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Tips for Augmenting Drums in a Mix

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Tips for Augmenting Drums in a Mix
Tips for Augmenting Drums in a Mix - youtube Video
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here —, I just sent in a video over to Dan about fixing clipped drums, and I mentioned something about it on social media, and before the video even came out, I got a couple of messages real quick saying, “Well how do you go about augmenting or replacing drums that you just flat out don’t like?”

Now, that’s coincidental, because at the end of that last video that I sent in, which may be out by the time you’re watching this, I mentioned that sample augmentation or replacement is a viable option, but because it was so involved, I felt like the video was too long.

Well, you all asked for it, so here it is. This is how I go about augmenting or replacing samples. First, let’s play the loop that’s in question just so that we get on the same page.

[drum loop]

So we’ve got some pretty cool drums, but they’re pretty clipped. We hear the distortion in the kick drum, in particular, it’s kind of ugly. The clipping in the snare actually doesn’t bother me, I kind of like it. I think it sounds good, but for the sake of this video, let’s say we were augmenting both, and I’m going to put a big asterisk beside that, because I was in the studio when we were cutting the record, and everybody in the studio was really excited about the feel of the record, and when that happens, it’s really important not to take away or change the feel too much, because everybody is already in love with the record, right?

So whenever we’re changing something dramatically like this, we are inherently going to change the feel, and can very easily take away from it, even if what we’re working with wasn’t really perfect, and by the way, this loop right here?


It is for a major label release, and in the song itself, I do not replace the samples. I worked with it, and I just simply made it the best that it can be, and the record came out great. So again, this is a hypothetical video, and you do have to use your discretion, and that is very important.

Alright, so now let’s talk about the process. Alright, the first thing that I do, especially when there’s a loop is just to copy the loop a few times, and I used those copies in a couple of different ways. The first way is that I’ll go in and let’s say I’m replacing or augmenting that kick, I’ll make a version of that track where the snare is missing. What I have here is just the kick drum.


Then I’ll do that again for any other drum that happens to be isolated that I’m replacing. So this track right below it, same thing, except for it’s just the snare drum isolated. Nothing crazy there. If it’s a complex loop, or there’s constant meter changing where you’d have to do it throughout the song, then maybe you have to do it with filters and get out all the top end so you can isolate the kick, and filter out all of the bottom end so you can isolate the snare and all of that kind of stuff, but with a loop, just copy it and make it easy.

Now, the one thing that you do have to be careful of, especially with clipped drums is especially since they sustain so long, when we’re using the drum as a trigger, if the sustain is pulled out, it’s going to retrigger a lot, and we’re going to end up getting a flammed sample replacement, and we don’t really want that, we want something most of the time that’s pretty clean, or at least if it’s not clean, controlled in the way we want.

So what I’m doing is throwing a transient designer right on the front of this source sound, and I’m really pushing up the attack. So we go from this…

[drum loop]

To this.

[boosted attack loop]

Alright, so we have the very sharp, ticky attack, and that’s going to help the triggering device figure out where it needs to trigger the sample. Now, in terms of what to use for triggering, my preference is the Steven Slate Trigger 2. There’s a number of them out there, it is personal preference, but I feel this one gives me the versatility and the accuracy, so I’ve been using this one for I think about seven years, and have never felt any need to replace it.

So what do I do? Well, I kind of identify what I’m looking for. This kick drum has plenty of mid-range texture, but what it lacks is clean low end, so the main thing I’m looking for when I’m scrolling through my samples is a really clean low end. Now, maybe I’ll hear some samples that have a compelling mid-range texture that I just want to try, or something has a really nice low end, but it also has a really pronounced top end, in which case I can EQ it, or I can just leave it as is and see how it feels.

So when I’m going through my banks, I came through a bunch of these different things and loaded them all up, and this is what they all sound like through the Trigger.

[kick 1]

One that’s just straight up low end.

[kick 2]

Clean low end with a lot of tick.

[kick 3]

Just clean, round, low end.

[kick 4]

Very pronounced low end with a really interesting top end texture.

[kick 5]

That’s my sort of oddball one, where I heard it, and I was like, “Well that sounds like a Reggaeton drum, or some kind of texture you’d hear in Reggaeton, so let’s just throw that in there since we’re experimenting anyway.”

Then this one.

[kick 6]

Which has a really nice low end. It’s got more mid-range than what I’m really looking for, but it’s got a really, really good low end.

I’m going to do the same thing for the snare. Now, with the snare, I’m looking for something a little different. With that, I wouldn’t mind something that rounds that snare out a little bit more, like something that’s got a little bit more cushion on it, so again, something that’s a little bit more low end-y, and I wouldn’t mind if there was a little bit more connectivity between the snare and the kick, so something that has an interesting shape. So this is what I ended up digging up out of my samples.


Now, the snare in particular, I’m not really sure needs a layer, so I’m sort of all over the map here, but we’re going to see how these layers play against the main one.

So let’s start with the kick, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to go through each sample, and I always check the phase, because the phase can really affect how samples are being heard. So start with my first one, and I’ll play through in phase.


Sorry, one more thing, I turned the sample up a little bit loud. Maybe not that loud.


So you can hear how much of a difference that little phase button actually makes.


That’s like huge low end.


That’s like, no low low end. So what I found is that almost everything worked better when the polarity was switched, so that’s why you see all those phase buttons engaged. Chances are, for whatever reason, I just needed to flip the drums to begin with, but whatever.

So once I do that, I’m going through every sample, and I’m seeing how they kind of play together, so for example, I like what this very first one is doing. This is from Decap Sounds that Knock or something. That’s a really cool kit.


[drum loop]

Right? That’s giving me exactly what I’m looking for, so right off the bat, that’s a pretty good start.


That one I like a little better. It’s not quite as strong in the low end, but I could boost it up, but it’s a little bit tighter, so I feel like it really works better with the pulse of the record. So I’m already inclined to go with that one.


That one doesn’t seem to really bring a lot to the table. I’ve got it turned up like, 5dB louder than everything else, and it’s still not really augmenting the kick in a great way, so that one’s probably out.

[drum loop]

That mid-range top end texture that’s in this one is just too pronounced, it doesn’t fit with the drum, it just gets in the way and clashes, so that one’s out.

[drum loop]

Same thing with this one. The mid-range is just kind of all over the map. It doesn’t really work. It was a fun experiment, but not this time.


I really like that one. That one seems to get along really nicely. The mid-range texture that’s in it blends well with the mid-range texture that’s already there, so then I sort of isolate what’s kind of working, like, these first two worked, and this last one worked. So I’ll go between them and I’ll see what really speaks to me.

[drums, auditioning kick samples]

That one. And once I get the one I really want, originally it actually sounded like this.

[drum loop]

Then I’ll kind of fine tune it — literally tune it — just by ear, and in this case, I found that it worked better when it was tuned up just ever so slightly.


Then that becomes my kick, and I’ll tuck it down so that it’s a little bit tighter and mixed in a little bit smoother.


Cool. My next step is going to be the same process. I’m going to do it with the snares. I’m going to skip a lot of this, but basically suffice to say, I really like what this middle snare here, this Cloud S6 snare is doing.


Because there’s a bit of the release — it’s kind of doing everything I want it to do. It’s providing a little bit more low end, it’s rounding out the sound of the drum, and there’s also something in the release that’s connecting the snare into the kick.


Also, I do flip the polarity on the snares too, because that will change the perception of the snare, particularly in the low end.

So I ended up with that Cloud 6 one, and I really like it. Then what I’m going to do is go back over to the primary loop, and I’m going to see if there’s something that I can clean up a little bit on that end that will make it blend a little better. So let’s play all of these together.


Now I mentioned that one of the problems with this loop is that it’s kind of a little bit flubby, because it’s being modulated. Well, I have good low end from my other kick, so I really don’t need as much low end from this main loop. Now, a lot of times, people will high pass filter what they’re working with. That’s not the worst way to do it, then you just end up getting the low end from one drum, and you can certainly work with that by using an EQ to push that up and work from there.

For me, I kind of like the original low end in terms of the attitude of it, so I kind of want to keep it, but get a better balance of both. So I’m going to put in a low shelf, and I’m just going to cut off like, four and a half, five dB of the low end, but keep some of it in there. It’s not like I can’t have a blend. So here’s before.



[drum loop, after EQ]

One more time.

[drum loop, before and after low shelf EQ]

You’ll notice, even though I’m taking something away, it actually feels like I’m gaining low end, and that’s kind of an important concept. We talk about how do we make mixes really loud but still be really clean, and have that big sound to them.

Well, it’s because the way that the sounds are working together is very cohesive, and this is an example of where we make the sounds more cohesive, and we get a bigger outcome, even though we’re actually taking level away at the end of the day.

Now, the last bit of this is to sort of compare it to the original one, so I’m going to mute these up, and pull in just the original one turned up so it’s a little more level matched.

[drum loop]

So in this process of level matching it, I sort of have lost a little bit of perceived snare. There’s a couple ways I can get around that. I can either just literally automate the snares up, or use something like the Sound Radix Drum Leveler to turn the snare up using a program, or I could just be really lazy, and I could just blend this mix knob here on the snare trigger, so a little bit more of the dry snare comes through.


And then it’s a little bit easier to compare.


So I end up with something that is a lot cleaner. I do feel that there’s an attitude that’s in just the raw drums, and that’s kind of why I ended up going with the raw drums even though they were clipped. The personality of it was there, and a lot of times, producers are not thinking on a technical level. They don’t care what is and is not proper distortion, they just care how it feels. And if it feels right, it feels right.

So I could certainly work with this and develop it more, but I just really wanted to show you to process of picking samples to begin with.

So sample replacement kind of covers a wide gamut. If you go to, I have tutorials on a whole bunch of different genres, where I’m talking about the idea of sample augmentation and replacement in pretty much all of them, even in my rock tutorials. It’s part of the process. It is something that we need to know and need to have in our arsenal as engineers, it’s just something that we need to do with a bit of reservation.

Alright guys, if you dig what I’m doing here, hit that like button. If you want to catch more of these videos, definitely hit that subscribe button, and I’ll catch you 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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