Live Drum Mixing - Part 2

Introducing part 2 of our live drums mixing masterclass.  If you've not watched / read part one you can check it out HERE where we show the beginning stages and how to mix live drums.

So, you've got down the basics.. it's not time to delve into some more advanced techniques.  It's these actions that will truly lift your kit, allow the elements to breath and solve potential issues that you may have spotted.

As we previously mentioned in part 1, the drum kit is a unique instrument in that there is just so much noise coming from a single sound source making it very difficult to tame.


If you're struggling take a step back and take your time, the kits a wild beast at times.


Parallel Compression - Why Use it?!

When compressing drums it's very easy to lose the attack of the sound and also make the player sound robotic and lifeless.  Enter Parallel compression.

By blending the original (dry signal) with a heavily compressed (wet signal) we're able to get the best of both worlds.

1 - The attack of the dry signal remains, revealing the beautiful transients that we're trying to keep.

2 - The hyper real wet signal extends the length of the individual drum hits and exaggerates the 'room' sound and ambience around the kit.

Having blend knob on a compressor can do the job.  I personally prefer to send the whole kit and often single elements of the kit to 2 bus channels and have one as the dry and one as the wet.

Why? Because I can now process the wet one individually to the kit i.e EQ and FX.


Dynamic EQ

Dynamic EQ is an EQ that reacts to the incoming signal.  Much like a compressor, each channel of the EQ has a threshold.  Once the threshold is reached, the EQ kicks in and begins reducing the gain of the chosen frequency.

The power of this plugin is that we can keep audio signals the same but only dip things out when the build up becomes too much.  This is ideal on drums as not every hit might require EQ - instead we can set the threshold to kick in when too much of a problem frequency is reached.


How To Mix Live Drums_DynamicEQ


Now we understand the basics this technique can be taken one step further as shown in the image above.

In our overhead recording I noticed the hi-hats were a little brash and loud.  I tried turning the hat mic off but that made little difference.

Heres' what we can do:

1 - Our dynamic EQ is placed on the overheads (OH) and has a side-chain option.  This listens to a signal coming from a different sound source - for us we set the input of the EQ to be from the hats.


How To Mix Live Drums_SideChainInput


 2 - We then need to tell the EQ to listen to the side-chain.  You can click shown in the image below:


How To Mix Live Drums_OHDynamics


3 - The EQ is now set to listen to he Hi-Hat mic.

4 - We chose to dip the EQ at around 7Khz as that's where the frequency clash and overload is happening.

5 - By setting the threshold we can chose at what level the hat has to be to start gain reduction on the OH's.

This can sometimes be a little confusing but once mastered can be incredibly powerful!




See how these skills inspired our collections of Live Drum Sample Packs


Drum Reverb

Sometimes we want just a 'little bit' more verb from our snare than our room mic's can provide.  This can simulate a recording being in a bigger phase or artistically just sound dope!

So here's a few tips for getting those verbs to work:


The Abbey Road Trick

Hardly a trick but a great tip if nothing else, applying an EQ after your reverb with a high and low pass filter on it can make your reverbs seem less harsh and obvious.  See below:


The ability to add this after the effect is also another great reason why it's advisable to use Aux sends instead of inserting the plug-in on your snare channel.


How To Mix Live Drums_AbbeyRoadTrick


Multi-Band Compression On Reverbs

Try ducking out blocks of frequencies in your reverb by using a multi-band compressor.

In a similar fashion to the Dynamic EQ - I've set the input of the snare verb compressor to be the snare.  Every time the snare hits it ducks out my reverb but the releases after creating a cool effect that keeps the snare drier and stops too much mess.


How To Mix Live Drums_Reverb MultiBand