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Mixing Acoustic Drums with SoundToys Decapitator [Free Presets]

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Mixing Acoustic Drums with SoundToys Decapitator [+ Free Presets]
Mixing Acoustic Drums with SoundToys Decapitator [+ Free Presets] - youtube Video
Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here —,

I’m going to give you some techniques for taking an acoustic drum recording and turning it into something that’s a little bit modern and fresh. We’re going to do it using SoundToys Decapitator.

Let’s take a listen to the actual drum recording.


Now, that is the drums as I recorded them. The only effect on it is a little bit of a treble boost, just to kind of bring a little brightness and pop to it. But otherwise, that is just how I recorded the drums.

What I’m going to start with here is the kick. So, for the kick here, what I’m going to do is I’m going to choose a setting that I like. I tend to use either the “A” or the “E” setting. I’m going to go with the “E.”

The “E” setting is an EMI tube console emulation. Not that it really matters, but it sort of provides an extra second harmonic bump as you start pulling up the drive, and it also has a sort of subtle compression curve that it starts adding to the sound, or I should say imparting to the sound.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to play the drum loop here, and start turning up the drive until I hear a degree of impact that I like.

[drums play, adjusting SoundToys Decapitator]

You can hear it really pretty clearly when I turn it up to 3. Of course, I do need to level match it, because the kick is significantly hotter now.

[drums, adjusting output level]

What I’m going to do now is I’m going to start taking this tone knob and start moving it toward where it says “dark” here, and that’s going to start focusing the energy more toward the lower frequencies.

[drums, adjusting Tone knob]

I’m going to do one last thing now. I’m going to take this thump control. What this basically does, is it switches the steepness of the slope of the high-pass filter. As the slope becomes steeper, a resonant bump starts to show up at the corner frequency, so as I start turning this high pass filter up, whatever I set the corner frequency to is going to be accentuated.

[drums, adjusting low cut]

That sounds pretty good to me. What was that, that’s 62Hz.

[drums play]


That sounds right to me. So let’s before and after this real quick. Before… After.

If you notice, on the meter, I haven’t actually added any level to the kick. It’s just how the kick is sitting now. It’s punching more in that lower frequency range, which gives the kick a bigger presence.

Now for the snare, Decapitator and snares are like – you have so many choices for color and what you can do with it, and there’s really a huge creative palate. Decapitator was meant for snare drums.

In this particular tutorial, what I’m going to show you, and this is going to show my age a little bit, is how to sort of emulate that sound you got from overdriving the output of an MPC, and this time, I’m going to solo the snare so that you can really hear what’s going on.

All of these different settings here, the “A”, the “E”, the “N”, the “T”, the “P”, they all can work on snare. For this particular little approach, I’m going to go over to “P,” which stands for Pentode, but that doesn’t really matter. You just hear the color for what it is and you go for it.

[snare plays, adjusting SoundToys Decapitator]

Let me level match that.


This setting has a harder compression curve, so you’ll notice the first hit is level matched, but the second hit is not.

[snare drum plays]

That’s okay. Part of the sound of it is the compression, so it’s a good thing overall, and it’s going to help to even out the snare. But in any case, the drive is at about 4 on the “P” setting, and then I’m going to inch the tone a little toward dark, and that’s going to give me a sound that I feel sounds pretty similar to what you get when you start pushing the output of an older MPC.

[snare drum]

Let’s hear that in the overall mix. Before. After.

Now, I have created a preset folder for some great things you can do with drums using SoundToys Decapitator, and you can find the link to that right here, or you can grab the link from the comments section below – or, the description setting below, I mean.

So go on, check that out, download it, and if you don’t have SoundToys Decapitator, I highly recommend it. It’s a pretty awesome plugin.

Alright, until next time.


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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