Pro Audio Files

Increase Your Income Improve Your Mixes

How to Get Huge Drum Sounds

Let’s give it a listen.


I’ve got headphones here for detail.

Okay. So next step, we’ve got to get these drums — we don’t have room tones. We have ambience from the snare and kick samples that you can hear in there, which is great, but this was recorded in a tiny room with very few mics.

So let’s make our drum sound bigger. Let’s have a quick listen to our snare samples first and see what we’ve got, and you’ll see why in a minute.

[snare sample]

That’s pretty ringy snare with no verb on it. That’s got a lot of verb, and it’s very EQ’d sounding. It’s very mid-rangey.

That’s got some good ambience on it. I’m going to leave it as it is. So I’m going to go back to this snare here, which has no ambience, and this is what I’m going to do. So I’m now going to create a snare reverb. So in Pro Tools, not sure what your DAW is, but in Pro Tools, Shift+Command+N is new. Command+Right is selecting a stereo, and up and down, auxiliary. So you can obviously do that by just clicking on it, I just like the quick keys.

So now I’ve created a stereo auxiliary channel. Going to call it snare verb. Again, I’m pedantic. You don’t have to be, but I am. I can do one of two things. I can actually send it from my existing buss, but that’s a mono buss. So let’s create a new buss. Go to stereo buss, let’s go to five and six. Set its input on five and six here.

I’m going to put this in solo safe, so whenever I solo this track that’s going to it, I’ll hear. So Solo Safe is Command, or Apple for the old Apple users, Command and then you click on the solo, and it’ll grey it out. See, it greys it out? That’s just a tip for guys that are using Pro Tools.

Okay, so I’m going to select my reverb. Now, a couple of things. I’m going to select my reverb on the second channel. You’ll see why in a second. Because I may want to compress the signal going in.

Let’s just use good old fashioned, cheapie, comes free D-Verb. Okay, I’m going to go to a room, medium sized, and that gives me 750 milliseconds. As you may or may not know if you’ve been watching a lot of my videos, which I assume you have, I used to have a drum room which had about a 3/4 of a second decay. So I’m used to that. This is not a ballad. It’s kind of a mid up-tempo, but it’s not super, super slow. It’s — yeah, it’s mid up-tempo.

It’s 65, but it’s like — well, you’ve heard the track if you’ve listened before hand and listened to the rough, you’ll know it’s a pretty massive rock song. I — it gets chaotic in it — I don’t want to have a massively long reverb.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you can have different reverbs for different sections of the song. But let’s just find a generic, one size fits all for the time being, and it’s at 3/4 of a millisecond. So let’s have a listen to what we’ve got.

[snare with reverb]

That’s pretty cool. Okay, so a couple of things. The snare is turned down quite considerably to blend with the live snare, so the unfortunate thing about that is we’re not sending that much signal. So I could gain before hand, or what I might actually do is put some compression on it. So I’m going to put — go back to our 1176 — and 1176s are fixed threshold compressors, so what that means is to get more compression, you just turn the input up.

Here’s where your threshold’s set, and so until you turn the gain up, it doesn’t start to compress. Then when it goes past that point, depending on what your ratio is set to, it will compress more and more.

So let’s turn it up.

[snare with reverb]

So it’s giving us more level, and it’s also just compressing the first transient a little bit, and I kind of like it.

These are fast compressors, but not as fast as modern compressors, so it’s letting a little, “pah, pah,” go through, and that gives me a little bit more aggression on my snare.

So okay, the proof in the pudding is how does it sound in the track? So let’s get all of the sounds together. Start again from the top.



[dry drums]

With. I like that. Pretty — pretty well balanced. Now, you might ask, why do I use a sample? Well, first of all, I started from Andy Wallace. In the mid-90s, he mixed a record that I was a musician on, and he was triggering samples in those days, I don’t remember, I think from a 4AT. I don’t honestly remember.

But anyways, it was triggering samples through the SSL, and he used the sample and used that to trigger I think an SPX90? Anyway, whatever it was, it was either a Lexicon, like a PCM70 or a PCM80, it was that or the Yamaha SPX90, and he just triggered it from the sample.

The reason why? It’s cleaner. You don’t get all of the bleed from the cymbals and everything, and it just gives us more control. Sometimes, and quite often, I will use a sample just to trigger the verb, and the sample is either muted or barely audible. So that’s how much I like just triggering off samples.

Now, the other thing is to go from just one of these grace ones. Let’s have a listen, this one looks pretty strong, so let’s have a listen to this grace one that I created.

[grace note snare]

And let’s send — that’s good — and let’s send the verb to that as well. So there’s a more uniform snare sound.

[drums with reverb]

Bring it down.

Now, there’s moments in here, so I’ll be honest, that I don’t like the feel of that much. There’s a couple of moments where he’s a little wonky. Let’s have a listen here. And this is all part of the process. When you’re mixing, you’re doing a lot. These days, if you have to tune a vocal, you tune a vocal. You want this mix to sound amazing.

So here, let’s have a listen.


It’s pretty sloppy, and I don’t know if I can let that go. So I’m in drum group all, and this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to Tab to Transient. In Pro Tools, Tab to Transient is just tab. You’re going to hit the transient here. I’m going to hit B to cut it. Then I’m just going to cut it generically here for the time being, then I’m going to hit Command+0, now it’s going to snap it to where it should be on the grid. You don’t have to grid everything, but in this particular instance I want to.

Now again, look at this transient here. It just sounds horrible when I listen. It just sounds sloppy. So I’m just going to highlight that region, I’m going to cut with B, then I’m going to Command+0 and snap it back. Let’s have a listen and see how that feels.


Yeah. It’s pretty horrible, because of the hi-hat. So it’s really a combination. Here we’re going to go now. We’re going to cut this hi-hat. So I just Tab to Transient, I hit B, cut, now I’m going to hit Command+0, put it back in, I’m going to go to my trim tool, put all of this in, now let’s have a listen.


Now, there’s a couple of other moments that are stumbling around a little bit, because here he’s getting a little happy. So let’s just be careful that we don’t grid the whatever out of it. So I’m going to do this, I’m going to highlight this section, I’m going to — what I do is — I’ll do it slowly — I’ll highlight the front of this, but I won’t go in too hard to the front of the transient, because I don’t want to ruin everything completely, so I highlight it, I hold down shift, then I go up to this next area here, and now I take my hand off and I go, C, V, and that’s copy paste, and that just cuts it out. Then I hit Command+0.

If you see here, it’s already just a little bit too much in front for me. So now I’m going to cut it again and just drag it back a bit. See, I’m doing subtle movements here. You might think I’m being too subtle. Let’s have a listen before we put fades in.


See, that last one there is just a little too much behind for me. Don’t want to cut here, you see where the overheads are? C, V, cut, moving forward, I’m actually going to trim the front again.

So you see what I’m doing is when I’m editing it, I’m not necessarily going to the front of the transient when I don’t want it to be exactly on a grid, I’m just pulling it forward a little bit, because it sounds too sloppy for me. Sloppy is good, but there’s good sloppy and bad sloppy.

So now let’s just clean up the edit points on all of these, so go to the front of that transient down there, and you can do a number of things, you could batch fade, or go through individual fades. What I’ll do is highlight a region, I’ll open up in Pro Tools my Beat Detective, go to Edit Smoothing Only, then just hit Fill in Crossfade here. Then hit Smooth. It says it already has a crossfade quickly, so what I’ll do quickly is I’ll go to edit, fades, delete existing fades and redo them. It’s a quick and easy way rather than spending five minutes searching for them.

Just redo the fade and now let’s have your listen.


Now it’s — you know, it’s not perfect, but it feels a lot better, and that’s part of the process. If you’re mixing somebody else’s stuff, you don’t want to go through and edit every single hit of everything, because once you edit the drums ridiculously to a track that’s been tracked, already recorded, you’re going to end up editing the bass, then re-editing the guitars, then even the vocal feels out.

But within itself there, you could feel the hi-hats, particularly the grace notes were just sloppy and pulling back, so I had the ability to just move those little things without moving the main kicks and snares, because everything was cut to those, and it just feels better.

So that’s part of your job. It really is. So I’m going to setup — you can do multiple things — I’m going to setup a separate kick reverb. Now, you can use the same one, because I’m going to use the same size, however, it’s easier for me to have a buss, an auxiliary, that has just the reverb from one instrument than multiple things going to it, because when I want to quickly turn up the snare for instance, which I’m going to, the snare reverb in the choruses, I might turn it up a dB and a half.

I don’t want to bring up the kick reverb necessarily. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. Maybe I only want it to go up half a dB, then I’m adjusting the sends going into the return of the verb. It gets really complicated.

So I’m going to do the same thing I did with the snare, and we’re going to listen and audition the kicks.

[kick sample]


Pretty dry. Great sounding kick.

[kick sample 2]

That’s just all click. That’s something we’ll push up in the choruses. You’re going to see that in a minute.

[kick sample 3]

That’s kind of a sloppy kick. It feels like the beat is kind of, “flub flub” on the front, so I’m not going to use that. We’re going to use our first one here. So that’s going to be our kick. So let’s create a new sub. Again, if you’re in your DAW it happens to be Pro Tools, Shift+Command+N, Command+Right. Bottom arrow down, there we go, stereo auxiliary created.

Try and keep them where all your drums are, so when you’re scrolling through your session, your verb for your snare is near your snare. Your verb for your kick is near — that’s the way I work. Some people put all of their effects in one big blob. I find that a little complicated for my brain, however, you might be different. I personally keep it near where I’m working.

Now let’s be pedantic. Let’s call it kick verb. I am going to use the same verb. I’m also going to pull across the compressor, I am using Option in Pro Tools, and I am dragging and dropping it like that, and it keeps it and copy and pastes it. Same thing on the verb. I’m going to turn the compressor off for a second, just so I can have a listen. Then I’m going to create a new buss, seven and eight for the kick.

It’s a stereo file, it’s panned stereo, so there’s a little bit of ambience, so I’m going to keep the send stereo as well. Seven and eight. Let’s hit — if I hit Option on the fader there, it goes straight to zero. Let’s have a listen.

[kick with reverb]

It’s nice. Oh, let’s turn on our compressor. Don’t want it to be quite so much. Nice. Putting all our drums in.


I have such a critical ear, I’m listening to this and seeing some stuff I don’t like. Hearing some stuff that I don’t like.


There’s a flam going on in there in those kicks. Did you hear that? So when our samples were put in, something didn’t quite work there. I could hear it, it was horrible. So what I’m going to do is I’ll Tab to Transient. Do an Apple+B. There in the highlight, C, V, then I’ll drag that back in time like so.

Just got to be vigilant for this kind of stuff. This is what happens sometimes when you’re putting samples in, you get these issues. Let’s have a listen.


Nice. You know, there’s all kinds of timing issues here, This is dragged late, but it kind of feels good. I’m not going to edit something until it sounds bad. I don’t just edit the drums for the heck of it. As you can see, there’s some sloppiness, and sometimes it sounds great, but sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve got to be aware that instruments were cut to these drums, so if I edit things heavily, I might completely destroy that.


That’s a little sloppy for me, I’m going to let it go until we hear everything together. So so far, this is our drum sound.


A little bit too much verb on those grace notes for me, you can probably hear that yourselves.

Let’s go back and hear that again. Cool. They’re also still a little mid-rangey for me. Ah, not too bad. But I’m just going to boost — you know, I’m going to take my slope here and even it out. See what I’m doing here? You can do it all different ways with different plugins, but you can see I’m just trying to catch a little bit more, gentle slope on that top end, then I’m going to boost it more. Let’s just have a listen to just that drum on its own.

[snare with reverb]

Take the verb off.


I hear a little bit more bottom snare out. I’m getting a little aggressive. So that’s quite a lot of EQ. Now I’m going to copy that over to the other ones, so there’s no phasing. Again, we could buss that together, so I’m not…


There you go. You know, I’m going to swap this over and see what it sounds like with the verb being triggered from the more bottom sounding snare one.

Let’s put all the drums together.


I much prefer that. That to me is working much better now. So it’s just about — you can see, you can tell from the bleed in my microphone, I’m working at super low volumes here so I can hear evenly.


There’s one hit I missed on these drums here which still feels a little weird. Our hat is good, there’s just one little grace note here that’s just a little bit ahead. Tab to Transient, highlight our region here, C, V, Command+0, we’ll put it back on the grid. Doesn’t necessarily have to be on the grid, and the way I adjust that is where I choose to cut it.

Let’s have a listen before I put a fade in.

[edited drums]

And that other one is just too late here, so one’s super early and one’s super late. So let’s just make it go here, have a little listen, go back a bar or two so you can hear.


Great. Okay, highlight the region, Command+8 for those of you using Pro Tools, go to Edit Smoothing, highlight it here, hit Smooth, and that’s a quick and easy way to put my fades in.

[drums, with crossfades]

Great. Okay, so there we go. Now we have a pretty live sounding drum kit.


Still a little hot on these grace notes. That sounds a little bit more natural. I want them to be in there, but I don’t want them to sound like they’re this exact part where they’re going, [mimics drums]. It’s not that, it just should be kind of felt.

Okay, so we’ve got our drums somewhat in a place now where I can listen to other instruments. It’s not as slamming as it could be in some instances, but I don’t know what I’m up for yet until I hear other instruments.


Now overheads are definitely a little hot.

See how I am? That one kick is just killing me there. It’s just far too late for me. So I’m back in All. See how I am? I say don’t edit, but if something is just not working, it’s just not working. Okay, I’m going to look. You see the hi-hat? It’s super late as well. So I’m going to highlight right up until there. Let’s go down to — ah, what that is is that’s a little grace note snare, so let’s go there.

Now that’s pretty tough, you see what it’s doing? It’s creating a huge gap, so you might hear that edit quite heavily, so I’m going to put a little bit more length there on the front and split the difference so the edit — because sometimes, if you get crazy on these edits, you can really hear them.

If you pull back something and you’re creating such a huge gap, you’ll get a double ring on a snare, and you definitely don’t want that. If the second half of the snare is appearing twice, you’re going to this kind of, [imitates snare ring out], instead of getting the, [imitates snare]. So you’ve got to be careful with the edits.

So sometimes, it’s best to sort of move it. Tug it towards where you want it to be, as opposed to putting it exactly where it is and then it sounds terrible.


Yeah, that’s fine for me. Sometimes, when something is so far out, if it means the bass note now is too far behind, I’ll push it forward. That’s right in a chorus, so I need that to keep going.

Some of the bright stuff, the 3 to 5 kHz range, that’s where your ears are most sensitive, and there’s a lot of that in the hat. Let’s see what I did with the hat. I mean, I did a boost there, which is probably too much.


Ultimately, it’s just too loud. I’m just going to take the output on this down a little bit. I say a little bit, I’m going to take it down 2dB. 2.4.

Much better.


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

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

Free Video on Mixing Low End

Download a FREE 40-minute tutorial from Matthew Weiss on mixing low end.

Powered by ConvertKit
/> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> />