When it comes to manipulating drum tracks, nobody does it better than BT (a.k.a Brian Transeau), the Guinness World Record holder for the most edits in a recorded piece of music (6,178 to be precise). His audio-production and editing skills are legendary, but don’t let that scare you: BT’s methods, insanely complex as they are at times, can be applied to a wide variety of styles and recording situations. Here are three drum-related mixing tips and tricks from the master himself.
Always shelve the snare, hi-hat, room mikes, and cymbals between 110Hz and 150Hz. A 12db shelf works great, because you don’t want a wall. It is revolutionary how good this sounds in mixing drums.
Always compress before you time-correct your drum tracks. That way, when you are fixing attack transients, they are unaffected by the compression. It makes for ten times the punch in drum sounds. Try compressing everything — acoustic drums, electronics, percussion, and so on.
Also try as many compressors as you can. BT recommends compressing not just each individual track but the mix as a whole through multiple compressors, and then comping the different compressed tracks. For example, let’s say you’re using two compressors: an 1176 and a Distressor. If the bass drum sounds particularly good through the 1176 and the snare sounds great through the Distressor, create two stereo mixes: one of all the drums through the 1176 (minus the snare), and one through the Distressor (minus the kick), and you’re rocking.
Use a side-chain key gate to trigger a sine wave with a .75- to 1.5-second decay tuned to the lowest root of the song — usually between 30Hz and 80Hz. It should be side-chained with the kick drum and mixed in soft. Compress the sine wave (with a gradual release envelope) with the kick drum before doing the whole mix. This will give live drums ass end for days!