I think it is true that one of the hardest elements to mix and process are the drums. Luckily, nowadays various tools can help you to mix your drum sounds. A vast palette of different compressors, equalizers, special dynamic tools like transient shapers will help you to achieve better sounding drums. Apart from that, in the next five tips, we will discuss other, equally important aspects which are inevitable when it comes to drum mixing.
1. Phase issues
Phasing issues are especially tricky when it comes to live drum sounds. Many of us are often jumping right to the dynamic processing of the drums and leaving a fundamental thing like phase alignment aside. Bearing this in mind, one should first take care of that and start from the very beginning. It is crucial to pay attention to the positioning of the microphones and how they interact with each other. There are some handy software tools available for this task, so I encourage you to explore this subject.
2. Sample layering
“I don’t use samples, I only record live drums in my mixes“ – I have heard this sentence one time too many. It is a great thing to deal with live drum elements but today’s availability of many pre-recorded drum samples which you can layer could greatly enrich your drum mixes. Using samples is not cheating but rather a great way of reinforcing your existing drum sequence. Whether you use them to emphasize certain elements like the kick drum or a snare drum, or to get rid of the bleed, samples can open up an endless palette of tones that can be extremely beneficial to your drum production.
3. Getting rid of the excessive sounds
Sometimes it’s best to mute excessive sounds in your drum sequence. In the beginning, you will probably think that the drums don’t sound powerful enough but believe me, it is far easier to produce an excellent sounding drum mix with fewer elements. Besides that, there is usually no need for excessive amounts of microphones used for recording of drum sounds. A reasonable amount of microphones, couple for overheads and couple of close microphones will do just fine.
4. Moderate reverb use
When soloed, drums with reverb sound outstanding. Reverb gives them that awesome sense of space and fullness that drums should have. However, they can easily get lost in the mix with other elements of the song. Generally, you should use reasonable amounts of the reverb effect, and just on individual elements. For example, you can mix drum elements without reverb until they sound united as a whole. After that, try to use reverb on elements with shorter decay. This will introduce depth to your drums without making it too muddy.
5. Placing drums all over the frequency spectrum
Drums are significant parts of almost every song, and they should be heard across the entire frequency spectrum. It’s always such a shame to have awesome drum tones working only in one part of the frequency spectrum. This advice can also be applied to other elements in the mix. It will be much easier to mix everything else after you take care of the drums and consequently mix everything else according to them.