Pro Tools For Beginners
Guide To Mixing Drums
Guide To Mixing Drums – Setting Up The Session
Great drum mixes aren’t about how many microphones set up in the recording session or how many premium plugins you have in your bank. It’s all about starting with a good plan, getting everything prepared before you start moving faders and a well recorded tracks. I tend to spend a bit of time before hand listening to mixes of other songs I want my drums to sound like. I’ll make notes on things like how forward is the kick and snare, what reverb do I think they are using….literally anything my brain can think of I write it down.
After I’m happy with my notes I zero the board and listen to the mix I’m working on. I’ll keep taking notes on things like how wide do I want the drums, is there any issues like phasing. Once I have a solid starting point I set up the Pro Tools session.
When I start setting up my Pro Tools session I think of any aux tracks I may need, then spend about 20 minutes really organizing my session and routing everything. Most of the time I’ll set up a drum master bus, a reverb send/return, a parallel compression send/return. To keep things simple I will add a gate, eq and compressor to each of my drum tracks. I’ll also name all my buses and inputs to keep organized. It’s better to get all this out-of-the-way now then having to stop mixing to make aux tracks and name stuff.
Guide To Mixing Drums – Mixing Over Heads
When I start mixing drums I like to tackle the overhead microphones first. The overhead mics are the general tone of the drums so getting them in a good place gives me something to compare my kick and snare too. When I track drums I normally do 2 mono mics for the overheads instead of a stereo audio mic track. I like to create a aux master track just for the overheads and add a eq and a compressor if needed.
A really good starting point for the eq is using a high pass filter at about 70-100 hz to get rid of any low noise and creating space for the kick. I like to use a high shelf around 5-10khz and raise it about 3-6db just to make them more interesting. Or sometimes if I want to make the overheads feel older or more distant I’ll us a low pass to roll off around 12-16kHz.
Guide To Mixing Drums – Kick
Once the overheads are feeling good I like to move on to the kick microphone. To clean them up I use a gate to get rid of any noise that may have leaked into the mics between kicks. When setting up the gate you want to have a quicker attack so you don’t lose any of the kick drum transient. You are going to need that.
Kick EQ- After the gate, setting up the eq is next on my list. I normally like to use a low shelf and boost a few db around 90 – 100Hz. There should be a nice pocket for the low-end of the kick because we rolled off those lows in the overheads.
Compressing the Kick- I’m a big fan punchy kick drums sounds. So when compressing the drums I like to start with a 3 to 1 ratio and a slower attack. This way the kick transient cuts through before the compressor starts doing its thing. Make sure to have a quicker release so the compressor isn’t compressing over the next kick hit.
Guide To Mixing Drums – Snare
For the snare I use the same 3 plug-ins. If you don’t want to gate the snare completely you can use an expander plugin. An expander works the same way as a gate, affecting the audio below the threshold. But instead of bringing the audio right to zero it lowers the audio an amount determined by a ratio.
As for the snare eq I’ll sweep the low mid range area till I find the fundamental. Once I find the tone I like I’ll use a fairly wide q on the band I selected to use and raise it a few db. I’ll mirror the eq on the overheads but cut the same range and amount.