Once you've received the files I send of the processed stereo drum mix and un-processed mono drum files, you'll have many choices on how to approach the final drum sound you would like for your song. Whether you choose to use the stereo drum mix as your final mix or re-mix the drum track from the mono files, here are just a few ideas, tricks and options on how to make this process a little easier.

Using the Stereo Drum Mix
The easiest and fastest way to hear the new drum track in your song is by using the Stereo Drum Mix. If you like this mix but feel that it could use some enhancement, here are ways to make this mix more suited to your taste and save you the time of remixing the whole drum track from scratch. For example, if you don't have enough kick drum in the stereo mix, try using the mono file of the kick in conjunction with the stereo mix. (Keep in mind that all of these files will be in line with each other allowing easy augmentation of the stereo track). On the other hand, if a drum or cymbal is too loud in the stereo drum mix, try phase reversing the mono track that you would like to diminish and slowly add it into the stereo drum mix until it starts to reduce in volume or "disappear".

If you feel that the levels of the stereo mix are correct but that the track is just not cutting through enough in your song, try adding EQ. Using somewhere between 10 - 12k seems to "brighten" a track in a very pleasant way. If you want the drum mix to sound bigger, here's a great trick: start by copying the stereo drum track mix onto another track and compress it pretty hard. While the original (non-compressed) track is playing back, slowly bring up the level of the heavily compressed stereo drum track mix under the un-compressed mix. You'll end up using a combination of the original stereo drum mix along with this heavily compressed signal for your master mix for a huge sound.

Using the Mono Files
Even though mixing drums from mono files can seem like an incredibly difficult task, it can be pretty simple if you follow a few quick steps. First, if you've never done this before, work on getting the levels of the individual tracks in the ballpark of where they should be in your mix. Then, if something is not cutting through the way you would like it to, concentrate on why. If you feel like an instrument does not have enough high or low end, try cutting all the frequencies around the primary frequency you are wishing to accentuate before tring to add EQ. It's a more natural sounding way and will keep you from opening up a can of (audio) worms.

Before going on, the first thing to realize is that "real", acoustic drums are not like drum samples. When an individual drum on a drumset is played, there are sympathetic vibrations that make every other drum "ring" (especially the toms). The other thing to understand is that "leakage" happens when there are several different microphones on drumset. And just because a drum is "close mic'd" doesn't mean that it will be the only thing you'll hear on it's individual track. Most of these problems can be remedied from using noise gates. But before we approach "cleaning up" this animal, remember that the reason you're not using your loops, drum sequencing or drum machine was because it sounded too sterile!

Noise Gates
The question that I get asked most often regarding the use of noise gates is, "what drums and cymbals do I use gates for?". The most common applications for gates are on the toms, keeping them from ringing in your track while they are not being played. But do not use this as an "end all" rule. Sometimes, it sounds good to have them ring and to use that sound rather than using reverb for a more organic sound.

When using gates, especially on the toms, make sure to to have the attack be as fast as possible to get the initial attack of the drum. The hold and release can be set at your preference or whatever works best for the song. Make sure that your threshold is not set too high and that you are not "gating out" a tom hit that you wanted to be there. Sometimes gating is not appropriate for tom fills that crescendo up as it will make the first or second softer hits be inaudible. In this case, do not use a gate but instead, cut right before and a few seconds after a tom hit (for all tom hits in the song) and mute the rest. It will sound best to use fades at the tail of the note to keep it sounding as natural as possible.

Compression and Other Hints
Keep in mind that getting the "punch" out of the kick, snare, and toms by using compression is a great way to start out your drum mix. One of the best hints I can give while mixing your drum tracki is to A and B your drum mix to a professional drum mix from a popular song that you are trying to emulate.

Mixing Perspective - Drummer or Audience
Please note that the tracks that I send to you are labeled according to the "drummer's perspective". This means that the "Left Overhead" and the "Right Overhead" are labeled as to what would be seen from behind the drum set. The "audience's perspective" is just as it sounds - where tom fills go from right (high) to left (low) except in the case of left handed drummers!

If you prefer to have an "audience perspective" mix, make sure to switch both the toms AND the overheads for a more defined sound.

Comparison, Ear Breaks, etc.
You'll find that when mixing, if you have a song that you would like to emulate it's drum sound or overall feel, keep that track muted in your song project so you can compare or "A and B" it. And make sure to take "ear breaks" - it's really easy to over "tweek" your mix if you don't. Another really important suggestion is to listen to your mix on different speakers - even if this means burning it onto a CD and going out to your car or to your neighbor's house.

Drum EQ and Effects Settings
Once again, try to stay with the rule of cutting EQ before adding it. Below are some EQ settings that I've acquired over the years that actually worked at the time prior to using digital tape or with certain mixing boards that I've done a lot of recording with. I've included them only because they can be great for experimentation as well as to get an idea of which frequencies need attention to bring out certain characteristics in a drum, cymbal or percussion instrument.

PARAMETRIC EQ SETTINGS - "Beefy Kick and Snare"

K I C K Parameter Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
  LOW 35 Hz 1/4 oct. + 10 to 15 db
  L-MID 50 Hz 1 oct. + 10 db
  H- MID 3.5 kHz 1 oct. + 5 db
  HIGH 8 kHz 1 1/2 oct. + 14 db

S N A R E Parameter Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
  LOW 150 - 200Hz 1/2 oct. + 10 db
  L-MID 500 Hz - 1k 1/2 oct. - 10 to 15 db (clacky)
  H- MID 5 kHz 1/2 oct. + 2 db
  HIGH 10 kHz 4 oct. + 3 db


K I C K Parameter Frequency Boost or Cut  
  LOW 180 Hz + 6 dB  
  MID 4.8 - 5k + 7 dB  
  HI 12k + 6 dB  

S N A R E Parameter Frequency Boost or Cut  
  LOW 460 Hz + 3 dB  
  MID 6k + 5 or 6 dB  
  HI 8.5k + 6 dB  

H A T Parameter Frequency Boost or Cut  
  LOW 0 flat  
  MID 4 - 4.2k + 3 dB  
  HI 9.5k + 3 dB  

T O M S Parameter Frequency Boost or Cut  
  LOW 420 Hz + 3  
  MID 6k + 4  
  HI 8 - 8.5k + 5 or 6  

O V E R - Parameter Frequency Boost or Cut  
H E A D S LOW 0 flat  
  MID 0 flat  
  HI 12K +2-3  

Yamaha Console

K I C K - A
emphasizes the low range of the bass drum and the attack created by the beater."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 99 Hz 1.2 oct. + 3.5 db
L-MID 265 Hz 1 oct. - 3.5 db
H-MID 1.05 kHz 0.9 oct. 0 db
HIGH 5.33 kHz shelf + 4.0 db

K I C K - B
creates a peak around 80 Hz, producing a tight stiff sound."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 79 Hz 1.4 oct. + 8.0
L-MID 397 Hz 4.5 oct. - 7.0
H-MID 2.52 kHz 2.2 oct. +6.0
HIGH 12.6 kHz LPF ON

S N A R E - A
emphasizes snapping and rimshot sounds."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 132 Hz 1.2 oct. - 0.5
L-MID 1.0 kHz 4.5 0
H-MID 3.17 kHz 0.1 + 3
HIGH 5.04 kHz shelf + 4.5

S N A R E - B
emphasizes the ranges of that classic rock snare sound."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 177 Hz shelf + 1.5
L-MID 334 Hz 1.0 -8.5
H-MID 2.37 kHz 0.7 + 2.5
HIGH 4.0 kHz 0.1 + 4.0

H I - H A T
emphasizes the mid to high range."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 94 Hz shelf - 4
L-MID 420 Hz 0.5 - 2.5
H-MID 2.82 kHz 1.0 + 1.0
HIGH 7.55 kHz shelf + 0.5

T O M - A
the attack of the tom-toms and creates a long leathery decay."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 210 Hz 1.4 + 2.0
L-MID 667 Hz 1.0 - 7.5
H-MID 4.49 kHz 1.2 + 2.0
HIGH 6.35 kHz 0.28 + 1.0

T O M - B
this is a variation that emphasizes the mid and high range."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 88 Hz shelf - 9.0
L-MID 210 Hz 4.5 + 1.5
H-MID 5.33 kHz 1.2 + 2.0
HIGH 16.9 kHz shelf 0

emphasizes the attack of the cymbals, extending the sparkling decay. "



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 105 Hz shelf - 2 db
L-MID 420 Hz 0.8 0.00
H-MID 1.05 kHz 0.9 0.00
HIGH 13.4 kHz shelf + 3.0

emphasizes the attack and clarifies the high range of instruments, such as
shakers, cabasas, and congas."



Frequency Bandwidth Boost or Cut
LOW 99Hz shelf - 4.5
L-MID 397 Hz 4.5 0.0
H-MID 2.82 kHz 0.56 + 2.0
HIGH 16.9 kHz shelf 0.0

Other EQ suggestions (from magazine articles, engineers, etc.)

Kick - One more small tip on drum recording. Everybody wants a perfect kick drum, so try this: notch-out the 250Hz frequency down by about 5dB. After notching, add some lows around 100Hz (but not too much!), and some top-end around 4-6kHz.or, try sweeping the range from 40 to about 90hZ with about 6dB of boost till you find the fat bottom you want, then trim the boost to taste. Do the same thing with the mid eq between 800 to 2500 Hz to find the right beater click sound. Eliminate 1.5 - 2k. To get rid of boomy-ness, low cut at 50Hz and below. Add at 6k for more attack. Boxy sound is at 1500 - 2000 Hz

Snare - 12k to keep crisp. -3db at 3k to get rid of boxiness. -3 to 5 db at 60Hz to get mud out.

Toms - Articulation at 6k. Add 120Hz for well rounded sound. Pull out 3k. When toms are not cutting through a track with a lot of guitars, try boosting at 3.5k

EQ-ing the snare reverb
+5db at 6k. -5db at 3k. +6db at 120Hz for big room sound - retaining all attack and clarity.

- makes louder the thing that your trying to isolate. Then use gates to complete sonic isolation. Use on kick and toms.

This section really has nothing to do with mixing or EQ'ing drums but can get you out of a jam if you ever run into this problem:

PROBLEM - a 44.1 kHz file that was recorded at a 48 kHz that is "running slow" because of the wrong setting on a sound card.

FIX - Open the file in your digital audio editor , (i.e. Sound Forge) and 'speed' the file up by 1 semitone plus 46.7 cents. That will speed up the file bringing it up to the proper pitch of 44.1 kHz file.


I hope that you find these notes beneficial in your mixing. If you are a client who has purchased Custom Drum Tracks from me, please feel free to call me to discuss any questions that you might have.

Jim McCarty
email contact

If you are not a client but need help with your drum set mixing, please click here for paid consultation. (My apologies, but I can't do it for free anymore. Thank you for your understanding.)