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How to Get Fat and Slamming Drum Sounds

Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well, and yes, I do have a new sporty, aerodynamic haircut. Thank you ever so much for all your comments concerning my hair, and I appreciate the vote of support, and as long as I’m shaving regularly and I have nice short hair, apparently I look younger. I appreciate that.

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Okay, fantastic. Now, today, I just want to touch on drum sounds, and how to get your drums sounding slamming and you know, there’s little subtle things you can do to really help your drums poke through, so I’m going to take a drum session, the one that I did that was recorded at United the other day, and we’re going to just mess with the drums a little bit and see how we can get them to sound really punchy.

So please enjoy this!

So let’s just loop the chorus. Let’s listen to our natural drum sound. Now, I’ve blended this a little bit level wise, as you can see, if I go over here, this isn’t just the straight, everything at zero drum sound. This is, you know, the kick is pushed up a little bit, the snare, but all of my plugins are turned off, and this is just the sound recorded at United. Let’s have a listen.


So that’s a good drum sound, but you’ll notice with the multiple mics, there’s some interesting kind of flamming stuff going on. The first thing I hear is the kick drum. And I’ve talked about this before, but let’s talk about it again to really get the phase coherence, the polarity, great.

Now, it’s just a little subtle thing, but if I come out of my group here, turn off my live drum group, and just listen to my live kicks.


It sounds good. I like it. However, there’s a little flamming going on with these multiple mics I’m using. I’ve got the kick in, which is this top one here.

[kick in]

Which sounds great. I’ve got a kick out.

[kick out]

That was the kick that was the FET 47 that was on the outside head. Go to the United recording video and you’ll see it. Then here’s the kick mono.

[kick mono]

Which is pretty good. It’s got some little bit of bottom end. And those two are pretty much in phase of each other. Maybe I could drag the calls back ever so slightly, but the reality is I’m using that very low. So it’s the kick in and the kick out together. If we go in, zoom in here onto the front of the kick, let’s make this medium, all drums.

You’ll see that there’s kind of a delay in — there’s a delay here going on in the waveforms. And that’s just because the kick is in — this kick in mic is of course inside of the kick drum, and the kick out is on the head on the outside.

So that there is 122 samples here, for that main wavelength. You see, we’re in samples here. And it’s 122 there, and here, it’s 120ish. So let’s go into our time adjuster. Set a little longer, 152, let’s go to 122 on average is fine by me. Let’s take that out of bypass and have a listen to the kick.


Without. A little flammy on the top end. That’s a little tighter for me. It’s interesting that because some of the low, low frequencies here are a little further back out of time, it says 214, so I’m just going to mess with it a little bit. I’m going to go back to that 150 and just see how that feels. So that’s sort of splitting the difference.


It’s tighter. It’s a little bit more percussive sounding.

Okay, so that’s set. That’s a quick trick to sort of line my kicks up together so they’re not flamming.

Next thing I did is I put a little verb on this. Just a little bit. Just so it’s controllable from my kick out. So let’s have a listen.


Tiny amount. Okay.

Next, we’re going to move on to our snare top and snare bottom. Now, what I did with my snare top and snare bottom is I align it with my overheads. So the phase is connected.

If you notice, when I record, if you go to the United drum recording, you’ll see that I measure off my overheads to my snare, so they’re an equal distance away. If I zoom in on the front of the overheads, you’ll see here on the overhead, if you look closely, they are in phase of each other. The polarity is good.

So what I’m doing here then, is I’m measuring from here to here, and I’m getting a rough estimate or a close estimate. It says 141 there. 145. Let’s go to the major part of it here. 149ish. So again, it’s at about 150. Let’s go — let’s split the difference between — let’s make it like, 147. Okay, so now we’ve got a snare top and our overheads. Let’s have a listen.


Thin sounding. Hear the body come back in on the snare when it’s in phase with the overheads?


Listen to that. There, you see how the body just comes back in? It gets warmer and fatter because there’s none of that low frequency phase cancellation. The polarity is good. So that’s a trick I like to do. Now, some people will cut and move the snare drum back in phase with the overheads. If you want to do that, that’s fine.

If you’ll see here, the snare bottom is slightly delayed, so there’s a different setting here for the snare bottom. It’s not quite as far back, time wise. Now we can have the snare bottom in.


Time Adjuster off. Time Adjuster on. Hear the body come back in on the snare? We can take a section where it’s pretty evident. Let’s just take it here. Time Adjuster on. Time Adjuster off. Listen to that snare in particular here.


This is the warmth coming back in with the phase correlation being correct. Thinner. Fatter.

So your overheads are your friend. I mean, your overheads, if you’re only mixing like, a small drum kit, you know, because my room in here, when I’m not in a great room like United, is just — I’ve got a kick, a snare top, snare bottom, one hi-hat mic, overheads, and a mic on each floor. Just top mics on the floor, and the rack.

So I’ve got a very, very simple setup. Here I am in United, where I’ve got room mics, and you’ll hear all the room mics, etcetera coming in. So you know, when you’ve got a limited amount of mics like I have in my room, this kind of phase stuff is really, really super important, but you see how wonderful that’s making that sound.

Now, the next thing I do when I get to my overheads, is I will do — I am doing some high pass. In this instance, the reason why I’m doing the high pass is for the kick so that the bleed in the kick doesn’t feel too awkward.

Let’s have a listen here, we’ll take a large section. Let’s go through and take a section here.


Bypass. Actually, taking out too much of the snare for me, so I’m going to pull this back a little bit more. That’s great. So now that’s keeping the body in the snare and any super low, like, 60Hz kind of kick bleed in there is being taken out. Gently.


I never — with this Q, I never do this. I never do harsh high pass. I always do a gentle high pass. It’s a really nice way of going.


You’ll see there’s no top end boost on my overheads. I don’t need to. The overheads sound fantastic.


Okay, cool. There’s a mono overhead here and if we go over here, we can add in a similar EQ. Let’s pull it back here. The mono overhead is just adding the center in.


It’s pulled down a little bit. Okay, there’s a hi-hat mic here. The hi-hat has a little bit of snare bleed into it. So I’m actually putting a time adjuster on that, believe it or not. So I’ll listen with that in.


Next thing I do on my tom track is find somewhere where we’ve got good, clear toms. Say here. That’s a really low one. I’m doing two things. The tom trick that I’ve shown you before is I take — I take the toms and I pull the bleed down in between. It’s not gone entirely, but it’s still there, so if we listen to the tom track, the toms alone on their own, you will hear a little bit of bleed. I don’t gate it out.

It’s just a small amount of bleed.


He played the toms very softly. I might even gain those toms up a little. But anyway, I do the same trick. I do the same trick with the toms there, where I pull the toms back in phase with the overheads. So same thing, so we can put the Time Adjuster on there like so.

There is a little EQ on them too. I’m taking out some super lows. I can probably soften that up a little bit. Again, not a really aggressive high pass, but just enough to get rid of some rumble maybe that I don’t want on the floor.


While I often do, and we talk about it a lot, on toms, is I will put the R-Bass back in, but it’s controlled, so the R-Bass is actually putting in some 80 there for that low floor.

[floor tom]

Which is beautiful.

[floor tom]

But I’ve controlled what’s going in there, so this gentle slope here means that I’m not boosting like, a lot of unwanted 20 and 40, I’m controlling it going into the R-Bass.

[floor tom]

Same thing with the EQ here. Soften that a little bit. Bit of EQ here going into our rack tom. Okay, so let’s find a little tom section, and the drums we’ve been working on so far. Just add in our overheads and our live kicks and our toms.

So now we have a very simple drum mix of just the live elements with no room mics.


Cool. So that’s the basic stuff that I’m doing. Now I’m adding — I’m choosing to add some samples to this, and I can now blend them. This one is one of my favorite ones here. It’s a kick that I made when I was working on a band called Bootstraps’ record. So it’s a live kick drum that I’ve flown in, and it’s a great sounding kick. Have a listen.


It’s basically an amalgamation of a live drum kick that I recorded in the studio, and what I did is I — you know, EQ’d and compressed it, and then printed it, and the I fly it in. What I like about this is it’s — it’s a very complete sound, it’s very natural.


Okay, so I’m running the same Time Adjuster so it works with these kicks. Again, you can tug it back and put it in. I just put things where they are naturally, but if you want to do that, I’m also doing a little bit of extra EQ.


And I’m experimenting with a transient designer. Just to tighten it up. So if we have a listen to it on its own, you’ll hear with and without the transient designer.


That’s with. It’s tight. It’s great either way, but I timed it up just to sit nicely with the other kicks.


Tight and powerful. Now I have a couple of other kicks available to me. Doing the same kind of EQ and transient designer. Let’s have a listen to those.


That’s adding a little bit more click, this one here. This very first one. It’s a metal kick, believe it or not. It’s a rock kick. Let’s have a listen to it on its own.

[metal kick]

I kind of like it. I think we should pull it down. There we go. Just adding a little touch. And then this second one here.


It’s natural, it’s got a bit of ambience on it. Runs quite nicely.


So that’s basically an almost live sounding version of what we already have. I blend the two together and we get this.


Okay, so let’s go to our snare here and see what we’ve done. I’ve got snare bottom and snare top. Then we have one Addictive — this is like a rock snare. It’s the Pearl rock snare in the Addictive…


So we’ve used — we’re running Time Adjuster on it again.


Quite a natural sounding snare. Put that with our live snare.


Very similar. So what you can do in Addictive is when you’re using Addictive Drums and you want to put a sample against it like I did there is you can pitch the snare so it matches the pitch.

Next up, I have…


Super aggressive snare. Time Adjuster again. A little too aggressive. Pull it down. I like that adding a little bit of ambience. Listen again.


So it’s picking up some of the grace notes and adding some ambience just lightly in there. Here is a Gretsch snare sample. Super low. Let’s have a listen.

[Gretsch snare]

Yeah, it’s got a lot of ring on it. It was pretty much turned off, so let’s bring it down. A little bit too much ring.


So we’re still favoring the live snare and the live kick, but we’re adding these other sounds. So let’s have a listen to those together. And the overheads and our toms.


Put the hat in.

[drums, with hi-hat]

Good, tight drum sound. Okay, so next up is to really just add in our room mics. Now, the reason I’m going to the room mics last is because, you know, most of you, if you’re recording drums, are probably — that’s the extent of what you’re going to have. You’re going to have one, maybe two kick drum mics, and then you know, one, hopefully two snare drum mics. One hi-hat. Pair of overheads, and a tom mic on each.

So — but we were blessed to be in United, so let’s see what it feels like to put these room mics in.

[drums with rooms]

Those low room mics are insane.


So you know, the drum sound of United is pretty special, so here’s all of the room mics untreated.

[room mics]

There’s a lot of bottom end on there. You know, I’ve got some roll off going on here. Just to control it, because with the build up of the three sets of room mics, there’s a lot of [imitates build up] that you don’t necessarily hear on its own there, but it gets really huge, and it actually muddies up the kick a little bit when everyone is competing for the same 40 to 60Hz.

Okay, so let’s go to the outro here.

[room mics]

Now, there’s a lot of cymbals in there. Let’s find our main offender. It’s probably our high room mics.

[high room mics]

So what I’m actually doing is running a Lo-Fi plugin on it and distorting it ever so slightly. Clipping it.

[room mics with Lo-Fi]

So there’s the tiniest amount. 0.3 of saturation, and it’s just — the first thing it’s doing is hitting the high end and slightly distorting it, but also smoothing it out.

[room mics with Lo-Fi]

I’m also running a Trim on all of these. These two here, just because they were super hot, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to distort my plugin.

You know, proper gain staging is really important, but it’s not just, you know, individual tracks going to master buss. I see lots of videos talk about gain staging your master buss and stuff. Yeah, that’s important, but one of the most important things is not distorting your signal from one plugin to another, to another, to another.

That is probably the number one cause of the clipping that we hear. I see people producing music where they go, “Oh, well I’m leaving minus 10, or minus 3, or minus 6.”

That’s great, but that’s not really that important to a mastering engineer whether you’re sending a super low signal to him or not. What he’s concerned about and what he hears is all of this distortion from one plugin to another. So I’ve printed a pretty hot signal, it’s super dynamic, and there’s moments here where you’ll see it’s clipping.

[drum rooms]

Or it’s about to clip, and so what I’m doing is I’m running a Trim plugin before I put my first plugin on it. So I’m making sure the signal going into this Lo-Fi plugin and this R-EQ are not distorting and not clipping. That’s probably the most important thing you can do. It’s not all about gain staging, pulling down levels going to your master buss. If I take that Trim off…

[drum rooms, no Trim]

Look at that, my Lo-Fi and my R-EQ plugins just clipped. I don’t want it to clip, so I’m running a Trim on there. Watch again.

[room mics]

Let’s clear it. Option+C. Now watch.

[room mics]

No clipping. Now, that is audible clipping. If that was on, like, look, here’s an R-EQ here, it clipped. So let’s take my Trim here. Stick it on here. Let’s see if that’s enough.

[room mics]

Great. So that Trim tool there on my overhead now just solved some clipping going into the R-EQ, because that clipping on the R-EQ would be audible, and if that’s happening on like, 40 tracks or 50 tracks, then it’s going to sound like that harsh, digital, you know, distortion.

It’s not about EQing. It’s not about just taking the top end out. I’ve seen all those naive kind of things. It’s really about making sure that within all of your plugins, you don’t clip.

Great. So everything together, let’s have a listen. This is no master compression on the drums or anything, this is just a blend of the live recorded mics with some samples. This is the drum sound.


That’s a good, powerful drum sound. There’s a tiny amount of snare verb that we can add here. We can add them off our samples, you know, like I’ve got — I like to blend it off of samples, and there’s a little bit of live snare here. So I can add that going into buss 5 and 6 here. I’m doing a little R-Comp, first of all, just to control the signal going in. There’s a little bit too much ring in the snare for me. For the verb, so I’m pulling that out. I’m using True Verb. Let’s have a listen.

[drums with True Verb]

Then I’m using a little MV2 to — because some of those grace notes are not quite triggering it the way I want it to, so…


Just enough. That’s great. Then same thing on the kick. Then I’ve got a little kick verb. Just a D-Verb. It’s set to 750 milliseconds.


So I’m turning off the two verbs. Put them back on.

Subtle. It’s very subtle, but I just wanted to add just a little bit of controlled ambience on the kick and the snare. Just a little bit of control. As you can see, there’s not a lot of stuff going on here, it’s just judicious controlled amount of EQ and compression. There’s stuff here that I’m choosing not to use that I may use on other stuff.

I even had a room buss setup, if I wanted to buss stuff, but I’m not. Like all of this stuff is unused. So I can get rid of it. And that’s my drum set! Here it is.


So thanks ever so much for watching. I hope you learned some marvelous things there. Essentially, I think the three things I want to point out is number one, good phase correlation. Good polarity in your drums.

So I have to make sure that all my kicks are in phase of each other, and yes, you can drag them back and put them together if you want. If I was doing that, I would make a playlist of my drums, so I could always go back to the original to make sure I knew where it was. So yeah, get your kick polarity great, get your snare polarity great with your overheads. You saw the bottom end come back in the snare and how much warmer and fatter it sounded when the overheads were with it.

So that’s my number one thing. Make sure your kick and your snare have great polarity, and your toms as well.

Secondly, with proper gain staging, it’s not just about not sending a hot signal to a master buss. Make sure that you’re not overdriving one plugin to another. I’ve watched a lot of videos online where people are talking about gain staging, and then I see little clip lights going off in all of their plugins.

That’s probably where you’re hearing most of your distortion, because you’ve got like, if somebody is using a huge amount of plugins, and they’re all slightly overdriving one to another, it doesn’t matter how much they turn up or down going to their master buss, it just means to their individual channel, there’s clipping going on in there.

So be careful of that. Don’t send clipped, distorted signals from one plugin to another, because once you’ve done it one time, and then you compress it, even if it’s not clipping from there, you’re compressing and limiting and EQing, it’s getting worse, and worse, and worse from that point.

And thirdly, it’s okay to use samples judiciously. See, here, I’m using samples, and I’m trying to match them sonically to the drums, and the reason why I do it honestly is I can sit there and I can gate my kick and snare to make them sound a little bit more punchy, but why?

If I can get a sample — and I don’t have to. There’s plenty of songs I’ve done, like Robert Jon and the Wreck, which we’re going to give you guys to mix soon, there’s plenty of songs like that where I’m using no samples whatsoever, and just doing the live room — live band in a room situation.

But here, I’m using the samples judiciously and I’m finding them to match the original sounds as close as possible, and then pulling them up underneath, just to give me that little extra kick and snare, and while using a transient designer or something like that, I’m trimming them to just add attack and not add so much weight and boom, because a lot of the time, when you’re putting in, say, kick samples, if there’s a lot of them all with low rumble, you just end up with this low, rumbly mix, and you don’t get the punch that you want.

So you know, used properly, and sparingly, they can work really, really well, and they save a lot of like, multiple busses, and compression, and all of this kind of stuff, because they’re doing what you want them to do subtly.

So thank you ever so much for watching, I hope that you had a marvelous time. Please leave any comments and questions below. I’m not the be all and end all, there’s many different ways to do this, let’s have a great discussion about it. Please give me your opinions on how you do stuff. I’d love to talk about it, and I’d love to learn from you too, and thank you ever so much for watching.

Warren Huart

Warren Huart

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

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