Tips for Mixing Drums with Parallel Compression
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So I created a course recently that is about mixing in the box. So this was a fun one for me to do, because what I did is I took a song that I had mixed in a hybrid fashion through the SSL console using my DAW going through all of this different fancy gear behind me.
I took that song and mixed it entirely in the box as opposed to using any outboard gear. No outboard gear on the buss, no summing, nothing. I just mixed it completely in the box.
Now, I do mix songs in the box, but when I mix them in the box, it’s usually something that I feel, humbly, works best for that. It might be a big slamming Pop track with tons of synths and hardly any organic stuff, and it always seems to sound, at least to me, better that way, but this is a completely — well not completely, a 90% organic track using live drums, bass, and guitars. It’s a song I wrote a long time ago, and I had a girl singer, Amanda Hardy sing on it recently.
So it’s a great song for me to stretch my wings as an in the box mixer. So — and I know a lot of people, out of respect and friends of mine, Neal Avron, Andrew Scheps, now mix entirely in the box and don’t even use summing, and I don’t believe that they feel they need to use summing anymore, because they’re recording, and they’re getting stuff that’s recorded exceptionally well, so they’ve already got the transformers and all of that lovely discrete electronics and tubes, and all of the things that we love have already gone on the way into the box.
So, I thought, “Well, why not challenge myself to do that entirely as well?” So this course that I just released is a song, like I said, that I mixed entirely in the box, that I already mixed in a hybrid fashion. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to show you one of the things that I did just to get some extra energy out of the drums. There’s been a lot of talk recently about this, so I’m going to just show you a parallel drum crushing technique that I did.
It’s going to be fun. I’m going to show you what I did, and please, as ever, leave a bunch of questions and comments below. I’ll also leave you a link below to check out the course. So let’s have a look!
Great, so what I’m going to do is I’ve got the drums in solo here, and here is the drum sound.
It’s a pretty aggressive rock drum sound.
Lots of energy in the track. You can see, we’re just coming out in stereo. Okay, so what have I got going on? Well, a couple of things to note. Without getting too specific, but just talking in general, is I’ve got a combination of live drums and samples, because this is a really super aggressive drum track, but even with the samples, and even with the compression and the EQ that I’m doing on individual kicks and snares, I’m not getting quite the aggression I would want.
So let’s play you just the drum sub on its own. Here’s just the drum sub. Here’s the drum sound.
Just a good natural drum sound. Here’s with the drum sub crush.
[drums with sub crush]
So it’s adding a lot of energy, both the kick and the snare have come up and are a lot more aggressive, but not only that, there’s just a great deal of energy. I really feel like the drum is sitting there, bashing away, and this was recorded in this little room over here. As you can see, it’s like there’s no room mics, it’s just a very simple, mainly Lewitt — set of Lewitt microphones, inexpensive microphones, with a couple of expensive ones on the toms.
But no room mics, just overheads, kick, snare, and toms, and hi-hat of course. So very simple drum micing. All the aggression and everything is created by using some extra samples to give the drums a little bit more aggression, and just that small kit, and this drum crush.
So our drum sub alone is this. Good old favored Analog Channel.
Barely doing anything. If we go to maybe the outro here, let’s go to the outro drums.
You can see, we’re getting some gain reduction. I’ve got a bit of a low roll off on the analog channel. Next up, a little bit of 330-400 here. So around about 350 cut on the drums. I want to take that off. Not making a huge difference, but it’s just enough to carve out some room. I’ve done all of that — versions of this across all the elements of the drums, so the drums are already mixed before going to this drum buss, and then last but no means least, I’ve got an L2, so a bit of limiting going on. Not a lot.
[drums with L2]
Just tapping it. Like, a dB. So all of the compression and EQ and everything is happening in the various drum mics. So it’s good. Now, we add our drum crush.
[drums with crush]
Energy levels, volume, everything just drums up. It’s getting really super aggressive. So what are we doing on the drum crush?
Well, I’ve got an R-Comp here, and I’m getting a lot. I’m getting at least nine, ten plus dB worth of gain reduction, but I’ve got a super fast attack and release. Let me just turn off everything except for that. Bypass it. Those are natural people drum sounds.
So what I’ve done is I’ve got a super fast attack and release. The fastest I can do on the R-Comp. What that’s doing is the compression is coming in really quick, grabbing it really quick, but then releasing it super quick as well. So it’s making very aggressive.
We can go — see there? The attack is barely doing anything. It’s not grabbing it very quick. When it is grabbing it — okay, go the other way.
So basically, it’s doing a lot of compression. It’s grabbing it hard, but the great thing is with the release time set as fast as it goes, if we go as slow as we can go…
[drums, adjusting release]
Now it just feels like it’s turning it down. Everything. Now I just feel like the whole drum kit is — let’s see if I could take this off.
Yeah, it’s definitely taking those transients and pushing them in there, but the energy isn’t there. I go here. Listen to that. I’ve still got super fast transients coming through so I can hear a little bit of — it’s getting the excitement of the kick and the snare, but the release time is fast enough, but I’m not getting a transient of the kick being squashed, and then the next time a kick or a snare comes in, it’s still squashed down. It’s releasing fast enough. You see it? Releasing fast enough to catch every single kick and snare.
So that’s what’s really nice about having a modern digital compressor. You don’t have to use the Waves. I’ve been using this for years, so I’m used to it, but any decent, even stock, like Avid or whatever you’re using, whatever your DAW is, most have fast enough attack and releases to do this kind of stuff.
Okay, next up is the E4 again. What I have done is I have literally used the same EQ again. Now, you might ask, why are you doing this?
This is being bussed from a full drum kit, and it’s going to two separate drum busses. One of the issues that you have to notice and understand is if you’re using lots of different busses, if you start treating them dramatically different, you’ll get all kinds of weird potential phasing issues. At least it will feel like there’s lots of issues, whether they print, necessarily out of phase or not is kind of irrelevant, because it’s about what does it sound like?
So if I get too drastically crazy in my EQ on my drum busses, I can cause the ear to have lots of issues.
Now, I have, and I will do multiple drum busses sometimes that have different sets of EQ going on them, but I’m very careful. It’s usually too correctional. If my drums already sound good coming in, I shouldn’t need to do that much on my drum buss. You know, I’ve mixed my drums the way I want to hear them.
So all I’m doing is a little extra 350-ish around here, 334, but around the area on both of them, and it’s — I could go back and do a little extra on the way in, but I already have my drum sound the way I wanted it before that. That just avoids any potential polarity and phasing issues with identical EQs sitting on both.
So next up is an L2. It’s doing a little bit more. You can hear it off. On. It’s doing even more — it’s then pushing the — a little bit of those excessive transients back in. So it’s balancing.
I’ve got the R-Comp, I’ve got my first compressor allowing super fast transients, and still compressing the energy in the room in the overheads and then this one is at the end is just knocking them back in just a little bit more. Without it.
[drums, no L2]
Tons of energy. Even more energy and a little bit more control.
And to be honest, again, the same plugin on the end, so I — it keeps it sounding really, really great. So here’s the two together.
Just the drum sub. Let’s do one of two things. Bring this volume up, but bringing the energy up.
That’s a great trick. Parallel drum compression is really great, but the way I think about it is I mix the drums the way I want to hear them. So this to me is a good drum mix.
It sounds like a good drum mix. And then I add my parallel drum sub.
[drums with parallel channel]
Just to add the energy. And sometimes, that isn’t as dense as it is there, but just listen to the track. It’s just dense and crazy and nuts, so you know, with this really super, super dense mix, I will put a link to the mix so you can hear it obviously below, you know, that extra aggression and that energy that the drum sub — parallel drum sub creates really helps us.
You know, it’s something that sometimes, you could bring in. You can mute or you can turn up and turn down, depending on the circumstance, but the way I always do it is I build my drum sound first, and then I create it afterwards. I don’t rely on it to be part of my drum sound. You know, but it gets tweaked, and having said all of that, there are no rules. There might be times where you bring in a template and it’s there already. You know. Try not to monitor with it too much, but you know, it’s good to have it.
So it’s a great tip. It’s a really great trick to have a parallel drum buss like that, and there’s many different ways of doing it, and you can use some plugins, especially when you’ve got a very clean, probably almost, you know, sanitary sounding drum sound. You could use saturation, you could use a Lo-fi plugin, you could do anything to create some of that energy. You know, like I said, for me, I created the drum sound I wanted. Had a drum buss. Duplicated the drum buss and turned it into a drum crush by adding the R-Comp instead of the Analog Channel.
So please, check out the website, producelikeapro.com. You can sign up for the email list, subscribe, and check out the new course I’ve done. It’s a six hour course. The thing about it that I like is it’s a no holds barred kind of watch me pull up the song over a six hour process. I think I did it on a couple of different days, and watch my go through the process of trying to beat an SSL mix. It’s like me trying to compete with myself.
It’s a different sounding mix, but it was interesting, because I felt like I could really communicate better with people, because I am going through the same process they do, and it’s something I really, really enjoyed doing, even though I didn’t sleep much that first night, because I was sitting there going, “Oh, I don’t like that drum sound, I don’t like this,” that was the process I went through over the last twenty plus years of doing this, so to rediscover that and come back — but I will say, I’m scratching the surface, I’m learning all of the time. We always are. It’s why I don’t believe in experts, I think we’re always learning, but the thing I’ve really enjoyed about it is I do firmly believe that I can move into in the box mixing quite easily over the next couple of years. I think it’s very, very likely that I will follow suit with some of my best friends that are making great, great mixes in the box.
So it’s important to know that. With the right methodology, using the plugins that you have, even stock ones, plus you know, some additional manufacturers like McDSP, or Slate, or whoever it might be, there’s great plugins out there that can do so much of the analog simulation, that even the need for summing now seems to be moving away.
Now, having said that, it’s important to know that everybody’s process is different. So some people — some people like summing, because emotionally, they attach themselves to it, and they like to mix through it and create with it. So there is no right way or wrong way. If you’ve got a console, whether it be a small format, medium format, or large console, if that’s part of your process and it allows you to create great mixes, I applaud you, because that’s one way of doing it, but for me now, discovering the scratching the surface on the in the box mixing, I think it’s really wonderful what you can do, so check it out.
As ever, please leave a bunch of comments and questions below. I love having these discussions. Let’s be kind to each other and supportive, because nobody here is telling anybody else that they know best. At least, let’s not do it on our channel. Let’s make it all very supportive.
Thank you ever so much. Have a marvelous time mixing, and have a marvelous time recording of course, and I’ll speak to you all again soon!