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Mixing Classic Rock Drums with Matthew Weiss

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and I’ve done my first collaborative effort with producelikeapro.com. I’ve got a really cool tutorial out on recording drums, and you can find that in the link in the description, but this is going to be a little overview about making aesthetic choices in the post-production side of mixing.

This is going to be about using a classic rock influence into our modern mixing of drums. So what defines a classic rock drum sound? Well, that can be a lot of things, right? We can be talking about something that’s really retro, and when I think retro, I think smaller drums. Something where there’s very little processing if any at all. It’s simply the natural of the kit as the mics picked it up, even if it’s a little sloppy. It’s usually pretty centered into the mono section of the stereo field.

But when I think classic rock, classic rock, I usually think of like, late 70’s through maybe like, maybe the mid-80’s. That kind of era in there. Really looking at stuff like Led Zeppelin being the quintessential of that.

So the defining factor for me on that is actually a very stereo spread. It’s something that has a lot of liveliness to it. Very live kind of sound. Even if we go as late as the Bon Jovi type of sound, it’s just tons of room energy, and liveness to it.

So when we’re mixing with that aesthetic in mind, or trying to borrow from it, what we’re really looking to do is center on the overheads and the room. The overheads and the room are going to make up the majority of our kit sound, and the close mics are there really just to reinforce the snare. It might be there just to add as much punch as we want, if any, and the kick is usually what we need more of.

You know, when you listen to some of those classic Led Zeppelin type records like When the Levee Breaks, and things like that, you hear that the snare sounds like it’s coming from both speakers. It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the center. It’s because there’s a lot of that room energy bouncing around.

So what I’m going to do here is I’m going to pull up my overheads and bypass my processing.

[overheads]

This here is a stereo spaced pair. You can tell that it’s a stereo spaced pair because the snare is leaning off to one side slightly, it’s not really quite in the center. It’s hanging off to the left. Not usually what I go for, but if I want a particularly wide or smeared image, sometimes that can actually be really cool. It can add this sort of breadth to the sound, and when we’re going for something that has personality and energy, no necessarily like, punch and impact, that can be really good.

So what I’m going to do here is I’m going to pull up some processing, a little bit of EQ, nothing crazy, and just kind of put a little bit of energy back into the snare just to give it a little bit of force, and also kind of brighten up the cymbals just a touch.

[overheads with EQ]

And I’ll exaggerate that, just so we can hear it.

[overheads]

It actually sounds really nice exaggerated, so maybe I’ll keep a little bit more of that energy in there. It’s adding a nice amount of body to the sound.

So if we take that, and we take just our kick for example, maybe we’ll take the kick in and the kick out.

[kick and overheads]

And maybe back that off a hair, because we’re pretty loud.

[kick and overheads]

We’re almost entirely done what might be considered a classic rock style of drum processing. Yeah, we might add a little bit of something to maybe thicken up the overheads, you know, we could do that with compression, that was certainly a common technique, or if we just want to sort of cheat it, this Waves MV2, which is just good for thickening things up really quickly.

[kick and overheads with MV2]

Eh, you know what, I’ll use a little compression. Why not.

[kick and overheads with MJUC]

And there we have basically a complete picture of the kit. We don’t really actually need anything else, but what I’m going to do is add in some rooms.

Now, I’ve got the rooms from the actual studio here.

[room mics]

It’s kind of a boxy sounding room. It’s not really what I want to go for like, a scopic, big kind of rock sound. I’d rather go for something that’s more like a church. Obviously, this wasn’t recorded in a church or chapel type space, or like a big hall, or some kind of crazy tunnel or anything like that, so I’m going to just use one from an artificial reverb.

[overheads, setting up reverb]

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So that’s the basic sound. Maybe it’s a little bit much. I think what I’m going to do is shelf off a little bit of low end here, and possibly shelf off some high end as well.

[overheads, adjusting reverb EQ]

And you hear how immediately in doing that, it makes the reverb a lot smaller.

So before…

[overheads and reverb, before EQ]

It’s a cool sound, but I mean, it’s obviously very overwhelming. I could turn it down a bit.

[overheads with reverb]

But it’s almost — it’s almost too balanced that way, so just sort of shrinking the size of the reverb could be really helpful.

[overheads with reverb, adjusting size]

Right, because now that the reverb is thinner, it’s like we can get more of the reverb in there, and get more of the character of the sound, which I think is a little bit more interesting. So yeah, we could balance it, or we could EQ it. It really just depends on the aesthetic. It’s not like there’s a right or a wrong.

I’m going to turn it down just a hair from there.

[adjusting reverb volume on overheads]

I’m going to shorten the tail ever so slightly.

[overheads]

There we go. And now, if I want to bring in the snare, I can bring it in and just kind of lower it down and just sort of raise it up to get the amount of reinforcement that I want.

[overheads, bringing in snare drum]

That sounds pretty darn good, and right there we can use that as our drum sound. So let me bring in the other elements of this mix.

[mix]

A little loud with some of this stuff. Let me turn it down a little bit… Turn the bass down a little bit.

[mix]

So we have what clearly sounds like a sort of classic rock kind of sound, where it’s very open, it’s very natural, it’s very based on the overheads and room, and then we can go from there. If we want to modernize it, we can start taking it in a direction that makes it sound like it’s a little bit more 2017, but it just has that certain amount of influence on it.

So we can raise the snare up a bit for example.

[music]

You know, turn up the kick drum here…

[song playback]

And suddenly, we start getting something that has that classic rock sound, but at the same time, still sounds modern and fresh, and of course, we can do anything you want artistically from there, but it’s just to show the point that we can take a little bit of that influence that sounds like that quintessential rock, and we can mold it in a modern way if we have the right components, and we just sort of keep an open mind to having like, personality, texture, stereo spread, things that we wouldn’t necessarily want if we were going for like, a tighter metal kind of sound, where it’s just all impact, all in your face, or whatever might have you.

Anyways guys, don’t forget to like this video, don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, and don’t forget to check out the link below. Until next time!

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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: Weiss-Sound.com

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