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Mixing Rock Kick Drums with Cameron Webb

Hey, I’m Cameron Webb, and we’re here with Pro Mix Academy, and we’re going to do a mix today. The band I chose to do a mix is called The Runaway Kids. The Runaway Kids is a Punk Rock band from San Fernando Valley, and they came to me a couple of years ago, and they said, “Hey, we want to do an EP, and we want to do it with you!”

So I built a relationship with this band over about a year or two, and I’ve been trying to help them out. This song specifically that we’re working on today, they came to me and said, “We’ve got a tour with Pennywise, and we want to release some sort of new material.”

I’m going to play just a little bit of the song so that I can get myself familiar with it again, and I say we break it down.


Okay, one of the most important things that I do when I start with drums, or even starting any sort of mix, is I listen to other records that I like and that I respect that are in similar genres. So I kind of know where the bottom end sits, the high end, the snares, the kicks, and I reference those back and forth. In the beginning, I’ll do it a little bit in the morning more so than I will later in the day, because I just want to make sure that I’m starting off at a competitive level.

When you look at the tracks, you see my drums are basically — the drum kit which I had here, which is a DW kit, which sounds great, it came from a friend of mine named Ed Udhus, who plays in a band called Zebrahead. My drum setup is very similar with most of the artists I work with, because to me, I just want to put a mic on every single instrument, so if someone says to me, “Hey, I want the ride turned up,” I can turn up the ride. It’s that simple.

So I have — I think I’ve got about 13 tracks here. Maybe 14 actually. I like to use all of my close mics, and then I like to use a couple of rooms, and with my rooms, I’ll start with a stereo pair, and then I’ll also use a mono room on its own.

So when it comes to Punk Rock, you don’t want to sound too safe. You don’t want to sound too trashy, because it sounds too trashy, it doesn’t project the song as well, and I think a lot of things happened in the 90s when NOFX and Pennywise were doing their records, and they took Punk Rock from a period where you had your Black Flags, and you had kind of — that kind of Punk Rock that had a little bit more hardcore in it.

They were a little looser sounding records, and then you took the 90s, where we started to slick things up, and I almost hate to say this, but you gave Punk Rock a little bit of Metal production. Heavy Metal production. The two combined together, I felt like helped the Punk Rock scene grow a ton, whether it was Bad Religion, NOFX, Pennywise, or even Green Day. You look at Dookie. It has a little more slick element.

So to me, I like that sound, and I chase that sound, so let’s start with the top here. Let’s look at the kick drum. We start with the kick, and part of what Warren asked me to do today was mix this song with only stock Digidesign plugins. So that’s what I did. I originally mixed it a little differently, but I found a way to kind of — to choose, because originally, I mixed it, I had a couple other plugins, but he looked at it and he said, “But you could just switch this over pretty easily, just choose some other Digi ones,” and I did it no problem, and so that’s what we’ve got.

In general, when I start a mix, I start with the kick drum. That’s the thing for me. Listen to the kick drum and I make choices. I make choices of, okay, does it need a little EQ, does it need a little compression? And yes, it does. For me, I need a kick drum to be controlled. I don’t want a kick drum hard, soft, hard, soft, too dynamic. I want that kick drum when it punches. I want it to hit really hard. I want to hear the solidness of it.

I don’t necessarily want it to sound overly triggered. I’m not big into that sound. Even though you’ll see that I do use a sample on this song, but I just start — it’s pretty simple. So with this kick drum, I start with the core kick drum, and I’ll look at what the song needs, and I’ll take — I’ll start with an EQ, and I’ll add a little high end. You can see on this song, I dug away some of the — about 100. I mean, 1,000. 1kHz. So let’s call it 1kHz.

I dug out, add a little high end, add some bottom end, because when you’re playing this fast stuff, sometimes it’s just slappier. I recorded it on this same console that we’re looking at right here. This is a Trident 80C. It’s an amazing console. Great bottom end, the EQs are super hi-fi. It’s great.

So, basically I’m covering, like, when I came in, all these drums were recorded through these channels. They’re very cohesive, I didn’t use other mic pres at all, just these mic pres, and you’ll see that with my kick drum, there’s one kick drum track, and that kick drum track is actually a combination of two mics that I have out there: the ATM-25 and the V12.

So I like to buss things, because I think the busses on analog consoles like this sound more superior than bussing them in Pro Tools. They just do something, and I don’t know what it is, but I feel like I get a bigger sound. A lot of people say, “Well, why don’t you record these things separately?” And I’m the kind of producer and mixer where I want to commit. I want a band to come in, I want them to hear that kick drum, and I want them to say, “That sounds great. Let’s keep going with that.”

I don’t want to say, “I’ll fix it later.” I’m not a fix it later guy, because I’m not interested in making a mistake later. So as long as they come in and they’re excited about it, then I can buss it together and make it work, and obviously, they trust me. They come here because they trust me,and then they use their ears, and they learn that I’m trying to give them what is best for them.

So I take the kick drum, I’ll EQ it a little bit, brighten it up on this occasion, compressor, using the stock Digi compressor of course. I don’t want to hit it too hard. If I look at here…



So it’s not overly hitting it. If I have — let me take it to bypass. It’s not suffocating it, it’s just kind of controlling the attack a little bit, and you’ll notice in a second that I’m not just going through once compressor. I’m starting with the first channel, which is the kick drum channel, and adding a little control, and then once I get a control that I kind of like, I go down and I buss this to a kick sub. I don’t like a lot of busses, because bussing gets confusing. I like to be kind of simple with my bussing, but my kick and snare, they need that kind of stuff from me.

I buss that to another channel, but before I get to that buss, you’ll see that I’m also using a sample. It’s this kick SR. Kick Sound Replacer is what it is. This kick…

[kick sample]

This kick is probably an ATM-25 as well. And part of what this kick does for me is it adds a consistent attack, because I don’t want to hear an overly kicky click, and then a not kicky click. So that keeps the click kind of organized and controlled.

I have an EQ on here, but I’m not even using it. I probably was like, “Hey, do I need to check this out?” Or sometimes, I’ll set it up and I have that on there so I can just be quick, but yeah, I’m not even using anything. I combine those two together onto a buss, and the key to this is before I put these plugins that you see here on this buss, I’ll actually have them all muted, because I’ll basically — I want to hear what the kick drum sounds like on its own. It’s good, it’s full, it’s got punch to it, and now, I’ll start with the compression again.

I’ll probably start right around here. A little more control, and then I put a second compressor on it that maybe has a couple of different settings. Maybe the threshold is different, maybe the attack is different. Because to me, the beauty of compression is when you have a sound and when the sound happens and it goes away really fast, if you compress the sound and you use a little bit of a slower release, it makes your sound sustain longer.

So if you have a kick drum that’s tick, tick, tick, if you can get it to go, [emulates longer ticks], if you can make that kick a little meatier, it’ll have a meatier sound. So that’s why I use compression as well. Besides controlling it, the governor of it, I like to add a little bit of smoothness, of depth to it, which you get from more kind of analog gear, compressors, old tube compressors do it a lot, because their releases are slower.

So I’ll do that, and then I’ll just start EQing and say, “Okay, you know what, is this…”


It’s a good sounding kick drum by itself, but in a mix, this is going to be a little bit too dark for this. So a lot of times, I’ll use a variety of EQs, but I’m using the Digi ones here, so I’m kind of just listening to — I definitely needed to brighten it, but sometimes it’s good to dig things out too, so you have to basically — let’s see, am I even digging out very much on this? I’m doing a bit of adding actually.

So I’m not digging out a lot on this. I’m basically just adding some bottom and then adding some top, but I’m doing it twice. So I’m going EQ, and I’m going into a compressor. So basically, it’s compressing, but it’s also controlling my EQ a little bit, going into another EQ, because I didn’t think there was enough high end, so I’m adding a little bit more high end, and then I’m going to a final compressor here, and release is 80, where was my first release? Let’s see.

Oh, it’s the same. Kind of using the same trick.


I listen, and part of what I’m doing right now is I work on this kick on its own for awhile, and then I’ll work on the snare, and I kind of build it, and then eventually, I’ll go back and I’ll adjust a little bit once I put the whole kit in, because here’s the thing, when you have it soloed, it’s never going to sound like this, and you have to understand, it’s a couple step process. It’s not always like, “Get your kick like this” and then you walk away.

No, you get it like this, and then you work on other elements.


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