Join Ryan Hewitt for an in-depth discussion in this video Starting with kick drum inside and front mics, part of Drum Mixing Techniques.
- So when I build a drum mix, I usually start at the bottom and go to the top. That means starting with the kick drum, working up to the snare drum, cymbals, the toms, the ambient mics, and then the stunt mics. Again, there's no real rules to this. Sometimes I'll start with the ambient mics if I want an ambient based sound for my drums. In this song, however, we need a real tight, punchy, focused sound. So I'm gonna start with those close mics and work my way up to the cymbals, and then maybe the ambience mics if we need them. I'm gonna work through the techniques that I like to use on a daily basis, and we'll see what works for this song.
So let's get started with the kick drum, shall we? All right. (drum music) So what I do in a case like this is I just listen to what I'm given for the bass drum. In this case, I got a nice clicky inside mic and a nice boomy outside mic.
Now the combination of those have to give us exactly that: click, boom, and tone. So finding the balance between those two mics, accentuating what they're giving us, and then maybe squeezing them a little bit to make them a little more impactful is what we'll try. (drum music) The inside, maybe a little bit too much click, not enough tone.
I gave it a little bit more on the bottom end, 70 some hertz. Took out a little bit of boxiness around 300 and something. And added a little more lower snap in the 1K5, 2K region, just to give a little bit more of that. So you can feel already we got a lot more impact happening on that bass drum. So let's press on.
(drum music) So using the expander, I can clean up the sound of that kick drum a little bit and make it a little more isolated, a little punchier, and just give it some more slam, as they call it. So just a little more impact.
By squeezing it with that compressor, I got it around three to one, four to one, just to round that off a little bit and make the hits really consistent and just punchy. (drum music) What I was AB-ing there was putting the compressor before the EQ or after the EQ.
Now there's different philosophies for doing this. Sometimes you wanna sculpt the sound and then smash it. Other times, you wanna smash it and then sculpt it. It entirely depends on the reaction, really, of the compressor to the EQ that you're trying to do. Now the way I think about it is that if you EQ it and then compress it, you are putting it inside a box and containing it, right? Now if you compress it and then EQ it, you are able to sculpt the dynamics of the sound and then sculpt the frequency content of the sound, and the two are independent.
But if you put the compressor after the EQ, whatever you do to the equalizer is going to then affect the compressor. So it's something to sort of think about when you're setting up your processing chains. Is it night and day? Is it the end of the world to do it one way or the other? Not necessarily, but when you think about what you're trying to achieve with that EQ and compressor, it'll dawn on you which order it really needs to go in. So I change it up a lot, but it depends entirely upon the application. So something to think about when you do your patching. You'll see me do a few different things as we go along with these drums.
But generally, on drums, I compress it and then EQ it. Most of the times it works out for me. But we'll see as we go down the line what order that sticks in. So now we'll check out the outside kick drum mic and see what we can do with that. Sometimes you need to use outboard gear to get your sound, so I've gone ahead and patched in an EQ and a compressor, so we'll see how that sounds. (drum music) Whoo, it sounds loud. Sometimes the EQs and compressors in the console in front of you are not going to give you what you want, so you patch in some outboard gear.
In this case, I've got a vintage DBX 160 VU compressor and an API 560 equalizer. These are two of my favorite processing units on kick drum, and these guys will give me a different tone and shape than the console EQ and compressor. With that outboard compressor, I was able to get a little bit more smack out of that outside kick drum mic 'cause basically it was just kind of tone, you know, a lot of low end, but we got back a little bit more snap out of if that works with the inside kick drum mic.
- Ryan's philosophy of mixing
- Checking phase before building the mix
- Panning and creating stereo image and depth of field
- Building detailed sounds for each drum
- Creating groove by balancing inputs
- Adding parallel compression, distortion, and reverb