI region, just copied. This one, we distorted and EQ’d to give us some extra…

[distorted kick]

Use this clip distortion, which is a Logic plugin actually that worked really well in this. This one apparently, we used a UK Fuzz preset. Presets are like a cool place to get started. Sometimes, they hit the spot, sometimes, you’ve got to tweak them, sometimes, they’re just a good place to get some ideas. I like presets, as I said, to get started and kind of get in the ballpark. Often times, I tweak them.

But here, basically, we did a little EQing on this after effect. Just sucked out a bit of this muck that was created.

[kick]

Just tightened up those low mids a little bit. Some of that 500Hz. 9dB. Er, 8dB.

[kick, before and after EQ]

A little bit of compression. You know, like a two-to-one ratio. Just a couple dB of compression to just reel it in a little bit.

Buss 9 thing that I promised to talk about is actually my New York compression I call it. I have a buss, I just call it NYC. It’s right there. It’s — I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s a parallel compression thing that I talked about just a second ago, but it’s specifically — the New Yorkers take credit for it. I couldn’t tell you the history about it, I’m sure there’s people who know about this stuff in detail, and I’m not even going to get into online fights about this.

Basically, it is some serious compression that pumps with a little bit of high and low end EQ added to it. I’m not sure if there’s a rule that you need to have EQ before or after compression. In my case, I have it post compression. Basically what that is is it’s a buss full of extra oomph to glue your drum kit together.

Without it, it’s kind of sad sounding in some ways. It is a compressor. This is the Rough Rider compressor by Audio Damage. This thing is free and kicks ass.

This thing right here is the Logic EQ. You can see, we’ve got a little boost, five dB at 80, 4kHz, and a little bump down here at 8dB. I said a little, you know… Take that with a grain of salt. At about 100Hz. So that’s basically what we’ve got going on.

[drums]

So now you’re hearing just what the New York compression does. This thing. Without the EQ…

[drums, no EQ]

Just a little bit of extra. Just a little shimmer, a little extra boom. But the compression itself…

[drums, with and without compression]

Is setup to basically sound bad on its own, but the trick is to mix it in with — we’re sitting here at minus four, we’ll just solo the kick and the snare.

[drums]

Glenn: Let’s go on to our snare buss here.

So I’ve got three mics going on here. We’ve got a 57. There’s our condenser and our bottom mic.

So it’s mainly the 57 on this one. As you can hear, I’ve got a fair amount of reverb going on on the snare. So we’re just going to clean everything up here for a minute.

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[drums]

So I’m just going to mute out…

[snare]

And just take a listen, you know, to the snare mic by itself here. We’re going to take a listen here. And I’m going to take you guys through the signal chain, again. It’s not a lot of processing going on on this one as well.

[snare]

So as usual, I’ve got, you know, the Virtual Channel going on, and a little of the SSL thing going on. A lot of drive. Just want to get a little bit of crunch going on. A little bit of pre-EQ. I don’t even have any post-EQ going on here. So a little bit of 10kHz, you know, 3.2kHz, maybe just a little bit of brightness there.

A little cut at 400Hz, 416Hz there, three dBs down, and then a little boost at about 170Hz just to kind of fill in the bottom a little bit. Rolling off at 50Hz, no distortion or anything like that, so here’s on and off.

[snare, Virtual Channel on and off]

Just kind of adding a little bit of Christmas to it. Not a lot. And next up in the chain is the Slate Lift. We’ve got it set to Punchy and Silky, and this thing is great. You can just abuse the hell out of this plugin and it’s going to sound awesome. But yeah, this mic doesn’t need a lot of silk.

And again, you don’t want to overdo the punchiness as well. This is a pretty full sounding mic, and I get my snares by combining a bunch of mikes, not just one, so it’s not just one mic that works. And a little compression.

Again, slow attack, semi-fast release, no makeup gain. We’re just setting the threshold so we get about 5 dBs of compression. Four-to-one ratio. A little bit of EQ, a little bit of gentle compression. When you’ve got really clean, great signals, you don’t need a lot of processing to make it sound good.

So again, dry…

[snare, dry]

And processed.

Next up. This is my condenser. It’s got a bit of a ducky kind of sound going on. I like condensers because they’ve got a faster transient, they’ve got a little bit more attack to them. I might wind up turning this up in the mix a little bit. I don’t know, the snare’s sounding pretty good, so I might just leave it too.

We’ve got this set to the Neve on the Virtual Channel. Going to the Lift first, just a little bit of Silk. No punch. This is our bright mic, so to speak. And a little EQ. Little bit of 10kHz shelf and a boost at 6kHz just to really bring that top out. And we’re cutting at about 580Hz. Like 5dBs, wow, there’s a lot going on there.

And again, a little bit of a boost at 150Hz, and a rolloff. Let’s take that out at about 40Hz. You know, you can crunch it up a little bit with a drive knob as well.

So the EQ kind of brings up the hi-hat a little bit, but nothing to write home about because, again, Matt’s just got fantastic technique. So we can get away with a little bit of boosting and we don’t really have to gate it.

So adding a little compression here, slow attack, medium release. If we go slower and then fast… If we bring the release back to a fast release, we get a lot more hi-hat going.

[snare]

So the idea is play with the release so it kind of snaps back into place before the next hit, but enough so that it kills the hi-hat bleed a little bit. So again, with slow… Fast.

So a medium release works pretty well here. Medium-fast release works pretty well. And again, we’re going to kick on the old Revival for a little bit more zing on there. The problem is Matt really lays into the drums here, so we’ve got to leave the trimmer on so we don’t peak the hell out of the signal. I think we can keep this up a little bit.

So we’re going to blend these two mics together. Now, the big trick is here, always check your phase, because if you hear one mic cancelling each other out, you’re going to go from this to this. That’s a bad thing.

Always check your phase, you should be doing this religiously. So yeah, there’s our two mics working together, and I’m going to just show you guys what can happen here. We can play with the sounds. So we can get a brighter sound with the condenser up, or we can get a darker sound, a fatter sound with the 57 up. And if we just go solo…

So it’s got a bit of that paper thing. So we start bringing in… Bring in the condenser, and it changes the dimension of the tone a little bit. Meanwhile, it’s just this little piff, piff, piff thing going on, but it’s just enough to add a little something to that sound.

Cameron: One of the most important things I do when I start with drums, or even starting any sort of mix, is I listen to other records that I like and I respect that are in similar genres, so I kind of know where the bottom end sits, the high end, the snares, the kicks, and I reference those back and forth. In the beginning, I’ll do it a little bit in the morning moreso than I will later in the day, because I just want to make sure I’m starting off at a competitive level.

When it comes to Punk Rock, you don’t want it to sound too safe, you don’t want it to sound too trashy, because if it sounds too trashy, it doesn’t project the song as well. I don’t want to hear…

[drums]

I want to hear crack from the top, but I want to hear sizzle from the bottom, so to me, you see my levels — my normal snare is — my top snare is at zero, my bottom snare is at like, minus 15. If I had it cranked up, it wouldn’t sound as good. It would sound too…

[drums, adjusting bottom snare mic]

I’ll take the automation off. It sounds good, but it won’t blend with this whole mix when I pull it up together. So I do the same thing, I combine it to a sub, I take that sub, I get rid of some bottom end that I’m worried about, more compression, not aggressive compression. Our ratio is only at three-to-one. It’s not hitting that hard.

[drums]

Not even seeing it all hitting, because I haven’t put in the sample yet. And then, another little EQ, and that probably came — that came later on when I put it up with everything and needed a little bit more juice.

Sample. I take a sample. What sample did I use today?

[drums]

This is a sample called the Sonar Balanced Snare, and the funny thing about this snare is so many people use this snare. It’s a snare that helps add elements that sometimes I’m lacking. It puts it in there. It gives me some of that brightness, but it also has a little bit of bottom end in it, so to me, it’s a control thing that it helps me with.

So basically, in general, I’ll put those snares in with the kick drums.

[drums]

I’ll listen, and I’ll tweak, and I’ll say, “Okay, how does it sound?”

So the kick sounds pretty loud to me right now, but I really don’t know if it’s going to be loud or quiet. I just think it sounds good, so I’ll kind of just let that be, and I’ll start opening up other mics. Because once I start opening up the room mics, things start to take a little bit of a change. Things change a little bit. So…

[drums]

So once I bring in the overheads, when I’m recording drums, I tend to EQ a little bit. A little bit — like, I’ll dig frequencies out that I don’t like, I’ll add a little bit of high end if I need to, so when I’m in the mixing stage, often, I’m not doing a ton of work, because I liked what I had, so I’ve said that before, but my overheads hardly have anything. I’m basically digging out a frequency that I don’t like in that room, which is around 1kHz, because I don’t want this harsh cymbal that bites too hard. I want it to have a little smoother, sexier sort of sound when it curves in there.

So for me, I’ll start with the overheads. Bring the overheads in. I might bring the hi-hat in. Rides in. This kind of phase, I start to just bring stuff in and listen, and you look at my hi-hat, and it probably — just rolling off some bottom end. I’m using a 451, so that’s a fairly bright mic. You don’t need a lot with that mic, and I feel bad that I’m not using all of these EQs and things, I don’t need to, but if you don’t need to, why use it? If it sounds good when you put it all together, there’s no need to do it. So you don’t always need to over EQ.

Rooms, I slowly bring in the rooms.

[drums]

The cool thing about rooms is the kick and snare are fine on their own, but once you start to bring the rooms in, it brings it all alive. It brings character to things. It gives a spatial sense of things, and I like the room I have here. It’s not huge, it’s not small, it’s got good high ceilings, but it’s not an open — it’s not overly live.

So for stuff like this, it’s great, because the faster beats, you’ve got too much room, you get a lot of swelling, and pushing, and pulling, so this room is kind of fun.

[rooms]

So that’s a modern room for me. With a room like that, I’m not going to overly focus on it when I’m recording. I’m going to focus on the kicks and the snares, and then the tuning of those instruments, so if those instruments are tuned well, they’re going to sound good in the room.

That mono room, I’m not even sure where I put that in this case, but it doesn’t sound great on its own, but what it does is when you put it in there with the other instruments, it’ll add something different that I don’t have in the other kicks and snares, and with a mono room, sometimes I won’t even use it. It’s just a matter of playing the drums and deciding whether you like it or not.

[drums]

Warren: I hope you enjoyed that. It’s pretty awesome seeing four different techniques in mixing. Some of the guys adopted similar approaches. There always seems to be similar boosts and cuts going on in kick drums and stuff like that, but ultimately, we all hear things differently.

So have a marvelous time recording and mixing. As ever, please subscribe, and enter to win one of three ultimate rock bundles.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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