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Augmenting and Replacing Drums with Samples in a Mix

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Augmenting and Replacing Real Drums with Samples in a Mix


Welcome to the Ask Weiss series. Today’s question comes to us from Sammy Sabbah again from The Pro Audio Files’ Facebook page, and Sammy asks, “When mixing a real drum kit, if I want to use samples to augment or change the close mic’d drums, how can I make the samples not clash with the original drums that are in the overheads and room mics? I hope my question made sense.”

Yup, your question made perfect sense. Unfortunately, part of the answer is it simply comes from a sensibility that’s developed over years of doing it again, and again, and again.

I know, that’s sort of the cop-out answer, but I’m not going to stop there. I’m going to give you a little bit more food for thought. This all comes from knowing what to listen for. When you want to hear your final drum sound, you want to make sure that the drums are all well represented. The attack, the tone, the weight, the body, all of those kinds of things.

So if we don’t have those things, we need to be listening out for them. So I have this drum part here that was recorded by a band and sent to me, and it sounds like this.

[drum mix]

Now, this was recorded on a very minimal setup in the band’s living room. It was I believe a Presonus interface with a couple of maybe KSM44s, a D112, and SM57 on the snare. Very basic setup, and it sounds okay. But obviously, it does not sound like perfection quite yet. We need to work on that.

So let’s break down, first, the snare drum. Here is our close mic on the snare.

[snare drum]

Now, I think that snare has good amount of texture and tone to it. What it’s lacking is a little bit of fullness and a little bit of punch on the attack, and I don’t think that simple processing will get us what we need in those regards. If it’s a really good, full capture, then I think that a better way to go instead of doing augmentation is to just simply work with what you have, and try and get the best sound from the actual drum.

Sometimes, we don’t have that luxury. So what I did is I took this into a program called Trigger where every time it hits, it causes another sound to trigger, as it’s called, and I scrolled through a Rock library that I have and I found a drum that didn’t have too much in the way of tone, but it had a good amount of punch to it, and it also had a little bit of sizzle in the snare band, and I thought that was a nice little thing that this snare could use a little bit more of as well, and it sounded like this.

[snare drum]

So you hear a lot of thwack coming off of the top of that snare, and you don’t really get too much else. So when I blend these two snares together, we’re still going to hear the tone and texture of the original snare, but we’re going to get a little bit more thwack.

[snare plays]

Right? Still sounds like the same drum, and that’s simply from selecting something that doesn’t have a tone that’s going to then conflict with the tone that I’m trying to preserve.

Now, the other thing I want to do is I want to add a bit of weight, so I continued scrolling through and auditioning, and I’m playing the triggered version along with the original version too to hear their blend as I go, and I found this little weighted snare.

[snare plays]

And again, it’s a pretty muted snare too. It’s not like there’s a whole ton of tone jumping out of it. It’s just got a good amount of weight in that 200-300 Hz range, which is about where this felt a little bit thin, so I dubbed that in as well and then did some phase alignment to make sure everything was in the best sort of phase alignment it could be, and it sounds altogether like this.

[snare drum plays]


So, before…

[snare drum without triggers]


[snare drum with triggers]

So just sounds like the same drum, except for it’s got more attack and more body. So there’s part one here, and here’s how it now sounds with the rest of the kit.

[drum mix]

Super roomy overhead capture, so I’ll probably want to do something with that later down the line.

Now, let’s talk about this kick.

[kick drum]

Yikes. So, there’s some kind of weird modulation happening there where it sounds like the kick is distorting against the preamp, like it’s just going way into the red, and this is a case where I don’t really want a kick that’s going to sound like the original kick capture. So, it’s more important to find a kick that blends well with the overheads.

So what I did was this same process. I put the kick into my trigger program and I went into my Rock library, and I just scrolled through a whole bunch, and I mean like a whole bunch, like probably a good 70 different sounds, and found one that I thought blended really well with the kit, and I did some slight tuning adjustment just to really lock it in, and it sounds like this.


So, original…

[drums without triggers]

New one.

[drums with triggers]

So basically, the idea was to go through to find something that had a good sound to it, and also sounded like it could conceivably be part of the same kit, and another important part of this is that I’m using a live trigger program, which means that the sound is actually reacting to the input of the original kick, and then I have some settings here where the velocity curve and the dynamic curve are adjusted and controlled a little bit to make more sense, but it’s basically reacting the way the drummer played it. It’s just a new sound now.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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