How Top Engineers Achieve HUGE Drums!

Wimpy drums equal wimpy mixes, and there’s just no way around that. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need a drum mix that can steamroll its competition. You want clear, punchy drums with just a bit of bite and aggression to cut through your mix.

At an individual level, this doesn’t sound like a difficult task, does it? You make sure to roll off the low end in everything but the kick to give it room to breathe. You limit your snare to give a little extra crack. You’ve probably already processed your toms to remove bleed (please just tell us you didn’t use a gate).

With all of this done, you’ve probably got a pretty impressive drum mix. So where do you go from here to turn a good mix into a MASSIVE MIX?

Tie It All Together 

In order to pump up your drums, you should be routing them down to at least one “drum bus” prior to reaching your master fader. This gives you several benefits: you can monitor their group level, add group processing, and analyze your drums as a single instrument in the mix.

Bussing makes your audio easier to work with and easier to process.

What's not to love?

Drum Bus Compression

Compressing a drum bus is as common to pro mixers as hitting play is to the everyday music listener. It’s second nature – they don’t really have to think about it, they just do it.

How they’re doing it changes depending on the song. Soft songs might just need a little bit of bus compression to glue their drums together. For the loud, aggressive songs we’re working with when going for that huge drum sound - extreme compression mixed in parallel with the raw audio is really the way to go.

Achieving Parallel Compression

Getting parallel compression to work in your mix can seem like a daunting task for those that have never done it. Traditionally, an additional “compression bus” will be needed, along with a send from your main drum bus to get set up properly. After that, you apply the compressor to the new bus, and bring up its volume until it sits where you want it to in relation to your main drum sound.

As the demand for better bus compression grows, the features on each compressor give engineers more flexibility and accessibility. Take for example, BG-Drums from the Bus Glue series we recently released. As Fluff shows here, certain compressors let you process in parallel without all of the additional routing:

Instead of wasting your time building out more busses and sends, compressors with Mix knob functionality let you set the parallel processing with a single adjustment. If you ever need to turn your drum mix up or down after adding compression, you don’t have to worry about level-setting your compressed signal again.

Everything remains perfectly balanced and punchy as ever.

What Parallel Processors Are You Using?

Chances are you’ve got a few plugins already that have a mix knob that you’re not taking full advantage of. A lot of the time, we get caught up on gimmicky names and cool looking plugins so much, we overlook the power that such a simple feature can add by speeding up our workflow.

Nearly every processor we’ve released at JST has a Mix knob built in, from Gain Reduction to Finality to SOAR. If you’ve got any of the six new Bus Glue compressors, you can bet you’ve got one there as well.

Let us know how you’re using the Mix knob feature to speed up your mixing workflow over in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum on Facebook. You might even pick up a tip or two from other engineers that are using the plugins you have!