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Compressing the drums

From: Audio Mixing Bootcamp

Video: Compressing the drums

In order for the rhythm section to sound powerful, the drums and bass have to have an even level. Sometimes the drummer doesn't hit every beat of the kick and the snare with the same intensity, which makes the pulse of the song erratic. Sometimes the tom fills have different volumes across the drums. In this video I am going to show you how to use compression on the drums to make them punchy and steady in the mix. So let's listen to the mix without any compression at all. (music playing) We hear a little bit of leakage there in the background, but that's okay.

Compressing the drums

In order for the rhythm section to sound powerful, the drums and bass have to have an even level. Sometimes the drummer doesn't hit every beat of the kick and the snare with the same intensity, which makes the pulse of the song erratic. Sometimes the tom fills have different volumes across the drums. In this video I am going to show you how to use compression on the drums to make them punchy and steady in the mix. So let's listen to the mix without any compression at all. (music playing) We hear a little bit of leakage there in the background, but that's okay.

The first thing we are going to do is go to the snare drum and have a listen. There are two snare drums. There is a top and bottom. We only want one. Take notice, since they are in a group, if we solo one, both of them solo up, and the way to get around that is to hit Ctrl and just solo whatever channel that you want the solo and just that one will solo up. So now let's listen to the snare top by itself. (music playing) I already we have a compressor/ limiter installed in the snare channel.

Let's bring that up. This is just the stock Pro Tools compressor/limiter, and we are going to use this just to show you that it doesn't matter which one use; you can make it sound really good if you know how to set it up. Let's insert it and hear what it sounds like. (music playing) The first thing we are going to do is take the Attack time and turn it all the way up; in other words I want the Attack time as long as it can be. (music playing) Now we are going to back off on it.

(music playing) The whole secret here is that if you turn it too fast, it sounds some pretty bad. (music playing) The reason why it sounds bad is you have cut the transient of the front end of the sound, and you want to keep that. So the whole trick is to back off the attack until just about you hear a dull, and at that point that's when you either stop or even back off a little bit. Let's try it again.

(music playing) Somewhere in there is really good. Now the next thing we are going to do is set the release time, and on the drums the best thing to do is set the release so it makes it seem as if the snare drum is elongated until the very next snare hits. (music playing) Something like that. (music playing) Now this may be a lot.

It's about 6 dB of compression. We want to start with only a couple, and we will actually increase it as we go along if we need, but we will start with a couple, and that will even out the inconsistencies between the hits, first of all. Back off the Threshold. (music playing) Now the Ratio control is important because the more erratic the peaks are, the higher the Ratio control should be. So in other words, if we have a big difference between a lot of the hits then we want a higher ratio, and what that will do is it will even things out a bit more. So we will bring this up a little bit.

(music playing) The last thing we are going to do is we are going to set the Gain control. When we initially insert a compressor, whenever the compressor exceeds its threshold, it attenuates the signal. And in order to bring that signal back up to about where it was before, we use the Gain control in conjunction with the Bypass. Let's listen. (music playing) So there is without compression.

(music playing) With compression. It's about the same level, but you can hear that it's a little more punchy. Now that we did that one, let's go over and listen to the kick drum. We will do the same thing. Now what we are going to do is hit Ctrl and we are going to hit the Solo, listen to the kick. (music playing) Once again we have the generic compressor/ limiter from Pro Tools, and we will do the same thing.

(music playing) Bring our Threshold down. (music playing) Now if we bring the attack so it's really, really fast-- when I say fast that means it works very quickly on transients-- you can hear how it gets cut off and the sound of the kick actually changes. (music playing) So if we bypass, you can hear the difference. (music playing) So once again what we are going to do is we are going to back it off until it's at its slowest attack.

And we are going to bring it back until we can just about hear the transient dull. (music playing) Now once again, we use the release exactly the same way. We lengthen the release until it makes the kick sound like it's lasting a lot longer. We want the kick envelope to fill up between the first kick and the next time it hits.

(music playing) And once again, the more erratic that the sound is in terms of its dynamics, the higher the ratio. So we are going to increase the ratio so it pretty much stays within the same range. It doesn't matter if it goes a little bit higher and a little bit lower, but we don't want it to go a lot higher or a lot lower in level. (music playing) And then finally we will use the gain control to give us about the same level as when the compressor was bypassed.

So let's listen to it without any compression. (music playing) Now let's listen to it with compression. (music playing) And you can hear how much punchier it is with the compressor. Now let's listen to just the one kick and the one snare compressed. (music playing) So you can hear how much punchier it is, and you can feel the pulse of the song a lot better.

Now we can actually go and we put the same compressor on the outside kick, which says kick out right now, in the bottom of the snare, which is Snare bottom. And we might even put it on the toms as well, if the playing on the toms is erratic enough that each fill hit is at a different level. So to sum it up, we use compression on the drums to even out beats that aren't same intensity and to make them some punchier. Once set the Attack and Release controls so the drum breathes with the track, and Threshold and Ratio controls determine how forward they are in the mix.

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This video is part of

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Audio Mixing Bootcamp

103 video lessons · 18733 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 16s
    1. Welcome
      1m 16s
  2. 8m 20s
    1. Determining the listening position
      2m 27s
    2. Fixing acoustic problems
      2m 5s
    3. Setting up your monitors
      3m 48s
  3. 20m 17s
    1. Setting up your session
      5m 52s
    2. Setting up your subgroups
      7m 50s
    3. Setting up your effects
      6m 35s
  4. 8m 45s
    1. Developing the groove
      3m 46s
    2. Emphasizing the most important elements
      3m 44s
    3. Knowing what to avoid
      1m 15s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. Learning the principles of building a mix
      1m 1s
    2. Assigning the drums to a subgroup
      3m 55s
    3. Building the mix from the kick
      10m 8s
    4. Building the mix from the snare
      8m 46s
    5. Building the mix from the toms
      5m 25s
    6. Building the mix from the overhead mics
      3m 53s
    7. Checking the drum phase
      4m 44s
    8. Balancing direct and miked bass channels
      3m 36s
    9. Building the mix from the bass
      3m 26s
    10. Building the mix from the vocals
      4m 19s
    11. Balancing the rhythm section
      2m 44s
    12. Balancing the rest of the instruments with the rhythm section
      5m 22s
    13. Making a mix without building it
      4m 20s
    14. Balancing the harmony vocals
      2m 35s
  6. 23m 2s
    1. Looking at the three main panning areas
      9m 23s
    2. Panning the drums
      6m 9s
    3. Avoiding pseudo-stereo
      7m 30s
  7. 1h 17m
    1. Understanding compressor parameters
      3m 42s
    2. Setting up the compressor
      14m 44s
    3. Compressing the drums
      7m 53s
    4. Compressing the room mics
      4m 9s
    5. Compressing the bass
      5m 24s
    6. Using the New York compression trick
      4m 23s
    7. Compressing the clean electric guitars
      4m 40s
    8. Compressing the distorted electric guitars
      4m 48s
    9. Compressing the acoustic guitars
      8m 7s
    10. Compressing the piano
      6m 35s
    11. Compressing the electric keyboards
      4m 32s
    12. Compressing the vocals
      4m 34s
    13. Compressing the horns
      3m 55s
  8. 25m 36s
    1. Learning noise gate basics
      9m 23s
    2. Using the noise gate on guitars
      3m 57s
    3. Using the noise gate on drums
      7m 38s
    4. Learning de-esser basics
      2m 15s
    5. Using the de-esser on vocals
      2m 23s
  9. 36m 4s
    1. Understanding equalizer parameters
      10m 16s
    2. Learning subtractive equalization
      8m 57s
    3. Learning frequency juggling
      8m 28s
    4. Using the magic high-pass filter
      7m 39s
    5. Learning the principles of equalization
      44s
  10. 49m 46s
    1. Equalizing the kick
      6m 7s
    2. Equalizing the snare
      2m 57s
    3. Equalizing the rack toms
      5m 4s
    4. Equalizing the floor tom
      4m 32s
    5. Equalizing the hi-hat
      4m 56s
    6. Equalizing the cymbal or the overhead mics
      6m 49s
    7. Equalizing the room mics
      5m 13s
    8. Equalizing the bass
      3m 59s
    9. Editing the bass rhythm
      4m 21s
    10. Equalizing the rhythm section
      5m 48s
  11. 47m 58s
    1. Equalizing the electric guitar
      8m 15s
    2. Equalizing the acoustic guitar
      4m 55s
    3. Equalizing the hand percussion
      3m 28s
    4. Equalizing the lead vocals
      6m 5s
    5. Equalizing the background vocals
      4m 14s
    6. Equalizing the piano
      4m 46s
    7. Equalizing the organ
      6m 49s
    8. Equalizing the strings
      6m 4s
    9. Equalizing the horns
      3m 22s
  12. 30m 47s
    1. Learning the principles of reverb
      1m 59s
    2. Understanding reverb parameters
      6m 49s
    3. Timing the reverb to the track
      6m 6s
    4. Equalizing the reverb
      2m 51s
    5. Using the two-reverb quick setup
      5m 35s
    6. Using the three-reverb setup
      7m 27s
  13. 59m 8s
    1. Adding reverb to the drums
      7m 56s
    2. Adding reverb to the vocals
      11m 59s
    3. Adding reverb to the guitars
      5m 17s
    4. Adding reverb to the piano
      4m 19s
    5. Adding reverb to the organ
      3m 43s
    6. Adding reverb to the strings
      5m 36s
    7. Adding reverb to the horns
      2m 57s
    8. Adding reverb to the percussion
      4m 46s
    9. Using reverb to layer the mix
      12m 35s
  14. 46m 8s
    1. Learning delay principles
      1m 40s
    2. Understanding delay parameters
      6m 54s
    3. Timing the delay to the track
      1m 28s
    4. Using delay timing variations
      2m 51s
    5. Equalizing the delay
      4m 23s
    6. Understanding the Haas effect
      2m 51s
    7. Using the three-delay setup
      7m 23s
    8. Adding delay to the vocals
      8m 43s
    9. Using delay to layer the mix
      9m 55s
  15. 21m 35s
    1. Understanding the types of modulation
      2m 43s
    2. Understanding modulation parameters
      4m 13s
    3. Modulating the guitars
      4m 7s
    4. Modulating the keyboards
      3m 17s
    5. Modulating the vocals
      4m 17s
    6. Modulating the strings
      2m 58s
  16. 12m 22s
    1. Mixing with subgroups
      5m 5s
    2. Using mix buss compression
      4m 21s
    3. Understanding the evils of hypercompression
      2m 56s
  17. 39s
    1. Goodbye
      39s

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