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Hi, I just did my first ever Drum mix. ->

I feel like it turned out alright, but I know it’s only a start, I really want to get better! So if anyone can offer any tips, or advice or even tell me I’m doing EVERYTHING wrong, go for it!

I listen to rock and alternative, so I was going for a punchy and full kick drum and full sounds all round.

One point I really want to improve on-
I mixed with AKG K240 headphones, and to me, it sounds alright with these. However when I plugin other headphones it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good. How can I get my mix to sound similar on all devices? I know that’s impossible, but the songs on my ipod sound at least similar on different headphones and speakers, how do the engineers achieve that?

The hardware I recorded with-

PDP drum kit
Shure SM57’s on Top snare and toms
Shure 52a on kick
Samson CS-2 under the snare
2x MXL 606 Overheads.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Interface

Software- Pro Tools 10 HD

There are 2 things to note-

The drummer knocked the SM57 on the snare about 2/3 of the way through the track, and it ended up pointing at the rI'm of the snare which isn’t the sound I was going for, so I automated the eq at that point to hide the problem, which is why there is so much EQ on that track.

Another point is that I only have 1 boom stand, so one of the overheads was actually sitting on a table pointing at the hats and crash and drummer, so that’s why I had to pan the overheads strangely, to account for the lack of kick and snare in one of the overheads. I plan to buy another boom stand soon.

In the folder, “Test Scarlett” or something along those lines is the UNMIXED project so you can compare it to the MIXED project, “Mixed Drums”

So yeah, I’m keen to improve and am only looking for feedback and criticism! ☺


Topic Tags


anonymous Mon, 03/24/2014 - 04:50

Not bad. You've got toms, ride and hat spread pretty wide in the stereo field, but that's a matter of taste. I am hearing some kind of phasing on the hi hat... are you direct miking it or using overheads to grab it?
The reason I ask is that you may be getting some phase issues between the hat mic and the snare mic - you mentioned that at one point the snare mic got knocked out of place and was repositioned.... I can't see your setup so it's just a guess. You may want to check and adjust the position. And, I'd wait to hear if someone else is hearing it too. It may just be my imagination. ;)

EQ is good, nice warmth on the snare and toms, nice presence and "oomph" on the kick. I'd say you are on the right track.

As far as headphones go, unless you have a very nice set of reference cans, they are pretty much all "colored" to some degree or another, some will hype the lows, some the highs.
K240's are used everywhere, but are used mostly for performance cue mixes, not reference mixing. Your best bet is to get into a pair of near field monitors. Although, at that point, you'll need to test your room for acoustic issues, because at that point, the audio will be at the mercy of the room and its inherent acoustic characteristics.

Nice job overall. Check that HH mic/snare mic positioning, though.

edit... I just saw this:

"Another point is that I only have 1 boom stand, so one of the overheads was actually sitting on a table pointing at the hats and crash and drummer..."

Was the mic stable, or was it moving? Even the slightest bit could have caused that phasing I mentioned. How close was it in relation to the other overhead mic?

RJrules64 Mon, 03/24/2014 - 06:17

Thanks for the tips and encouragement!

Now that you pointed out the phase issues with the hats, I hear it too! That's quite bad!
I don't think it was the snare mic, as I gated it pretty hard, so the phase difference should only be heard when the snare comes through, but there seems to be phase issues on every beat, especially when the drummer opens the hats a little.

It is most probably movement of the overhead, it wasn't stable at all, it was just sitting on the table.. It was probably moving a tiny bit but not much, this would be enough to cause phase issues I guess?
It was about 1 meter away from the other overhead, lying horizontally whereas the other was vertical pointing down on the kit.

I can't afford a pair of monitors alone, much less an acoustically treated room :(

Could I use trial and error on different headphones and speakers? If so, if I find something I don't like, how do I fix it without affecting how the mix sounds on other speakers/headphones?

anonymous Mon, 03/24/2014 - 07:53

If you had that mic in close enough proximity to the other overhead mic, then I'd say that was your culprit. When using stereo overheads, your best bet is to stick with a coincidental pair (XY) or, an ORTF array.

The reason that your mixes aren't translating to other playback systems like you want them to, is because you are mixing through the AKG's. The mix will sound good in your cans, but when you play them back through speakers, or use other headphones, it will differ... because speakers and other headphones will have different tonal characteristics. So unless everyone you give your music to has a set of AKG's, LOL it's always going to sound different.

Speakers help with this, as long as they are speakers with a relatively flat response, and will help your mixes translate better to other playback systems. Although, the caveat to that, is that if you are mixing in a room that is "lying" to you acoustically, then you're really no better off than you were before.

I don't really know what to tell you here, RJ... if you can't afford monitors, then obviously you are stuck with headphones. I guess the only thing I might suggest is that you look at a nice set of reference phones, something as flat as possible, but ...they ain't cheap - and by the time you did that, you could probably get a pair of basic active nearfield monitors.

Until you can upgrade your situation, you'll only ever get so far.

anonymous Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:29

I think that based upon RJ's situation, it makes the most sense, short of getting into a set of real NF's and doing the whole acoustic treatment thang....

I'd be interested to hear user feedback on this. The concept is cool. Whether or not it truly does what it says, or, even gets halfway there, is the question.

RJrules64 Mon, 03/24/2014 - 16:41

Hm, If it's really the only solution, I guess I will have to find some money to put aside soon..

Until then, maybe I will do some hunting for a free program that emulates different speakers similar to the VRM box mentioned.

If anyone else has any tips, feel free to chime in! It's all great help so far guys, thanks

RemyRAD Tue, 03/25/2014 - 00:55

Your recording and mixing sounds good. But it certainly doesn't sound tight. It sounds open, loose and a bit flabby to me? As Shania Twain sang, that don't impress me much.

I was looking at your tracks and I felt you had far too many? Some bass drum is inverted, underside drums inverted. Topside mics on the drums and the overheads. So, what all have you got gated? One single snare drum microphone? Is that all? You mean there isn't anymore? And do you need both mics on your bass drum to be in phase with the rest of the mics on the rest of the drums? Or, inverted from the other drums? There is part of the problem. This is why you've got to gate and compress, limit, all of the drums. It's the only way to get from here to there without coming anywhere near anywhere there.

Sometimes you want a real wide ambient sound to the overall drums. So, your overheads can be spaced further apart by at least 3 feet. Then with all of the other drums gated and with their thresholds set so that none are opening that aren't being played, you won't have any more problems with phasing. All of your high-frequency initial transients will be caught by the overheads. The gated drums will then provide all of the meat and power. And the whole drum set will then sound like it was all samples and coming out of a digital drum box. Then you can put bombastic reverb on the snare and tom-toms and pretend you're Bob Clearmountain,whose wife, owns the Apogee, company LOL. Because that's exactly what he does on his SSL 4000 E. I don't have an SSL so I have to use my other limiters and KEPEX-1, downward expander/gates. And I don't have surgical EQ. I have a treble control at 12 K, on my EQ. Take it or leave it. I'll take it. It's a Neve, like you hear and see in the Dave Grohl movie, Sound City. And the only bottom microphone used, is on the snare drum. And the Bass drum microphone is then inverted since the microphone is inside the bass drum. The bottom snare drum microphone also phase inverted.

I find that the setting of the threshold level of the gates is the most critical. The gates should use peak detector circuitry. While you want a fast release time you don't want too fast a release time. Otherwise they will start to chatter. Which has nothing to do with your cell phone communications. But the bulk of your drum mix sound really comes from your pair of overheads. Then you start pushing everything else up.

If you want bombastic punchy drums, you're also going to want to add a considerable amount of dynamics processing of the individual drums. Not much in the line of limiting nor fast attack times. Let the peaks fly through the dynamics processing so, turn off any " look ahead ", in the dynamics processing. We want the overshoot. It doesn't sound right when you don't have the overshoot. We just want the dynamics processing to add more fat and punch to the drums. It'll add extra snap and then you'll be good to go. Slow attack times mean it won't all be completely squashed. You'll still hear dynamics. Even with tons of compression and gating. There is nothing natural sounding about recorded pop drums. When they're natural sounding, they sound like what you have. Which is wonderfully underwhelming. There is just nothing that makes you go wow.

It doesn't have to be technically accurate. It only has to sound good. So work on the sound and processing for each individual drum until they sound like samples from a drum machine. Then when you mix them all together and add in the overheads, it'll be there.

Here is an example of gated drums, I'm talking about. The overheads are not gated. These drums had my favorite drum microphones on them, the Sennheiser MD-421's through the vintage Neve. [MEDIA=soundcloud]remyrad/track08
[[url=http://[/URL]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]
, it's Earl KLUGH. Check out the drum solo three quarters in. This is the live FM radio mix, no remix. Essentially, live mix down on the fly. And no microphone checks. I like to live dangerously.

That's the way it's done.
Mx. Remy Ann David

RJrules64 Tue, 03/25/2014 - 19:26

Thanks for the tips, Remy, I really appreciate everyone's input! You mixing engineers are so friendly ;)

I'm not quite sure what you were getting at in the first few sentences though, track wise. I only had 7 tracks, 1 bass, 2 snare (above and below), 1 for high tom, 1 for low tom, 2 for overheads.
Anything else you see might be leftover from discards etc? I'm not sure, I'm new to all of this. I had to invert some tracks to avoid phase cancellation of course, so the uninverted tracks got dumped, and are probably still in the file.

I gated, compressed, and EQ'd all of the close mics, and eq'd the Overheads. It's more a matter of how well I did it as a first timer :P
To me the drums sound much better without the phase cancellation I was getting before I inverted those tracks, the cancellation was coming from the Overheads and the close mics, so when the gate opens, there is still cancellation.

Is it really true that you want most of your sound coming from the Overheads? I heard that was more popular in Jazz/funk/reggae but not so much in rock, which is what I was going for.

I like the sound of those drums that you showed me, nice work, especially live!

P.S please don't think I'm trying to argue against you, I'm just pressing your points to see if I can understand better :-)

anonymous Wed, 03/26/2014 - 05:14

"Is it really true that you want most of your sound coming from the Overheads? I heard that was more popular in Jazz/funk/reggae but not so much in rock, which is what I was going for."

I rely a lot on overhead mics when I record drums (I'm a drummer so I'm kinda particular about the drum tracks).
But, you have to have a decent sounding room to really take advantage of the OH array.

FWIW, I don't gate drums much. I never cared all that much for the isolatory nature of that sound, I much prefer the sound of the whole kit naturally, as one would hear it if listening live.

You're going to get different opinions on the topic depending on whom you ask. Some will agree on some points... I like MS arrays, so does Remy. Then again, Remy likes gates, I don't. That doesn't mean one of us is wrong, it's just an individual preference.

RemyRAD Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:59

Drums are tricky. It all depends on how you approach the drums, the environment that they're in, the microphones in use, in phase or out, limiting, gating, what kind of overheads, all that stuff.

If you're talking about minimalist? Generally you're talking about drums with microphones and no overheads. That works also. Then you're not gating them because they are your overheads. But you can still gate the bass drum. You can still gate the snare. Floor tom left, ride tom right, for your stereo. And voilà. Nothing isolationist sounding there.

I usually invert the phase of only the bass drum and any other drum that's MIC'ed up from underneath. You've got to be careful what frequencies you want to be canceling out. Otherwise your drums will always sound crappy. It's not something you do willy-nilly. You should have some kind of plan? You should have done this at home. You should have gone to the bathroom before we left.

You say, you'll still have phase cancellation even with the Gates. Yes but no. You have phase cancellation if you haven't done it right. And there's this little thing called the MASKING EFFECT. Given everything is it the right mix balance, even the cancellation will be masked. You heard it. In my recording. Didn't ya? All that terrible cancellation. Right. Check. Got that. It sounds awful! Not. Use your ears. I don't have any brains so... that's all I have to use. No really. Brain surgery eight years ago. No deposit, no return.

Does the drums that sound good to begin with? Crappy cymbals always sound like trashcan lids being beat on by kids. Drums not tuned properly have the tonality of a drunk singing Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve. Condenser microphones need pads on, on drums, on the condenser microphones. Microphone preamps may need the pad button also engaged should you have one? Condenser microphones aren't always appropriate. Repeat after me... SM 57, 57, 57 or get me a Dr. for 21. I mean an M.D. 421 (M.D. stands for Microphone Doctor). Ya might need multiple doctors? I like a minimum of five specialists. And then you can have those SHURE Brother's, looking over ya?

If you want big room drums and don't have big room? Talk to Chris. He's got the Big Room Gizmo. Or ya could just use some cheap software reverb? Short short decay. Use it judiciously. Lather rinse repeat.

Recording... good. Unemployment... bad.
Mx. Remy Ann David

anonymous Thu, 03/27/2014 - 13:12

I never really had trouble with drums. I've had far more trouble with guitars.

Start with a nice kit, fresh heads, tuned, good mics, a decent room and, last but certainly not least, a good drummer, and it all seems to just fall into place.

I don't gate drums much, very rarely. Never saw (or heard) the point.

I also don't let anyone get near my drum heads with duct tape. If a client wants them to sound like cardboard boxes, then I have several I can sell... and for cheap, too. (cardboard boxes, not my drums). ;)

Different heads will get different results. Pinstripes are great for driving rock. Coated Ambassadors (my personal fave) are great for warmth and tone.

Put some Sennhizey 421's on the toms, a 57 on the snare, an RE20 on the kick.. top it off with two 414's for overhead array. Salt and Pepper to taste. Done and done.

Give me a great sounding kit, properly tuned drums, a decent room, a good drummer and the mics I listed above and I can have a great drum sound for you in about 6 minutes. I know. I've timed myself. Okay, I really haven't. But I've done it in the time it takes to percolate a pot of coffee. I've never timed myself against a drip coffee maker before, so maybe more like 9 minutes. ;)


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