Tips for Mixing Acoustic Drums
I’ve got the song ‘Chosen’ from Jeris Cole pulled up and we’re gonna be talking about drum rooms. Now this was tracked, the drums were tracked by an LA session musician, he did a great job, the studio did a great job.
I’ve got a stereo pair of room mics, and I’m going to show you how I’ve — I’m just gonna hit play and I’m gonna mix it as if I was just mixing the song and show you some of the things that I do when I’m working with room mics. Then I’m also gonna show you how to create a room sound. I’ve got the extremely beautiful UAD Ocean Way that I’m gonna pull open. I’m gonna bus the drums individually to this plugin — kind of using it as a room, a reverb. But you can also use this as a re-mic if you want to throw it on top of your room sound. I’ll show you that in action, and then I’m gonna bypass that and I’m gonna open good old D-Verb and show you how you can still get some usable results from DVerb, so jumping right in let’s hit play and listen to the drums, so these guys out, and we’ll just loop this section.
I’m gonna bring the room sound down. Hear how tight it gets. Bring that up a little bit more. Very cool. Now, I really don’t have to do much, I really want a tight, like a wallet and duct tape drum sound for this song. But, just because it sounds amazing I could leave it. I’m gonna go ahead and treat it with some stuff just so you would see how maybe I would normally treat a room sound, maybe I want to make this sound a little bigger. I don’t, but I’m gonna show you that just for example purposes. I’m gonna hit play, and I’m just gonna work in these drums — the drum room. Just kind of to taste here.
Solo it. Use some compression. Pull open Alloy. It’s got a beautiful multiband transient designer. You’ll see the bands are — listen to just, maybe add some attack to the low end. Suck the sustain out. Probably gonna end up removing some of that anyways, but hear that. Let’s listen to the mids. Ok, I don’t wanna get the ring going too crazy there, but adding sustain, cutting some attack, you remove some of the transients from that mic and add a little bit of sustain — that gives you the impression that it’s a little bit bigger. If you think about it, if you’re recording a snare drum and you’ve got an SM57, trusty old SM57 right on top of the snare and you’re smacking it, you’re gonna hear the attack, the sustain. Well then if you take the SM57 and you start backing up, you’re gonna hear less attack and you’re gonna have more sustain because it’s gonna be the room sound now. So what we can do with transient designers is we can emulate that mic being pulled back away from the source by removing attack and increasing the sustain. And that’s kind of what I did right there. We’re gonna do a little more with the top end lets take a listen.
Now if I bypass it, remember this is a compressed signal already, so, if I bypass this, let’s see what we started with here. Cool. So, not bad. I may tweak that a little bit more but let’s bring it into the mix and then we’ll bypass the plugins. Let’s go to, I like the fill that comes in here, and I only want the drums for now. You’ve heard quite a bit of this song in my recent tutorials.
[drum mix without room microphone]
I’m gonna mute the drum mic, or the room mic. I’ll bring it back in. Alright cool, so that’s got a certain vibe to it, I like what’s going on there. Now let’s pull in our trusty UAD, you can see here I’m gonna bypass the plugin so we can get a proper comparison here. I’m using it in reverb mode and it’s the C12 and we’re about 15 feet back. Actually, I’m not sure that the C12 even matters much when you’re in reverb mode. Maybe it does. Should read the manual sometimes. Mute is open on the mid, we’re not using the near or far and what we’re gonna do is make sure — I’ve set it up previous to the video so you guys don’t have to sit here and watch me set it all up — a little bit of the kick. And I’m doing it pre-fader so that the signal of the — my volume, doesn’t impact the send into the reverb. And it looks like we’ve got a little bit of this snare. And each tom, the hat, and then of course the overheads are going to a bus, and we got a stereo send going into the room. So let’s go ahead and let’s hear it without and then I’ll pull it in.
[full drum mix with/without UAD Ocean Way reverb]
Man that just sounds incredible. Let’s hear the fill with it in there.
[drum fill with UAD Ocean Way reverb]
So that’s only the UAD. A little bit of the send from each of those elements into the Ocean Way, it’s a preset for reverb Ocean Way A Room Drums. And it sounds that good, so kind of have a plug for UAD there, but moving on. Let’s put some compression to it. A lot of guys will stop when they’ve bussed it to a verb. They won’t treat it like a proper room mic. They’ll just put it in the room but I like to take it a step further. And a lot of you guys are probably doing the same thing, but I’m pulling in, I’ve got an LA-2A on it. Let’s hear the difference, here’s before the LA-2A.
[drum mix before/after UAD LA-2A plugin]
It’s getting that much bigger. And then I’ve sucked out some of the lows. And then some of the highs. So man it’s kind of a quick one but if you guys haven’t tried out the UAD Ocean Way A, man that’s kind of a great way to give some life, especially for us home studio guys. Even not home studio guys, but love that plugin, love what it’s doing , bussing into a verb.
I forgot one last thing. Let’s pull open — the UAD stuff comes with a price tag, this one comes stock with Pro Tools. And let’s see what I’ve done to that. Let’s bypass my processing and let’s see what this guy sounds like. Good old D-Verb.
[drum mix with/without D-Verb]
Not horrible, huh? Let’s put some verb on it. I’m sorry, some compression.
[drums with D-Verb and UAD LA-2A]
You can hear how the effect, the reverb, really changes when we’re sucking up all those highs. And I can’t remember who it was, but over on the blog someone mentioned about how much control you can give your reverbs with EQ’ing them and I highly agree. You can come in here and see how this 10k cut, let’s pull it off and then put it back in.
[drum mix with/without 10k EQ cut on FabFilter Pro-Q]
So you can really control the sustain of the reverb as well by pulling out those highs. Tightened it up which actually, for this song, might work really well because I want a tighter drum sound.
So, ah man, I kind of played it by ear on that one but I hope you guys are digging it, hope you guys are liking the way I’m processing these room mics, and maybe learning some stuff from that. I appreciate your support, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve got the new series, The Mix Series, over at davidglennrecording.com and don’t forget free session files for signing up for the mailing list. So theproaudiofiles.com and we’ll catch you on the next one.