Mixing Home Studio Drums with Samples, EQ and More
It’s been a minute since I’ve released a tutorial, so I’m excited to be with you guys, back contributing to The Pro Audio Files.
I’ve got an exciting announcement. The tutorial that’s about to follow is an excerpt from my new course from within The Mix Academy, and we’re calling it, “Mixing Pop Ballads.” This is going to be featuring Jeremy Rosado. He was an American Idol finalist. Incredible talent, incredible voice, and an even better person.
Super stoked to be able to feature this song, “Save Me,” produced by my buddy Victor Encarnacion. Victor, the producer, we did this as part of a demo for Jeremy three or four years ago, and funny story, I was given about 30 minutes to mix this song, and so I finally have got my hands on it to give it a proper mix this time around.
I’ve got hours and hours of tutorials in this. I can’t remember what the final tally is. I think three hours. But I wanted to share with you a quick before and after. I’ve got the dry tracks I’m going to push up. This was recorded in Vic’s basement in Chicago.
Incredible musician, incredible producer. Great music mind all the way around, and so here’s the before and after, and then we’ll roll into the excerpt. We’ve got bass guitar, a couple of different tutorials, managing the low end, some drum tutorials for you that come straight out of the course. Check it out — mixingpopballads.com, and we’ll see you in plenty more tutorials to come.
Alright guys, it’s time to break down the drums.
Pretty straightforward. Sample replacement, some tightening up, we walk through the toms. Let’s catch you up.
So basically, it’s starting to sound like a song, and I know I’ve done a lot to the drums, but I haven’t touched the music, and things are kind of feeling good, so it’s a good thing.
Alright, so kick drum. The only thing I’ve done to the kick so far is replace it. I chose to go with the guys from That Sound. If I go to my DGR folder here, you’ll see I’ve used the That Sound Ben Philips library. I’ve gone to kicks. There’s a folder for Trigger presets, and I’ve grabbed the Every Day Natural and the Every Day Rooms.
Did I even use the rooms? Yeah, I did. I did. I remember. So let’s go to Trigger, view mixer.
So yeah, just a little bit of the room sound in there, and that took our kick drum from sounding like this…
Let me mute the created drum room that I did there. We’ll get to that. Here’s the original kick.
[original kick, no reverb]
Okay. So I could gate that, EQ the crap out of it, it just, whenever I did that just gated it and kind of listened. A lot of the cymbal bleed and stuff is coming through.
When I record kick, I like to use a kick tunnel or cut a plastic trash can, a big garbage can in half and wrap that around the kick and put blankets on top of it so I can isolate the kick mic.
And that wasn’t done, so we have a lot of cymbal bleed, so I chose to replace it.
First thing, like I said was Every Day Natural from the That Sound Ben Philips library. A little bit of dry, a little bit of room sound. And then I didn’t even tighten it up. Didn’t even use the curves or anything, I just did the range. I reduced the range, so the softest hit is a minimum of 72. I think they’re all much louder than that — or harder than that — but then the velocity range, you can see I took it from 50 and just kind of pushed that up a little bit to reduce the velocities and to reduce the dynamic range, or the dynamics between the hits. Excuse me.
So there you go. That’s for both of those hits. Threw VMR on. I wanted a little bit more bottom, and so instead of going to an EQ first, I went to VMR is on here — VCC, excuse me — and I went to the Brit N. The Neve has a bit of a fluffy bottom end, so putting that on, we go from…
[kick with VCC]
Very, very slight difference. I did want more bottom. I wanted more sub. I’ve got my M2 looking ridiculous with a backpack on while I mix, but I wanted more subs, so I went to the Pultec from UA and just boosted, what’s that, 3dB of 30Hz or so, and then I overloaded a little bit on the low end. I could feel it getting dirty. So I just pulled up a slight bit of attenuation to kind of clean it up a hair.
[kick with Pultec]
You feel that. Here’s without it.
[kick, no Pultec]
And then back with it.
[kick with Pultec]
Just drives it forward a little bit.
I’ve got that going to a drum room. We’ll hear that in a bit, and then we’ll talk about sidechain compression in a bit as well.
The snare drum, same thing, I chose to replace it completely. Let’s come back here. I did reduce the first two hits here from being full hits to more of a ghosting into the fill.
This guy right here.
And actually, it doesn’t even capture that first hit, but that’s okay because I have the snare bottom mic — I turned into a ghost note track.
So here is the snare — we’ll come out here a little bit. You can see I chose the Fat Favorite. That’s my favorite snare drum sound. I use it too much, but I haven’t used it. I’ve been mixing a lot of Gospel the past few months, and I haven’t used it at all, so I wanted to use it. Fat Favorite Dry felt like it fit this song.
[snare, Fat Favorite Dry]
Okay. Let’s see if I messed with the curves. I didn’t. I just left it as is for that.
But we go to VMR, you can see that’s just there. [yawns] Excuse me, it’s getting late. Part of my template. Then I threw an SSL on there for, if I remember, a little bit of chunk. 200Hz.
Right there. So here’s before the EQ…
A little thin.
Just a little more meat. A little more chunk. 150-200. I love that in a snare.
So straight forward so far. So I may do some more stuff, but I didn’t want to just keep mixing and mixing and mixing and leave you guys hanging. So the basic stuff is the drum replacement. I took the snare bottom mic, I duplicated it, just in case I have to go back, you can see this is the snare bottom.
[snare bottom mic]
Okay. And I took out all of the stuff that wasn’t ghosting.
[snare, ghost hits only]
And then I put crossfades on them. Fades. I EQ’d it. If I remember, I added some meat. It felt a little too snare bottom mic-ish, and I wanted a little more warmth to it, so 200Hz has been boosted. I compressed it fairly well to try to get it up there. Yeah. I drove the input.
Here’s without the SSL.
[snare, no SSL]
And with it.
[snare, with SSL]
Just fills it out, right? Compress it, get some more love in there.
And I’ve sent that to the room mic. Everything is going to this new Slate verb. I’m giving it a shot, see what I think about it. This is my first time using it.
Anyways, moving on from the ghost notes, we had the toms, we talked about those, we replaced the toms, I did do one thing to the toms. I added a little more click to — a little bit more attack, stick hitting the head to the mid and the top here, and I reduced a little bit more of the sustain from the bottom, and you guys can hear the difference of that probably in one of these fills here.
Got to love this. So here’s the — here are the toms.
Got to love it. And then without it.
A little more round. It could fit for some genre. I just want a little more click.
To cut through the mix a bit more. That was that with the toms, if I remember. What did I do, maybe scooped a little bit of the mids. I did. So here’s before.
Let me solo.
A little bit of the boxy kind of tone.
[toms, after EQ]
I dig it for some indie rock stuff, but for this, I felt like scooped felt better.
A little rounder…
[toms, without EQ]
A little boxier. So we’ll keep that.
And those are the toms. I adjusted my level on the Studer here to make sure I don’t clip it unless I want to clip it. I wanted these to be fairly straight forward and fairly clean. At least for now.
The hi-hat, I hate the hi-hat mic. Let’s come out here a little bit and let’s solo the hi-hat. Here’s nothing on the hi-hat.
And I’m not done mixing this, like I said, so this is just experimenting.
VMR is part of my template. EQ wise, I was trying to just make something out of nothing here.
Try to feature the sizzle on top. I’m not a huge fan of bright cymbals, but I wanted to try to change the sound of it, so you can see I was just experimenting, honestly, I was trying to fill it out a bit, and then I tried to cut the harshness. I felt like this right here…
The transient was right there, and it was a bit much, so before going to a transient designer, I was thinking, let me try to EQ this.
So here is before…
[hi-hat, before cut]
[hi-hat after EQ]
It softens it a little bit. Then I compressed it with the SSL.
[hi-hat with SSL]
Just kind of not doing it for me. So I pulled up Neutron. I just got this. Let’s see… And I just went to the compressor, I was thinking I’ve got to use Neutron in this mix. So I just pulled open a compressor, dialed in, just backed off the medium attack, medium release.
Feels a little better.
Then I went to the Neutron… Show at startup? Nah.
Then I went to this guy here. Pretty much the iZotope Alloy 2 transient designer, but with some more features, and I wanted to pull back the attack. I felt like this was a bit — listen in the mix.
I wanted it to be more of an open, washy hi-hat, and so I took some of the attack out…
[mix, attack lowered on hi-hat]
It’s still got the — it’s not a full open, it’s not a full going at it, so I didn’t want to make it washy. I still wanted the separation between the hits, but I feel like actually, that sounds better, it feels better to add a little bit of sustain to it.
So hi-hat, we went from…
And remember, what I was saying about parallel compression, the kick/snare/toms, the hat, that probably would’ve happened to the hat. That sound right there, the compressed sound, if I would have sent it to the All Drums, but I like to have individual control over what the metal on the kit is doing, the hat, ride, and overheads.
So digging that. Overhead wise, I didn’t touch the overheads, because I didn’t like the sound of them.
I just kind of left them here, which is just what the natural effect of these plug-ins being on there will do. I think the API might have a little boost in the top. Yeah, so it pulls the cymbals out a little bit, but snares on the left, and I just was not into featuring them. Let me turn this off. This weird thing I used to do.
Okay, so here’s our cymbals. And then what I did was I went and hand placed a left crash, a right crash, these came also from the Ben Philips That Sound library. Go to iwantthatsound.com if you guys are new and haven’t heard of them. I used an 18” on the left, a 17” on the right, and I just went through and hand placed — I soloed the overheads, and I’ll listen for where the cymbals are hitting, and I just go ahead and place them throughout the track, and I’ve done that here.
So let’s do a little — here’s the intro. We’ll go in context to the song. Here’s no cymbal hits at all. Just the natural drums.
That’s that reverse swell kind of filling it out.
Now with the cymbals.
[mix, with cymbal samples]
You can’t tell me that didn’t just take it to a whole other level.
So let’s come out here where maybe there’s a couple of fill hits, there’s some excitement right here.
Listen to that again. Maybe even the end of the song.
Listen to that one more time, but without cymbals.
[mix, no cymbal samples]
Okay, I could turn them up, but they just aren’t doing it for me, so…
Last, but not least, with the cymbal department, I’ve got a crash ride. 20” crash ride that sounds horrible on its own.
[crash ride sample]
That’s a robot.
But blended underneath, I feel like it fits, it works. So here’s without it.
[mix, no crash ride sample]
Even just some resonant cymbal noise to kind of help fill it out a bit. When I mix the guitars, they’re going to have more top end, lots of stuff to do still.
But that was kind of — a drum prep and mixing at the same time. We added a little low to the kick, just the samples we picked sound good. I still may do more, but to me, that just feels good already.
Next up, I created a drum room. I was going to go to Ocean Way. UAD. Not everyone has that, so I was like, “You know.”
Slate with his $15 a month bundle — this is now included, so I figured, let me give it a shot…