In honor of the day, I thought I would snowball into perhaps the most overlooked part of the drums, namely the drums. There is a wealth of information on how the basque, swirl and overhang “should” be mixed. But when it comes to just the pucks, it is not as obvious. We often know how we want them, but not how to get there. Or we simply ignore it and let them sound like they sound, there is nothing wrong with that.
Before we start, I also want to point out the importance of the puks’ sound should be connected to the rest of the song. There is a big difference between mixing metal drums, compared to jazz or modern pop. So there is no comprehensive or desirable sound like that. With that said, there are still a couple of points that can be good to keep an eye on, when it comes to carving out a useful puck sound.
Puks usually have very low energy, which we must take advantage of. The problem, however, is that this low energy almost always competes with both bass keg and bass. A high-pass filter around 60-70 Hz is therefore always recommended on the floor puck, and even higher on other pucks.
It is often not the subwoofer you want when it comes to the pucks, but rather the depth, the skin and the attack. Here, an equalizer can help sculpt a suitable sound.
I recommend that you keep track of the range around 80-100 Hz (base), 300-500 Hz (midrange) and 1000-7000 Hz (attack / flick). But in connection with this also wants to raise a warning finger because it is tempting to cut off too much middle register (the “cardboard” trapped). Keep in mind that the character of the pucks is right here.
Sometimes, however, the equalizer is not enough and then it can be good to use other tricks. Plugs like Dada Life Sausage Fattener, reFuse Lowender, Waves LoAir or why not the free plug Bark of Dog from Boz Digital Labs can then work wonders.
When the basic sound is set, it is time for compression. Something that is not always necessary, but which can definitely help to make the pucks stand out a little extra, if this is desirable. This is not primarily about controlling the dynamics of the pukas (although this can of course also be needed) but about making them sound better, with more energy.
Compressor selection is less important, but avoid rapid attack, as the transients should be let through. Here, as always, it is important to use the ears rather than staring blindly at parameters. A fairly high ratio of 6: 1 or more works well, which often gives the pucks more power. Finally, adjust the threshold until you find the sound you are looking for. The more you compress, the more of the nuances will be heard. Weak becomes stronger and strong becomes weaker.
Do not be afraid to compress 6-10dB or more. My personal compressor favorites when it comes to drums are Stillwell Rocket, Sly-Fi Deflector, Kush Audio UBK-1 and Waves dbx 160.
Reverb on drums is a chapter in itself. Some like a lot, others nothing at all. However, it should be mentioned that less really is more when it comes to drums. This is because too much reverb tends to porridge to the soundscape and easily makes the whole thing sound a bit “cheap”.
Personally, I like to think of more space than reverb when it comes to drums. More deep than reverberation. Long reverb tails can definitely work on the ballad vortex, but rarely do as well on, for example, drums. My recommendation is therefore to focus on shorter reverbs, or even better use of the natural space, if one is recorded. An overall sheet metal reverb on the entire drum kit can, however, do the trick to subtly glue the entire putty together.
Icing on the cake
Finally, I want to strike a blow for treadmills and analog distortion when it comes to drums and drums in general. Rounding off the digital tops and at the same time highlighting the harmonics with the help of saturation is a proven trick on just drums. A slightly dirtier drum sound simply feels more alive and more organic, not least if you work with samples and drum machines.
Plugs to take a closer look at are Slate VTM, Softube Tape, Softuber Decapitator, Kush Audio 458a, Waves Kramer Master Tape and Klanghelm SDRR 2, to name a few.
Bonus tips: Panning out the drums slightly to the right and left, respectively, gives the listener a feeling of more breadth. Keep in mind, however, that too much pan can cause the drum to lose focus and feel incoherent. More than 25% panning is therefore rarely necessary.
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.