No matter how good the drums and other instruments sound live, there is almost always a certain degree of sound-crafting behind the scenes during the mixing process. For example, I use gates to cut out unwanted tom ring that occurs from sympathetic vibration, which otherwise tends to muddy up a mix. There are two ways to do this. You can individually edit each tom track to cut out the ring. After performing this type of editing, you should manually create a small fade-in and fade-out on each resulting tom sound bite. I prefer the way this technique sounds, since you have complete control over each individual tom hit. The downside is that it’s very time consuming, so this is a great technique to use on a track that doesn’t feature a lot of toms. However, if there is a lot of tom work, or mix time is limited, I’ll use a gate plug-in to automate this process. I continue to be amazed at how this simple technique adds clarity to a drum track.
FIG. 4. Snare drum EQ.
FIG. 5. Bass drum EQ.
FIG. 6. Low tom EQ.
I also use EQ to “make room” for each drum sound. In other words, I’ll remove frequencies from one drum sound (or instrument), to allow the same frequency to be emphasized in another sound. Like removing the constant tom ring, this adds clarity to the drum track (Fig. 4-6). The bottom half of the frequency curves of the kick and snare are almost opposites. The kick needs more bottom end, so I like to boost 100Hz and below for a fat kick sound. To make room for this, I cut similar frequencies in the snare sound. To further add room for the kick’s boosted low end, I cut the low end of the high-tom sound by12dB. There is now room for your newly created big-bottom! Look at the low/mid frequencies of the kick and snare. With these frequencies, the reverse situation exists. Boosting about 160Hz really fills out the snare sound, so I’ve cut the same frequency a little in the kick to make a little room sonically. I also like to cut 1K in both the kick and snare drum, but there is no right or wrong when mixing drums. I’m a practical guy. Digging into intimate minutia doesn’t often hold my interest. So experiment with different settings — just get a cool sound! That’s what it’s all about.
Here’s a sneak peek at the City Kit that Johnny Rabb is developing for DW