Help with mixing drums...

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by gilbert, Aug 3, 2005.

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  1. gilbert

    gilbert Guest


    I'm trying to mix some drums that I got from a custom drum track recording service.

    I haven't had much experience doing this, and am struggling to get a sound happening.

    The drum service sent a stereo mix of the drums as well as the nine individual drum tracks, and for practice, I am trying to match the sound of their mix.

    I have made two mp3 snippets of the drums - Mix A is their mix, and MIx B is mine. The takes are actually slightly different, but the sounds should be the same (same session, same mics etc).

    Can you please offer your advice as how I can get my mix to sound more like theirs? Any specific info would help i.e. boost kick by 3db at 80hz, cut at 380 by 3db etc.

    Here are the links - the files are 192kb, but less than 150k each in size:

    Also, if anyone near Sydney Australia would be willing to let me sit in on a few mixing sessions, especially when mixing drums, I'd would really appreciate it (I make a mean coffee!!!).


    best regards

    Shaun Thomson
  2. mixing_nic

    mixing_nic Guest

    sadly mixing isn't something that can be done over a forum specifics wise..
    As guides i'd say get a split of the snare, compress it like mad and add that to the mix to give it some more crack
    Toms are abit hollow in comparison, possibly take out a little 400Hz and/or add some 250Hz (or that area) really depends on the toms as to which frequency
    Kick i'd do the same as i suggested with the snare. Don't be afraid of making it sound too 'clicky' when it's soloed cause guarenteed it will have a better sound in the mix.
  3. Angstaroo

    Angstaroo Active Member

    Jul 1, 2005
    DeKalb, IL
    Home Page:
    I'd say between those two, there's big differences in the bass and treble ends of the spectrum. MixA is fatter in the low end, sounds like it has more reverb on it, which might just be more compression on the overheads, and has a cleaner brightness to it. The snare drum is cleaner in MixA, and and kick drum is definitely fatter in MixA. As for what to do?

    Mixing is kind of like cooking.. you do it to taste. Two tablespoons of kick drum, two tablespoons of snare drum, a dash of toms, and a pinch of overheads, and you've got a meal.. err, mix.

    There are a lot of variables involved too, that really make a difference when working with drum mixes. The style of music, the sound you're going for, what else is going to end up in the final mix. There's almost too many variables to give any specific advice on things, but I'll kind of run through a couple rules of thumb that I like to use. Most of this stuff is based on my bad habits and tendancies though, so your mileage may vary.

    For some reason when I mix, I end up with very FAT mixes. In a spectrum analyzer, I'm all piled up at 62hz. I think this is because that's where my bass guitar preamp gets it's thickness from, and where my kick drum mic (a Sennheiser e602) tends to add a bump. Also, one problem I've always had trouble with and have to consciously avoid is mixing the overheads too loud. I LOVE cymbals.. love 'em to death. I love the different sounds and textures of different cymbals, and when I still had my kit, I had 15 cymbals on a five piece kit. But at the mastering stage, I find my kick drum is just gone, and the snare drum just isn't all that present, and turning up the drums in the mix just gets you more cymbals. So, be careful and get lots of opinions on your mixes. It took a friend with a pair of ears that I trust to say, "Your overheads are WAY too loud" for me to really get the point :)

    Now, what I like to do:

    Kick: I don't like much compression or EQ on my kick drum sounds. I hate artificial sounding kick drums that sound like they were miked with an SM57 and pumped through ten EQs to add some bottom end to it. I like natural, realistic kick drum sounds, so I never add any top end above 4k, or any low end below 40hz. I let the raw sound of the kick drum, and the track itself to tell me where the kick drum is going to speak in the mix, and where I'm going to need the bass guitar to sit. However, if you're doing rock or metal, then you want consistant drum sounds with a lot of fat, tight bottom end, and a lot of attack. A lot of people use sample replacement for rock, because your kick drum is rarely going to sound real anyway.

    Snare: Basically, find a sweepable parametric EQ, CRANK it to +12db, and sweep the EQ until you find where the snare drum sounds best in your mix. Then, turn the EQ down until it's barely perceptible. Again, I don't like artificial sounds, so compressing the living $*^t out of a snare drum just isn't something I like to do.. but I definitely like using a bit of compression to get the tone I like. I love running a plugin called the "PSP Vintagewarmer" on the snare track. It's basically a tube preamp emulator, and I really don't know how great of a plugin it is for anything else, but I love what it can do to my snare drum tracks.

    Toms: Toms are a pain in the ass, simple as that. They're either too loud or too quiet in the mix.. and there's usually a ton of bleed coming through the tom mics that you have to gate out in some way, or leave ringing, which depending on your drummer and his setup, could be fine, or could be awful. I end up doing a lot more compression and EQ on toms than I'd like to do because of inferior mics (Sennheiser e604s, when I'd prefer MD421s). What I like to do is EQ a lot of top end out of the tom mics, and let the overheads provide the top end for me.. I just use the tom mics supply the bottom end.

    Overheads: Compression, compression, compression.. the proper amount of compression applied to overheads is heavenly to me :) I like using multiband compression on overheads with very narrow bands so I can compress the frequencies between 1k and 10k in stages. I don't like to compress heavily, because you can easily hear compression kicking in with cymbals.. so it really is a matter of listening as opposed to any specific set of criteria for what to compress and how. Lately, I've been recording drummers with Paiste cymbals, which are very bright, but lacking in body, so I've had to be really careful with compression in the 7k-12k range because I'll end up with a lot of pumping.. and I end up rolling off a lot less low end than I normally do, which means I get more kick and toms in the overheads than I normally do, so I have to re-balance my mixes because of it.

    And finally, treating the whole kit. Once I get the individual instruments sounding the way I like them to sound, I listen to what they sound like mixed together. Sometimes the balance is there, and sometimes it's not. I generally mix the kick and snare pretty loud, and because of my aforementioned overhead addiction, I try and mix them as low as I can without them feeling buried, because I know they'll come out with compression in the end. I rarely compress the entire kit together, unless I feel that I like the sounds, but they don't mesh well together. In that case, I'll use a room reverb, and bounce the drums and the reverb into a stereo pair, and compress that a bit to try and make it sound a little more together.

    Since I'm a big fan of natural sounds, I'm also a big fan of dry sounds, so I generally have to force myself to use more reverb in my mixes because they'll come out -too- dry sounding otherwise. I like putting little subtle gated room verbs on the kick, and I like a plate verb on the snare to give it a little extra sustain (depending on how ringy the snare is already), in combination with a single room reverb that I'm using for the entire kit.

    Some of my methods are unorthodox, and I've had more than a couple engineers look at me like I grew an extra head at a couple things that I've done in the studio.. and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. There really aren't any hard and fast rules, just guidelines. The true key to getting the perfect drum sound? You get the perfect drums, put them in the perfect room, mic it with the perfect mics, and get the perfect drummer to play it. Oddly enough, I've never been in a situation like that.. I'm usually polishing someone else's turd.

    Anyone else?

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