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Wanted: Tight Drum mixing Suggestions
Old 15th October 2002
Here for the gear
🎧 15 years
Wanted: Tight Drum mixing Suggestions

Im mixing a record that I am producing next week that I could use some advice on. This record is a rock record on the acoustic side with an outstanding lead male singer. Its all young folks but we were really hitting on the 70's AM radio Bread, America, Carol King "Tapestry" vibe. All killer singing and playing on this record using some of the best young session players in the Bay area.

We recorded the drums exteremly dry. Mics inside the rack and floor with gates to tape. RE20 inside on the kick and isolated. Hat mic, top Snare mic and a mono overhead. I realize that it is a real art doing dry drums so we went to great pains to acheive dryness AND good tone across the kit. Just light, utility compression was used during tracking. Our recording medium is 2" 16 track (ampex 1200), which we also used for light tape compression/sat. with certain instruments. Bass was recorded direct through an Evil Twin/Fender Jazz(with flatwounds). There is also acoustic piano, Wurlitzer electric and 6 and twelve string guitars in addition to thick America style harmony vocals. No electric guitars were 'allowed' on this record. Very simple and consistent sonically.

Ive been working on a lot of records the past few years where the artists have really gone with the everything but the kitchen sink, "pet sounds" worship style of every song being an opus to itself. A lot of tracks, instruments, different styles, etc. On this one I really went the other direction. There were three different drummers, but they all played the exact same kit, a great sounding 70's Camco (Kinda like a DW but with more funk and character). If the drummers style varied much from the sound we were trying to capture, we would make changes to bring it back to the desired sound. It was a moon-gel party. Lots of session notes and digital pics. I know it sounds really uptight but everyone had a great time and really played their asses off.

Thats the backround. Ive had a few weeks off from the tracking and after listening to the roughs I am still happy, but have been considering how I can suck those dry drums together a bit more and give the dryness more character. I lean towards mono drums so that makes it a bit easier. I was thinking a renting a Smart compressor. That might have the suitable character. Ive got another day before I begin. I would really appreciate some advice on this one. I've got my own techniques but Im always into new(or old) ideas that i dont know about.


Jon Erickson
Old 16th October 2002
Gear Addict
mitgong's Avatar
🎧 15 years
here's an idea.

You already know about the Distressor, I assume. Try this too: get a SansAmp PSA rack and use it on a send to compress just shy of distortion. Send the whole kit or just parts and then blend with the original to taste. The SansAmp is playing games with phase (when you alter distortion tone), so you should too. For examples of how addictive this becomes, buy anything mixed by Tchad Blake.

I spent years fighting engineers off who wanted to deaden my drum kits. I've been having a lot of fun lately going for just that sound! Pinstripe concert toms in the voiceover booth! Dub!

I envy your project. Enjoy.
Old 16th October 2002
Jules's Avatar
Several flavors of compression? Blend to taste? Use on different sections of the songs..

SPL Transient designer (quite the rage for drums I am assured...)

Old 16th October 2002
Capitol Studios Paris
jon's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Sounds like a nice project, Jon.

All I have to add are some general ideas.

Maybe some 1176 all-or-several-buttons-in for a snare+kick mult panned up the middle.

Snare + kick to a 160 with just a touch of GR also.

I don't know what the console is. Assuming SSL, for more punch/presence use the SSL channel comps on each drum mic, set threshold all the way clockwise, slow attack, and move ratio to taste, usually a low ratio does it.

The channel gates at high threshold and 2-6 dB of reduction are handy if you have too much spill, ring or resonance.

How big was the room?
Old 16th October 2002
Gear Head
nick's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Hi Jon,

If I were you I would try this:

Send an aux mix of the drums out into the live room and put it through a speaker or guitar amp. Maybe EQ the send to emphasise the 'air' and cut down on 'low mids' eg 150 - 700hz, the put up a stereo pair of condensor or one omni condensor. Bring back to console and blend with direct signal compressing if necessary.

Old 16th October 2002
Lives for gear
groundcontrol's Avatar
🎧 15 years
I would guess LA-2A's, 1176's and API 525's were probably used for compression on the records you are referring to. So you could try to stick to them for authenticity's sake. The smart/SSL, Sansamp and multiple multing thing are certainly very useful techniques (understandably so) for drum mixing but it's all a pretty 90's concept. Maybe going the simpler way might prove more in line with what you're trying to achieve.

I guess trying some serious squashing of that mono OH track to bring out the booth ambience could be an idea.

Also, use springs and plates if you need reverb. An EMT 250 on the shortest decay setting is good for a little space around/behind those acoustic guitars or dry drums, and a 140/145 is key for vocals. Tape slap back or live echo room could be fun too.

Just some ideas...

Good luck, sounds like a fun project to mix! (Hopefully on an API or Neve series 80...heh )
Old 16th October 2002
Gear Guru
Drumsound's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Some type of opto compression on the drums could be fun. Joe Meek can add character.

Also when you mix try to use just the overhead to start. EQ and compress it to get a good representation of the set. Add the other mics as (if) needed.

This sounds like a very fun project.
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