How Top Mixing Engineers Are Fighting Cymbal Bleed

When micing up a live drum kit, bleed (from cymbals in particular) is something that we’re all battling. No matter how much off-axis rejection your mic has, you’re still going to have reverberations from every nearby sound source clawing their way into your signal.

The worst part? There hasn’t really been a standard way of treating it, and it seems like everybody has a slightly different approach to getting rid of unwanted bleed.

The Conflict of Gating

The quickest treatment option, and probably the most common, is gating. Gates are some of the most straightforward tools used by engineers - you have an on/off option triggered by how loud the signal is. They’re fast and effective, but they have their drawbacks.

Gates miss things, and there’s really no good way around it. They cut off the tails of toms if the release isn’t set properly (or if the length of the ring varies). Loud enough cymbal bleed will unintentionally cross the threshold. Even if you program a trigger to engage the gate (assuming you have a sidechain input), you’re still stuck with something that doesn’t really improve your sound.

The Automation Solution

Other common approaches include a whole lot of manual automation. We’ve seen guys ride the fader for the entire song, toggling the mute as needed, and drawing in automation on gates and other plugins. As you can imagine, all of these approaches can be draining and cumbersome.

Finding the Right Formula

After hours of automation, I found that the most natural sounding automation wasn’t actually a gate, but a low-pass filter. By using a low-pass filter and automating the cutoff frequency, I was able to maintain the full sound of my toms while effectively treating cymbal bleed.

Instead of looking at the track with an on/off approach, the cutoff allows you to remove higher frequencies (cymbals) only. So how do you do this without spending hours on it?

Enter Tominator – the first plugin to bring all of the tools needed to automate a low-pass filter into a single plugin. Rather than drawing in the desired cutoff frequency after every tom hit, you set the lowest cutoff frequency, and the plugin does the rest.

Still looking for more control? You’ve got time based options such as attack, release, hold and speed for every imaginable adjustment you’d want to make. What used to take hours can now be set in just seconds. It combines the benefits of a low-cut with the simplicity of a gate.

Tools That Give You Time

There are some tools that can help you with your creativity and Tominator is no exception. By freeing up the time that you’re usually fighting cymbal bleed, you have more time to focus on the elements that bring you mix to life, not the ones that bring it down.

What will you spend your time on?