Drum Mixing Tips and Techniques for Modern Rock Music

I received an inquiry about drum mixing tips for rock music, here it goes:

I’ve been following your tutorials and they have been very helpful. I’m quite new to mixing and I’ve been trying to mix some recorded drums for a rock song and I find it very difficult to get them to sound good. What mean with good is, well with regards to any modern rock song. In my opinion they sound boring, dry, “hi-endish” (made up word) and lacking some space.

What is your take on them and what can I do to improve the mix. Any tips? If you have time please let me know, it would be very appreciated. Big thanks

My Reply:

Actually before going to any drum mixing details, one of the most common problems originated in the drum recording/tracking process. There are too many factors influencing the drum sound as you will know in this post. Remember the garbage in-garbage out analogy. If it’s not recorded properly then you will have a hard time mixing it. On my experience the following are the important elements in getting a great drum sound:

a.) Make it sound perfect before doing any recording takes.
b.) Record it in a perfect room.

This is how the professionals do the drum tracking. If you have done a great job in doing those two essential elements, it will be very easy to mix drums. Let’s go with each in detail. This is the drum audio you have provided:

Listening to it, it’s not actually that bad though it can be improved significantly. Anyway below are my suggestions to improve that sound:

1.) Fix the snare. Since you are aiming for rock, make sure you get the snare sound right before doing any takes. It sounds a bit weak and uninteresting as I’ve observed. There are lots of ways you can arrive at your desired snare sound. First, you can adjust the microphone angles to the snare as this will contribute significantly on the snare drum sound. See screenshot below:

microphone angles for snare

microphone angles for snare

Credits: TCM Mastering

Two things that are very important here. First, the angle of the microphone with respect to the snare. You need to adjust it and use your ear to judge whether you finally arrived at the desired snare sound. Start at the 30 degrees to 40 degrees angle. Second, the distance of the microphone to the snare skin.