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30 Apr 2020

5 ways you can make your drums hit HARDER!

producer 5 ways you can make your drums hit HARDER!

You’re two weeks into a mix and you’ve somehow made it sound worse, we’ve all been there. You’ve tried everything including throwing the kitchen sink at it, but you just can’t get those drums to hit hard and really make a big sound. Read below for five ways you can make your drums hit HARDER! 

Transient Designers

A transient designer is a type of dynamic processor that provides a wide scope of control over the Attack and the Sustain of a sound. This is a great tool to use on the individual channels (kick, snare) but also on groups and bus tracks. You can also pull back on the sustain to reduce room decay, and reign in the attack to tame harshness.

  • Plugin Alliance/UAD SPL Transient Designer is a classic staple, transient designer
  • Native Instruments Transient Master 
  • XLN Audio – DS10 Drum Shaper (Great for individual processing & bus processing)

Layering samples

When it comes to creating a drum loop or beat, think in terms of three layers. The base needs to be of solid and sturdy construction, the middle should provide a lot of the impact and the top layer should be crispy and cut through. You may run into issues with masking, using a spectrum analyzer to see where certain samples are sitting in the frequency range is a very useful tool. Using any basic EQ, you can carve out unwanted frequencies so each sample has room to sit perfectly. Finally, make sure all the layers have good phase coherence. If you’re questioning the phase of a sample, zoom into the waveform, and see how they’re lining up on the grid. All of the waveform’s peaks and valleys should more or less match.

Parallel Processing

Parallel processing can be used on any sound source, and drums are no exception. You can either duplicate the track and process it independently, or you can create an AUX send to a BUS with individual processing. I prefer the latter as it requires less CPU usage, doesn’t require another audio channel, and makes it easier for exporting STEMS. Compression, saturation, and EQ are all effective ways of making your drums stand out in a mix. Another effective practice is parallel processing on individual busses (Kick, snare, overheads) and then send these grouped busses to an overall drum bus. Then you get specific control over individual parameters, as well as the master bus that controls all the processing.

  • Klanghelm MJUC is an extremely affordable and versatile Vari MU compressor
  • Pultec styles EQ’s are a great choice of EQ for boosting & attenuating 
  • SoundToys Decapitator is becoming a classic for virtual analog distortion & saturation

Make space in the mix

In point number 2 I touched upon masking and how it can create problems when layering samples. New advancements in AI technology have recently seen the introduction of intelligent EQ’s and tonal shapers. I often use Sound Theory’s Gullfoss on my overall drum bus to tame and recover frequencies that are being masked. Soothe by Oek Sound is an intelligent EQ designed to tame harshness and resonant frequencies, this is quickly becoming a go-to plugin for taming cymbal harshness in overhead and room mics. And finally, Izotope Neutron has two impressive features. Tonal balance (much like Gullfoss) and mix assistant which will listen to the source in context with the track and create its own decisions.

Side Chaining

Lastly on the list is sidechaining. Often the problem with low & low mid frequencies is the battle between the bass and drum groups. They can end up masking each other and creating a bottom-heavy and unbalanced mix. Sidechaining the bass to the kick is a great way to create room for the initial transient. Sidechain compression means the bass will duck in volume when conflicting with the kick, meaning there are a solid foundation and no sound source fighting for space. 

PreSonus Studio One offers a great simple and straightforward sidechain routing workflow.

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