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Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums

From: Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

Video: Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums

Do you ever wonder how a mixer is able to almost knock you over with the power of the snare drum, or how about a clap on a hip-hop track that just slaps you right in the face or maybe a client says just make it hit or make it slam? While acoustic instruments and vocals tend to be overly dynamic over the course of a group of notes or words, most percussive elements, especially electronic drums and percussion tend to have a dynamic range that's controlled fairly well note for note, but may lack that extra punch on each note or hit that will allow it to cut through a dense mix effectively.

Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums

Do you ever wonder how a mixer is able to almost knock you over with the power of the snare drum, or how about a clap on a hip-hop track that just slaps you right in the face or maybe a client says just make it hit or make it slam? While acoustic instruments and vocals tend to be overly dynamic over the course of a group of notes or words, most percussive elements, especially electronic drums and percussion tend to have a dynamic range that's controlled fairly well note for note, but may lack that extra punch on each note or hit that will allow it to cut through a dense mix effectively.

I want to talk about why and how we compress drums, and it's generally not so much to even out but mostly to add punch. This is what I refer to as sort of envelope shaping method of using compression. How that we do something like this? So, for example, if we take the Snare Drum, I'm going to solo that up and we'll listen. (Music playing. Drum solo.) So, after processing that with the Gate here to cut out some of the Bleed, what I've got going on is a BF76.

That's going to give it a little extra punch. How we're doing this is by manipulating the Attack and Release, we are going to allow some of the transient to come through before the compressor grabs on to this signal. This is going to allow us to increase the size of the transient to the rest of the note, effectively making it spike just a little bit harder. The reason why we're going to do this is it is going to allow that sound to cut through a dense mix.

So, let's listen without. (Music playing) So, it's adding just a little extra snappiness. Now, let's listen to the whole mix in with both of our Snares, I'm going to switch to the second verse here and we'll listen with both our sampled and our real snare and we'll take the compressors on and off. (Music playing) (Male singing: We messed around. But as empty as we were, there was no love to be found.) (Music playing) So you can hear especially on the Snare sample, the BF76 is really spanking it, like really taking and changing the relationship between the transient and the decay of the rest of the Snare.

So it's really all about using this Attack time. Using the Attack time it's not too fast but not too slow. So, for example, if we look at the Compressor here on the Kick Drum, we can see that we're using a 10 millisecond Attack and an 80 millisecond Release. That 10 millisecond Attack is going to allow 10 milliseconds of that Kick Drum to come through before the compressor grabs hold. That's what's going to give us that little spike. What I like to do to kind of emphasize what's really going on here, and you can try this at home on your own mixes, is I'm actually going to take this compressor here and I'm going to AudioSuite it on to the waveform, right next to one that's unaffected, so I can really see what's going on in that waveform.

So I'm going to take this plug-in, I'm going to copy the preset. Then I'm going to switch over and I'm going to select a little Snare head here and pull up the AudioSuite version of the BF76. I'm going to paste my settings. Then I'm going to process that.

So what you can see here is I've really changed, let me increase the waveform display. If we compare this to that, I've really sort of given it that spike but reduced the overall volume of the rest of Snare. That's what's giving me that difference between the Attack and the Decay portion of that specific drum. If I do this again and I give it a little more output, there we can see that that's really coming out. Let me turn off the Region's name.

We can really see that transient coming out there. So that's a really good way to kind of see how your sounds are being affected in terms of an Attack and a Release time. The other thing that we can affect on the drums, specifically with the compressor's Attack and Release is the decay of a sound. So if we take the Release time and we make it really fast, what's happening is as soon as the compressor grabs hold of that transient, it lets go again and the makeup gain sort of inflates the sound, giving it a really long sustain.

So, let's listen again, on this Snare sample we'll listen to some different Release times. (Music playing. Drum solo.) So you can see especially at that Release of 7, it's really extending the sustain of that Snare. You definitely want to be careful about using really fast Release times, especially on things like Kick and Low frequency instruments. Because what will actually happen is if the Attack and Release is too fast, it's actually going to trace the low frequency waveform.

Low frequencies oscillate much slower than high frequencies. So if the compressor is working too fast, it's actually going to grab and let go according to the waveform cycle and this can actually create a lot of distortion in your compressor. And generally, it doesn't sound so great. So another considerations that you want to take into account when using dynamics processors to kind of shape the envelope of drum sounds is if you let too much of that sound through and you use too much makeup gain, you can easily clip the output of your compressor.

So because we're letting through that little bit of Attack time, if I crank the makeup gain up, what's happened is the compressor is not grabbing down on that signal for that first 10 milliseconds for that first 50 milliseconds. It's just clipping the output and this sometimes can sound cool on certain plug-ins that sort of have built-in limiting features like Overdrive and Saturate, whereas on other compressors, specifically like the DigiRack, you're definitely going to hear a lot of distortion when that happens.

Try to consider using a Gate before you do this kind of extreme processing with your drums. If you don't use the Gate, what often happens is you're going to bring up the level of the Bleed too much and it's going to kind of overpower the track. Now this can be kind of a cool sound as it pumps in and out, but generally, when we're working with the direct mikes we're sort of using those direct mikes for the impact, sort of that nice snappy sound, and we'll use the Overhead mikes and the Room mikes to kind of fill out the sustain and the overall character of a drum.

This is often why, in a lot times of Snare Drum, the direct mike doesn't sound so hard, but in the context of the whole kit and the overhead mike, it sounds fine. We're using that direct mike just to give it that snap with the compressor, and then we're using the other mikes, the Overhead and the Room to kind of fill out the sound. Some compressors are way better at doing the sort of envelope shaping or transient shaping than others. Some just don't work at all. Some are too slow. So, for example, a compressor that doesn't attack fast enough.

Maybe some of these slower opto compressors, they might miss the hit altogether. A Snare Drum hit, if we think about looking at one of these hits here, it's not very long. 80 milliseconds just during that transient phase and just that first little hit is under 50 milliseconds. So, if the compressor is missing that completely, it's going to be really hard to shape that. Now you can also use sort of this reverse psychology of the Attack and sort of letting some of that transient through.

If you need to soften a sound out, you can actually use a really fast attack, this can kind of soften the sound of a Drum or a Snare or a Kick or something like that. So, that's kind of a cool trick. There are special plug-ins, which I'll show you in another video called Transient Shapers, that can do this without compressing and you may ultimately end up using those tools to do really extreme envelope shaping rather than compressors. But definitely, if we think about a well mixed tune, it's generally characterized as having nice punchy drums in rhythm section.

Compression, especially using the Attack and Release is really the secret to getting those drums that sit really nice in the mix, but they punch through on the denser sections.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

77 video lessons · 9191 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 14m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. The past, present, and future of mixing
      6m 20s
    3. Strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 38s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 40s
  2. 40m 24s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      5m 9s
    2. Setting up the studio: Speakers and acoustics
      13m 12s
    3. Staying organized: Effectively prepping the mix
      10m 50s
    4. Managing system resources during mixdown
      11m 13s
  3. 41m 39s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools Mixer
      2m 24s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 42s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      7m 4s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 1s
    5. Using sends and creating FX returns
      6m 55s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      4m 30s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      3m 46s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      8m 17s
  4. 21m 11s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      7m 45s
    2. Using volume and pan to balance the mix
      11m 18s
    3. Knowing when to process: Mix problems vs. mix solutions
      2m 8s
  5. 1h 3m
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 53s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: Frequency-specific level control
      4m 29s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ III
      16m 3s
    4. EQ strategies in mixing: Corrective vs. creative
      7m 18s
    5. EQ workflow example 1: Kick drum
      5m 39s
    6. EQ workflow example 2: Filtering loops
      5m 10s
    7. EQ workflow example 3: The "telephone" effect
      3m 7s
    8. Mixing tips and tricks for EQ
      17m 36s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      2m 1s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 57s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn III compressor/limiter
      10m 6s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      3m 19s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      9m 22s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      5m 47s
    7. Dynamics workflow example 1: Vocals
      10m 0s
    8. Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums
      9m 29s
    9. Mixing tips and tricks: Dynamics
      11m 37s
    10. Building parallel or "upward" compression
      7m 53s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      3m 28s
  7. 47m 48s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 22s
    2. Using DigiRack D-Verb
      14m 27s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      9m 18s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      7m 59s
    5. Mixing with delays
      6m 19s
    6. Mixing tips and tricks: Creating mix depth
      6m 23s
  8. 18m 8s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      9m 8s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      9m 0s
  9. 37m 33s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      7m 6s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      10m 17s
    4. Automating plug-ins
      7m 36s
    5. Automation strategies for mixing
      8m 24s
  10. 29m 31s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      7m 2s
    2. Working to reference tracks
      4m 35s
    3. Avoiding some common pitfalls
      7m 50s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 36s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      6m 28s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Understanding mastering
      4m 15s
    2. Bouncing the mix
      7m 9s
    3. Working with general mastering strategies
      8m 50s
    4. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      10m 57s
    5. Working with multi-band compression
      7m 9s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      7m 30s
    7. Using Pro Tools for CD track sequencing
      10m 11s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      9m 41s
  12. 44m 51s
    1. Tips for evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 51s
    2. Using EQ plug-ins
      5m 35s
    3. Using dynamic compression plug-ins
      11m 3s
    4. Using reverb and delay plug-ins
      10m 46s
    5. Reviewing additional plug-ins
      10m 36s
  13. 57m 18s
    1. Effectively using saturation/analog style effects
      13m 40s
    2. Setting up side chains
      7m 5s
    3. Master buss processing
      5m 34s
    4. Creating and using mix templates
      6m 54s
    5. Surround mixing
      6m 22s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      6m 26s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      11m 17s
  14. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

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