Mixing a drum track in the digital realm can be a daunting undertaking for any producer. There are so many subtle nuances that go into creating a realistic, punchy sound. In this blog, I’ll explain some of the best practices to consider when mixing your own drum tracks.
The first step in mixing a killer drum track is to record excellent source material to begin with. A great kit can make or break your mix at this point. If you already have a kit that you like, awesome! If not, there are several options for miking and recording your own kit.
There are many different ways to record drums, but typically you’ll have at least 2 microphones on the snare and kick, 3 overheads and 3 on the hi-hat, crash cymbals and ride cymbal. This will give you 24 tracks of raw audio immediately; more than enough material to work with.
If you’re recording acoustic drums with electronic drums or samples (which I highly recommend), then make sure your mics are set up to capture the full spectrum of each part of the kit without bleeding too much into the others (this includes kick, snare and overheads).
The drums are the backbone of any good mix. Get them right, and you’ll be well on your way to a solid foundation.
Even if you’re not a drummer or producer, you’ve probably heard of “The Human Drum Machine”—the incomparable Steve Gadd—a drummer so good, they built a studio around him (NYC’s Avatar). Check out this clip from the documentary recording of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. It’s a great example of what happens when you have an amazing drummer playing live in an amazing room and the recording technology to capture it all.
But for those of us who don’t have access to this kind of setup, mixing acoustic drums can be a challenge. The following guidelines will help you get great-sounding drum tracks recorded in your basement or bedroom.
There are few sounds as identifiable as a drum kit. The snare, bass drum, high hat, toms, cymbals and other associated percussion combine to create a sound that is as recognizable as the human voice. And yet, in the studio, these sounds are often relegated to second-class citizen status.
The drum kit is often treated like the red-headed stepchild of music production. An afterthought. An insignificant part of the great machine that is modern music creation. I have heard many engineers say things like: “We’ll get the drums sounding good later,” or “Don’t worry about what the drums sound like now; we can fix them in post.”
But here’s the thing: When you ignore your drums, you hurt your whole mix.
If you don’t believe me, consider this: Drums are meant to be heard. They are loud by nature. They’re designed to cut through a mix and be heard above everything else – especially vocals. So if you don’t start with a kick-ass drum sound, any great vocal performance will suffer for it later on down the track (pun intended).
Drums are the pulse of the song. The drums provide the foundation for the rest of your mix and having a solid drum track can make or break your song.
The best way to get a good sounding drum track is by using real acoustic drums, but sometimes that isn’t an option. Drum machines can sound great if you know what you’re doing and if you have a MIDI-capable drum machine, you gain a lot of flexibility as far as editing and mixing.
In this article I’m going to discuss some basic concepts for recording, editing and mixing a drum track as well as some tips to help improve your results.
The drums are the foundation of your song. They need to be heard and felt, but not so loud that they mask other important parts like the lead vocals or other instruments that play an important part in the song. To achieve this balance, you will need to know how to properly mix a drum track using compression and EQ.
Compression is used in the process of mixing down a final track to control dynamic range and keep the overall volume of the mix consistent. Compression can also be used to increase loudness by reducing the dynamic range (the difference between the softest sounds and loudest sounds) and increasing gain. Without compression, your full mix will “pump” up and down in volume as different sounds come in and out of the song. If a drum sounds too loud on one hit but too quiet on another, you can use a compressor to even out those dynamics.
Compression is an invaluable tool for adjusting levels, but it’s also easy to overuse it. A common mistake is to add too much compression, which can make your drums sound lifeless and artificial. Start with subtle settings when adding compression to your drum track, listen carefully for changes in sound quality, then adjust appropriately based on what you hear.
EQ (equalization) is
I believe that the quality of your drum track sets the tone for an entire mix. If the drums sound good, then everything else can be built around them. If you’re lucky enough to have a great drummer and a good recording, then you’re already halfway there. However, if you’re like me, that’s probably not the case and you have to find a way to make your own drums sound professional.
As mentioned in previous articles, I use Reason as my main tool for electronic music production. It has some really nice drum machines that can be used to lay down some basic beats. But that just isn’t enough for me; I always want more control over every element of my songs. This article will focus on how I use Reason to create tight, punchy drum tracks and how I get them ready for mixing.
The same way we mix and match drum kits to create our own unique sound, we can now go into the digital realm and use virtual instruments to create our own unique sound.
Electronic music and sound design is a growing industry with many opportunities. You may want to be a producer or engineer of electronic music, a DJ or artist for live events, produce a film score, or even become an audio specialist in forensics or acoustics. If you’re looking for a career in the digital audio field, there are many paths you can take.
The Electronic Music Production program at Centennial College is one of the first of its kind in North America. It prepares students to produce, record, mix and master their own music using digital technology. Students also develop skills in marketing, distribution and management using social media, as well as music theory and performance skills that will support them in their careers as musicians. The program is designed to meet the needs of students who are interested in entering the electronic music industry as producers and performers, but who do not have formal training in music composition or performance.