Friday, October 1, 2010

Drum Mixing

     Sorry it's been taking me so long to make posts lately. I thought I'd have more time to do stuff once school was over with, but I haven't had time to do anything. It's weird... I originally went to school for audio engineering because I wanted to be able to make my own music sound better, but I don't even remember the last time I've had time to finish any songs of my own. Sucks.

     So drum mixing is pretty cool. Sorry, there won't be any audio examples on this post. There's no point really. You can find an example of good sounding drums on any album that you like. You can find an example of bad sounding drums on the Myspace page of any shitty band that thinks they can make their album by themselves (not to say that a band can't do that, but 97% of them probably shouldn't...).

     There are so many ways to do this... I mean, drums are always mixed differently. It really depends on how they sound with the rest of the song. So I'm just gonna give a few general little things you can do to make the drums sound pretty clear. There's no way to tell you how to do a complete drum mix. You just have to listen to the drums with the rest of the song and decide what needs to be done.

     First, I'll talk about each specific drum.

     Kicks: The first you're probably going to do is EQ. When EQ'ing, some good things to focus on are the attack and the tone of the kick. You'll find the attack somewhere up around 4K. Just sweep around until you hear a very solid sounding thwack. For the tone, look somewhere around 100 Hz. You'll know when you find it, because instead of hearing some low rumbly shit, you'll hear a clear, defined tone.

     Subkick: I usually don't ever touch the subkick unless it sounds like something is wrong with it. It's just adding low-end to the kick, so as long as it's doing that, then I see no reason to mess with it.

     Snare: The snare will be similar to the kick. You'll find the attack up high around 6K-ish. As for the tone, you probably won't need to find that unless you're going to cut it. Most snares actually have too much tone. To find that, just sweep around the high mids until you find that horrible ringing sound, then pull that out. Another thing to look for is muddiness. Anything from 600 to 800 can be muddy. Just gently dip some of that stuff out and sweep around in there until the snare sounds clear. Finally, if the snare sound like it has no balls, try boosting a little around 500.

     Bottom snare: The only thing I usually do to the bottom snare is add some brightness with a high-shelf. I just bring it in a little higher than where I found the attack of the snare, so usually around 8K. I just pull it up until it sounds bright enough in the song. It shouldn't take much.

     Toms: Toms are easy, especially if you know how they are tuned. The first thing to look for is, of course, the attack. After that, you can find the tone of the tom down around 100-200 Hz. You can either sweep around until it sticks out at you, or if you know the pitch of the tom, you can look at a chart of equal temperament, find the note, see the corresponding frequency, and then boost that.

     Cymbals: I would do all of these separately, but there's not much point. For hats, you'll just wanna find a high frequency to boost to bring out a ringing sound, and you may wanna find a mid-range frequency to pull out if there's too much mud. Same for the ride. For the crashes and such, you'll be working with the overheads, so you can just use a high-shelf and raise it until the cymbals are clear, but not hissing so much that it hurts. That's tricky though, because the overheads are used to accentuate the rest of the kit too... so it really all depends on what you want. For the hat and ride, you can use a low shelf or a high pass to get ride of everything below 100 Hz.

Compression

     Compression is awesome because it can take a pretty flat sounding drum and make it pop. I use compression on the kick, the subkick, snare top, bottom, toms, hi hat, ri  fuckin everything. Ok, that's a lie. I don't use it on overheads or room mics. You could use it on the overheads if you wanted. My only problem is that it takes the whole kit and makes everything pretty much the same volume, when I need the overheads to have a lot of focus on the cymbals. It probably would make the kit sound really solid, but I never even try it... so now I'll have to try it next time I have a chance. And I don't use it on the room mics because it'd make the whole room sound like it was pulsing, but that could be cool, so I'll have to try that too.

     It's pretty simple. For individual drums, just leave the attack slow enough that it lets the initial hit of the drum through... probably around 11ms or something. You could make it a lot longer. I've done it with the attack almost all the way up, but 99% of the time you won't wanna do that. So after that, just set the release according to how the drum is being play. If it's a snare and it's being hit over and over really quick, you'll wanna make the release faster. If the snare isn't being hit too often, just let the release be long enough to accomodate the ringing of the snare. For the threshold and the ratio, you gotta play around and see what you like. I usually just go crazy with it.

     I did a whole post on compression. Click Here to see it. It goes into more detail about how to set up a compressor and get it how you want it without pulling your hair out. If you're new to compression, it can be confusing trying to set all the parameters. Compression is something that can really only be heard if it's overdone.... It makes a huge difference when done correctly, but you can't.... hear... it <_<... You'd really have to play with a compressor for a while to understand. But so what I was saying - Compression  is something that can really only be heard if it's overdone, so if you're just starting out, it's hard to set a compressor and know you've set it right. And easy way to start is by pulling the threshold all the way down, the ratio all the way up, the attack all the way down, and the release at like .1 or something. Then you can set your attack and release and easily hear how they are making the compressor respond. After that, you can adjust the threshold and ratio to your liking. Then of course, set your make up gain so that it negates any reduction - i.e. the signal should be at the same volume when the compressor is engaged or bypassed. There's autogain, which done is for you, but sometimes it's totally wrong. There's also auto-release. It works pretty good most of the time, but you should at least try to set the release on your own.

     Compressions is pretty badass on a G series SSL. You can *cough* buy a plug-in from Waves that emulates an SSL channel strip. They have one for the G series. It has autogain. There's no other option. The attack only has two settings - fast and slow. That sounds like a bad thing, but it's never bothered me. It always works awesomely. I just alway leave the attack slow, the release as fast as it will go, and then the threshold and ratio usually end up around 1 o'clock. It's always different, but yeah, they're usually somewhere around 1 o'clock.

     Last thing - trash mics. I've said this several times before, and it's in the Compression post, as well as one of the posts about making a kit... I forget which one. But anyways, when you use a trash mic, just make the ratio as high as possible, the threshold as low as possible, the release as slow as possible, and the attack as slow as possible. There's a link to a plug-in for trash mics in a couple of my posts. You can find it in the Compression one.

31 comments:

  1. I had no idea there was so much information about drums. Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, that's a lot of information about drum mixing, I have a friend that might be interested in this blog too, so I'll hae him check it out as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. nice, really. you should check out my chill music post on my music blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. holy shit i actually want to go to school for music production

    ReplyDelete
  5. why bother with drum mixing? why not record a real person playing the drums sounds more dynamic

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Viperman: When you record a live drummer, you still have to mix it. It's actually harder to mix a live drummer than a drum machine. Every song, regardless of what is put into is, must be mixed

    ReplyDelete
  7. I always sucked, and could never get down, the mixing of drums. One of the reasons I finally gave up :(

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm looking forward to your next post!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post!

    looking forward to reading the next one

    ReplyDelete
  10. You should get that cough looked at, Mantooth.
    It might be serious. You know, pirates would often develop a bad cough.

    ReplyDelete
  11. great post ! tanks for sharing it !

    ReplyDelete
  12. good thing I visited your blog today!

    ReplyDelete
  13. You've got some good creativity in this blog!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well, if I mess up... I try to correct it as best as I can without changing the blade too much.
    Failing that, I change the shape completely into something new.
    All else fails? Scrap heap for the day when I can melt it all down.

    ReplyDelete
  15. good follow up post to yesterday's

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for your comments on my blog. Beating Inertia has a new Q&A post!

    ReplyDelete
  17. good post dude, actual good information here.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Aye dog, we need you back. ):

    ReplyDelete
  19. i would like trash mics, but their name has a bad connotation.

    ReplyDelete