Tips for Mixing Rock Drums
We’re gonna look at some rock drums with auxiliary mics and how to treat them. We have this basic drum set up here: overheads, snares, kicks, hi-hats and it sounds like this.
[drums without auxiliary microphones]
Sounds good, but sounds a little flat. Not the most interesting drum sound in the world. If we put it out there it would serve the function but we want something to bring a little extra to the sound.
The producer used a couple of auxiliary mics and he put the comment “optional” on them. One is a front of kit capture and the other one is some kind of distorted mic that was put over the bass drum. They sound like this.
[front of drums auxiliary microphone]
That’s my front of kit mic. Here is my bass drum distorted mic.
[distorted bass drum microphone]
Let’s hear how those sound with the rest of the kit.
[full drum set + auxiliary microphones]
So as soon as those come in, the sound gains a lot of dimension and texture, but it also becomes really blurry. There’s some really crazy tones showing up. Like in the bass drum distorted mic, you hear this sort of “whoooooo,” kind of constantly going, and with the front of kit capture, you kind of hear the same thing intermittently. That tells me the room is producing its own strong resonance. So let’s try to kill that tone.
I’m gonna grab my FabFilter Pro-Q, and set up a notch. What we’re gonna do is find that tone, actually I’m gonna start with a bell. I’m just gonna see if I can isolate the tone, and then I’m gonna switch to notch to really get rid of it.
[FabFilter Pro-Q notch eq for bass drum auxiliary microphone]
There’s that wind noise, this whooshy, windy kind of tone. I’m gonna switch to notch. Now what I need to do is set the Q so I get just that tone. Now let’s listen to that with the rest of the kit.
[full drum kit before and after notch eq]
Let me take that in and out. There’s a lot of room in the sound, a lot of tone and texture in the sound, but I haven’t masked all of the other sounds in the kit because of that resonance. Obviously this is up too loud. But having it up too loud allows me to really hear what’s causing problems in the track. I’m gonna put it back down to zero, back to unity, and here’s how it sounds.
[drum mix with and without bass drum overhead microphone]
Let’s do the same thing with the front mic. I’m going to copy these settings. I think that it’s probably the same resonance. Now I’ve got two really good texture mics, and all I have to do now is set the level to where I feel that they’re most appropriate. These are things that I feel — generally speaking — work better subtly, they add subtle dimension and texture to a drum sound rather than something that’s going to overwhelm the sound and become part of it. Then again, if you’re going for something stylized, there’s nothing wrong with that either. So I might start with it very low and inch it back in.
[drum mix + blended effect mics]
It’s one of those things where it’s not making a huge difference in terms of sound, but you really miss when it’s gone.
[drum mix before and after auxiliary microphones]
Let’s do the same for this bass drum mic. I just have to make a judgement call in the context of the record. If I want that really bombastic sound I’ll probably use this bass drum capture, but I probably don’t. I think I like the front of mic better, and it adds a nice sense of dimension.
When you’re recording a drum kit, it can be really helpful to take some mics, some weird mics, some cruddy mics, or taking a mic and running it through some kind of a distortion and place them in spots you wouldn’t normally put a microphone — just to capture an interesting tone. I think there’s good techniques for doing it deliberately, and sometimes it’s fun just to stick a mic randomly somewhere and see what happens. Either way, once you get that, a good way to work it into the mix is to simply kill the frequency zones that are interfering with your ability to create a cohesive drum sound and then blend it in to taste.