Pro Audio Files

Tips for Gluing Together Acoustic Drums with Sampled Drums in a Mix

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and I have a new mixing tutorial out, it’s called Mixing Drums with Compression. It’s all about how I approach dynamic shaping of both acoustic live drums and programmed sampled drums.

This little tutorial here is going to be about gluing both of those things together. So a lot of times when I’m constructing, like, either a Trip Hop type track, or a Hip Hop type track, or even some EDM stuff, or whatever it might be, I will actually be blending something like a drum break and triggered samples.

So I have exactly that going on in this situation, it sounds like this.

[mix]

When I’m doing this, I sort of have two ways of doing it. I either want maybe the triggered drum samples to stand out and sound as if they’re their own thing. Nothing wrong with that. Or I want the triggered samples to sound like they’re very connected and very glued to the break that I’m doing.

So here is the break by itself.

[drum break]

Here’s the snare that I’m triggering.

[snare trigger]

And here’s the kick that I’m triggering.

[low kick trigger]

The snare I specifically chose because I felt that it blended well with the drum break, but still sort of stood out as kind of its own thing, but felt connected already.

The kick I was choosing because the drum break doesn’t have a lot of sub in the kick, because it’s a break, they usually don’t, so I wanted something that was providing a lot of low end energy to kind of fill it out.

So the first thing that we have to think about when we are going for a connected sound is which drums we’re choosing, and that should be self explanatory, but the reality is sometimes, we don’t think about that kind of stuff. We just pick drums we like and worry about it after the fact, which is okay actually, it’s not the worst thing in the world.

This is going to be focused specifically on how to really finish the gluing process. Get everything to move together, have sort of a homogenized tone, all of that kind of stuff.

So the firs thing I’m going to do is pull up a compressor, and what I’m doing is — to glue something, I want fairly transparent compression going on. I want something that leaves the attack of the individual drums mostly the same. Something that leaves the release and sustain feeling mostly the same, but kind of allows all of the ambient sound to sort of come up with the same momentum and the same tone, and maybe just to kind of smear the transient and round out the transients a little bit to get rid of any kind of, like, differentiating, flammy type of things that might be happening over a very short period.

So just to kind of round it all out together. So here is the before and after. And I’ll do it in solo mode.

[drums, before and after compression]

So aside from the fact that it’s making the sound of the drums all maybe a little bit bigger which is not a bad thing, it’s also making it all feel connected, so I want you to listen specifically for that connection. Listen to the release of the snare, listen to the attack of the snare, listen to the tonal change between the kick drums.

[drums]

Like, to me, the air off of the kick drum from the break is like, pulling into the snare when I put this on, and so the way I set this is I use a pretty high ratio, I use a soft knee compressor, I set the attack to a medium attack speed for drums, which in this particular case, is ten milliseconds, but it’s really going to change depending on which compressor exactly you’re using, but it’s not something that’s so fast that I’m cutting off the transient, but not something so slow I’m letting the transient entirely poke through untouched. So it’s a little bit of both.

[drums]

And just that I feel has gone pretty far away, but we can get a little bit more fun, and I can use this tape machine plugin — this is my favorite tape machine plugin, it’s Black Rooster Audio, it’s called Magnetite, and I really dig it. So here is the before.

[drums, before tape emulation]

After.

[drums, after tape emulation]

And again, like, because I’ve chosen a very specific setting that I feel highlights and compliments the punchiness and the tone of the drums in a really flattering way, it’s making the sound bigger for sure, but what I want you to listen to is listen to how much it sounds like multiple elements, versus one really well recorded kit.

[drums]

So I think to a very discerning and experienced ear, you can still very clearly tell that it’s samples embedded in a break, but I think to the less discerning ear, to me, it could actually pass for one really well recorded kit, which I think is kind of cool.

Now, there’s going to be one more little step to that, and that’s — I’m going to take this same processing that I had done on the main drum buss here, but I’m going to do it in more extreme. So here I have a second drum buss, which I’m calling “Drum Color,” and what I’m going to do is some very heavy compression.

[drums with buss compression]

And what I’ve done is I’ve set it into hard knee mode, and I’ve sped up the attack, and I’ve dug the threshold down so that I’m doing a lot more compression over a faster period of time, so we get a much more aggressively compressed feel.

[drums]

And you can hear the pumping pretty clearly. It’s definitely an over compressed kind of sound. Then I’m taking the same tape machine, and I’m just hitting it really hard.

[drums, heavy tape saturation]

And so you hear a little bit of crunch, it compresses it even more so it kind of flattens out the transients, and one of the things I really like is that it brings out the personality color of the kick drum in a really present, but still very connected kind of way.

Listen to the kick specifically.

[drum playback]

Like, you really hear that, “woom” kind of thing come out, which I think is pretty cool.

So once I’ve done this very aggressive processing, what I’ll then do is just tuck it way down and use it as like, sort of a parallel process to kind of just flavor the drums overall. Before…

[drums, before processing]

After.

[drums, after processing]

So we get that big open kick drum feel, we get a lot of that extra bit of color that’s just being tucked in there, and it sounds like one stylized kit, which is pretty cool.

Now, I have gained a little bit of level overall, so I’m going to throw on a trim plugin and tuck it down so that it’s a little bit more level matched. This way, we can hear the before and after a little bit more objectively.

So I’m going to bypass my effects here. Here is how we started.

[drums, before processing]

Here’s where we ended.

[drums, after processing]

Sounds full, it sounds glued, it sounds connected, it sounds possibly even like, one kit, depending on whose ears are on it, and here we are in the entirety of the mix, before and after.

[mix, before and after processing]

I think that’s pretty cool.

Now, I want to show you one more thing, but before I do, hit that like button, hit that subscribe button, don’t forget to check out the link in the description, all of that good stuff.

Now once you’ve done that, I want to show you one other thing. What I’m going to do is I’m going to switch the snare sample to something that sounds entirely — like, doesn’t belong.

Here’s what we’ve got.

[mix, snare different sample]

Alright, let me get a slightly better level for that.

[mix]

Right, so clearly a very out of place, distinct snare that’s been triggered.

Now, I’m going to apply the same processing, and mind you, I haven’t made any adjustments for this, but I’m going to apply the same processing. Let’s hear how it sounds now.

[mix]

I think that’s kind of cool. I’m going to do it one more time just to sort of point out what’s happening.

[mix]

To my ear, even though it sounds like a very clearly dropped in, programmed, sampled snare, and one that does not blend with the kit, naturally, it does have a sort of connected feel to it, even though it’s the wrong snare for making that happen, because of the way that glue action and the homogenized tone of the saturation from the tape machine are changing the sound.

Alright guys, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.

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