How to get the best out of your drum recording.
Regardless if you are using synth drums, programmed drum samples or a live recording, it is important to EQ your drums so that they can punch through the mix. The thing is: there are a lot of drums and a LOT to EQ.
Something to make your life easier during the EQ process is if you have programmed drums, rather than putting all the drums in to one MIDI track, separate your drums in to 4 MIDI tracks: Bass, Snare, Toms and Cymbals. You'll get a far clearer mix and a much easier way of altering the volumes of each piece of your drum kit.
BUT HOW DO I DO THAT?
Let's do it now!
Quite simple, when you right-click a track, you have the option to "duplicate track." Do this 3 times.
Now I like to rename my drum kit pieces, so it doesn't get confusing. Call them "Bass" "Snare" "Toms" and "Cymbals." You can now go in to the MIDI editor by double clicking the MIDI track. by clicking on any of the dots, you select it, hear what it does and then keep or delete it. For the "bass" track, you ONLY want the bass drum, so you can delete everything else. A quick way of doing this is holding shift, selecting the first non-bass drum note and selecting the last non-bass drum note and press delete.
Probably the most important drum that you have to EQ, followed by the snare. If not EQ'd properly, you will not be able to hear the bass drum at all. So how do you make it heard? Well there's three things that you need to alter.
- The THUMP of the bass drum: This happens around 60-95hz, and it depends on the drum itself. This is the 'note' of the bass drum.
- The CLICK of the drum: This is the sound the bass drum makes when the beater hits the skin. This is VITAL for you to put up a little as it is what draws your attention to the bass drum thump. This is usually around 2-5kHz, depending on the type of beater (plastic, wood, felt) and type of skin.
- The MESS of the drum: This is all the resonance and extra skin wobble you DON'T want in your mix. This usually happens in the low-mid area, between 200-450Hz.
HOW DO I LISTEN FOR THESE THINGS?
Quite simply, solo your drum track, go in to your EQ, and create a band with a small bandwidth. Pull it all the way up to +12dB or so and search around until you can clearly hear the thump/click. Everything else is kinda unnecessary.
Eventually your bass drum EQ will look a little something like this
The second most important drum that you have to EQ. If not EQ'd properly, it won't have much of an impact, as well as that nice, snappy CRACK we want our snare to have. So how do you make it heard? Well there's five things that you may need to alter.
- The THUMP of the snare: This happens around 150-250hz, and it depends on the drum itself, some snares are thinner, smaller, etc. This is the 'note' of the snare.
- The CRACK of the snare: This is the sound the snare makes when the stick hits the skin - Between 1-2.5kHz
- The RUMBLE of the snare: This is all the resonance and extra skin wobble you DON'T want in your mix. This usually happens below 100Hz.
- The RATTLE of the snare: what gives snare it's character. These are the wires underneath the snare itself and can range anywhere between 3-7kHz, as some snares tend to have a particular 'note' the player wants.
- The HEAD of the snare: what gives the snare the "whoosh" after the initial hit - works in conjunction with the wires. anywhere between 6-11kHz - I have found that around 10 actually works quite well.
Snare's often need at least a little bit of love from the compressor. We want it to "pop." We want the combination of Snare and Bass to make us dance. Compressing parts of the sound and then attenuating it with the "auto make-up" makes the snare come to life and be that big cracking presence you want it to be.
You're going to be looking for a fast attack, between 1-5ms, as the snare hits fast, but you want the compression to kick in quick. Then you have the tail, which means you can give it an average release of about 150-250ms. Your ratio should be fairly strong, 4:1 or 6:1 is very common in Rock and R&B snares, with the threshold aiming for around -6dB to -9dB. More importantly, I prefer to blend a little of my original or DRY sound in to my compression, so I don't lose that original snare life.
Toms are very important to EQ, as they can often be completely downed out by other instruments within the mix. A good way to also have a nice distinguishable tom sound is to pan them around (only slightly) so they have the impact of space as well as their sound. Usually with Toms, there's two things that you may need to alter.
- The BODY of the tom: This depends on the tom itself. The rack toms are usually around 400-200Hz, where the floor toms can be 90-180Hz. You'll need to listen for each body with the technique described earlier to pinpoint it's frequency
- The CRACK of the tom: This is the sound the tom makes when the stick hits the skin - Between 3-6kHz
Toms also often don't need compression, but may need some reverb to bring them to life, especially some reverb that is full stereo and around it's frequency range (so mess around with those Highpass and Lowpass faders!)
A bit like Toms, Cymbals are easier to mix and EQ than the Bass and Snare. They require a little bit of attention to make them shine. You may need to alter three things:
- The WASH of the cymbals: This is what you're looking for! This is above 10kHz and is where the cymbals really sparkle. If you can only do one thing, do this. It makes a world of difference. You could even use a shelf here rather than a band EQ.
- The CLICK of the cymbals: This is the impact point and is pretty necessary for the Hi-Hat as well. This is usually around 5kHz.
- Everything else that may bleed: all the lower frequencies and drums, we don't really need that. Almost everything under 400Hz is useless for cymbals.
How does it sound different?
Well, hear for yourself!