How awesome would it be if you could achieve a slamming drum mix with just a couple of plugins and a few minutes of your time?
I’m not suggesting a magic solution that makes it so you never have to mix your drums again; rather a quick and simple solution to getting large, full sounding drums once they’re grouped and bussed down to a single stereo track.
Think of this as the icing on top of your drum mix – a way to make the entire thing sound tight, punchy, powerful, and just about anything else you’d want to use to describe a professional sounding drum mix.
If you’ve got these two tools and about 5 minutes of time, you can achieve a percussive and polished sound. Here’s what you need to make it happen…
Bus Compression for Consistency
We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating: drums deserve to be treated as a single, cohesive instrument. While bussing them down to a single aux track can give you the flexibility to make that happen, it’s pointless if you aren’t using that aux track for anything other than some minor fader adjustments throughout the song.
Just like your song should be getting glued together with some compression on the master fader, your drums need bus compression on the aux track to keep everything smooth and controlled. It’s hard making separate drum tracks sound like they’re one instrument, especially if you’ve got multiple mics on the same source. Your kick and snare will jump out at different points in the song, your overheads might not sound consistent across all cymbals and drums, and your tom fills might not always be played at the same velocity.
Instead of spending hours on automating levels, EQs & more – use a bus compressor like BG-Drums to smooth everything out on the bus. Compressors are the perfect way to bring balance between all of the different aspects of your drum mix, and set you up perfectly for the next step of the process.
Adding Size With A Limiter
Once you’ve got everything under control with compression, it’s time to drive your drum bus a bit further with a limiter. By using a limiter, you can create more size in your sound – making your overheads sound bigger than they are and your snare/kick more aggressive.
It’s important that your limiter gets applied after the compressor – running it in front will only accentuate the inconsistencies in levels between each hit. This will make your compressor’s job harder and negate much of the effect we’re going for with this combo.
Hear how the drum kit begins to open up and breathe as the limiter is applied to the drum bus? It’s crazy how effective this dynamic approach is at bringing some life to drum kits – especially ones recorded in less than ideal environments.
Drum Mixing From Start to End
There is no one stage of your drum mix that’s going to make your drums sound complete – it requires a well-recorded kit with a good drum mix that fits perfectly within the rest of the mix. If you’re looking to perfect your approach to drums, make sure you check out all of the resources available to JST VIP members.
Members get access to exclusive plugins, eBooks & cheat sheets to help improve your drum tone. Once you think you’ve got it nailed, send me your mix for a personal critique and get the feedback you need to hear.