I want to take a minute to address drums, arguably the most important part of any modern hip hop or pop track (other than vocals). One of the worst things to experience as a mix engineer is putting your track on, and listening only to find your drums don’t punch like you thought they did! Let’s go over some possible reasons why.
1. They’re not leveled right! Your kick should be the loudest, most prominent thing in the mix, and nothing should get in its way! Experiment with side-chaining your melody and bass to the kick. Scoop out lows of the MID channel of your melodies. Be aggressive with it! A high-pass in the MID CHANNEL (leave the sides for now) will let the kick sit well in the center of your mix. Let your snare sit mono, let your claps sit stereo.
2. They aren’t compressed! If you’re not compressing your drum bus, do that. A parallel compression track can make sure your drums have snap and body to them, without destroying the transient properties of the drums. Try a 76 Compressor, or the CLA 2A! If you decide to slap a compressor right on the drum bus, make sure you add your transients back in later, perhaps with Smack Attack (Waves) or Transient Master.
3. You’re not saturating your drums! Do yourself a solid. When you think you’re done processing your drum bus, and you’ve got everything leveled, put Saturn (stereo) on your drum bus. Then go to mastering presets, load up the Hip-Hop Puncher, and dial the mix knob in to about 20%. You’re welcome. If you want to take a more personal approach to your drums, try saturating from 1-3khz on your snares and hats to get more smack to your top end. Experiment with small boosts around 60-80hz, 200hz, and 1khz in the kick.
If you’re having trouble dialing in parallel effects, look for saturation and compression VSTs that have a wet/dry knob. This will eliminate any phase issues you might introduce from parallel effects, and keep your creative energy flowing without having to stop and align your phase.
For a quick-fix parallel effects plugin, check out these guys from the WAVES bundle!
- Infected Mushroom Pusher (colloquially known as the “imp”) – This thing takes over! It’s a very powerful! The “lows” knob will give you optimal low-end tightening with respect to the key of the song. I find this very helpful when getting bass or kick to have more clarity. I love the sound of the imp on melodies as well, using the “highs” knob and stereo imager to get things sitting right. The “magic” knob is kind of like a wet/dry knob that starts at 100%
- Scheps Parallel Particles – Very similar to the imp, this plugin lets you add parallel effects to your signal with four distinct attributes – “thick”, “bite”, “sub”, and “air”. I have found that the “thick” knob is great for long-attack compression and saturation, while the “bite” knob lets transients cut through with saturated punch to it. The “sub” knob is great for bringing the oomph of a kick drum to light. Don’t over-do it though, your kick should have more snap than sub-100hz thud most of the time.
- Vitamin – Probably my least-favorite out of all of these heavy-hitting sonic-enhancer plugins. Vitamin gives you the flexibility of having a multi-band visual interface, but I don’t especially like the sound it gives as an end-result. Disclaimer aside, Vitamin is great for beefing up crunchy guitars, and adding thickness and stereo image to any part of the audio spectrum.
Now that you know all about how to make some smackin drums, be sure to hit me up on Instagram @mastr.productions and tell me all about it! Check out my latest beat videos, and watch me stream live from the studio!
If you’re looking to further develop your sound, then look no further than MASTR’s best-selling eBook, “Secrets of the DAW”. Everything you need to know as a beatmaker, vocalist, mix engineer, and mastering specialist is laid out explicitly in this easy-to-read guide to achieving perfect, professional mixes from your home, or in a professional studio setting.
[button url=https://www.mastrproductions.com/product/secrets-of-the-daw-3/ size=Normal target=_blank ] Let’s Do It! [/button]