Drum Mixing Tips and Techniques for Modern Rock Music

Since you are aiming for modern rock sound, you should try to get the microphone as closer to the snare skin so that it will sound strong and punchy. If you put the microphone farther from the skin, the snare sound sounds smoother and will have more reverberation captured from the room, although its does not sound very aggressive and strong. This is a much more reliable technique than fixing all problems in the mix.

Remember to fix all possible audio related issues in the tracking stage as much as possible (before you start to mix). Relying more on EQ during mixing is only necessary for “slight” tonal adjustments.

2.) Want some “space” and “ambiance” in your drum sound? You need to record it in a spacious room. It is because a spacious room has some natural reverb on it which will be captured by your drum microphones.

If you want it tight, (as most modern rock drums would sound) you need to record the drums inside a small, cemented floors and concrete walls. Remember it depends on your production objective. Back on the early 90’s, drum tracks from Guns n’Roses, Bon Jovi etc has so much reverberation because it’s the trend. But today; particularly in alternative and punk rock, you won’t notice it a lot.

What if you do not have that “room”? Well, you can track it dry and then apply reverb later on the mix. It is still doable. To apply reverb, you can apply individual reverb settings to snare, kick and hi-hats. Personally, I won’t be adding reverb to the kick drum particularly in rock.

Experimentation is the key, I cannot provide specific settings as it depends strongly on your production objective. I suggest to tweak your tools until you reach the desired sound. Remember that if you cannot fix it in the mix, something is wrong on the way it’s been recorded. So you need to re-record in this case.

You can as well experiment on compressing your snare to arrive at the optimal sound.

3.) Panning drums properly is also very important. Reverb and Panning creates the “space” you want for your drums. Make sure to experiment these two settings.

4.) Recording depth and sample rate can as well influence the sound in the long run. Make sure you are recording and mixing at the highest resolution- 24 bits or 32 bits and 96Khz sample rate. If you record and mix at 16bit/44.1Khz, personally I do not find them as lively and strong as those recorded in higher bit depth.

5.) What do you mean by “high-endish”? If you find the hi-hats a bit annoying, you can apply some filter on it after the microphones. So it controls the excessive high frequencies before it will be recorded. You can as well record it dry and then apply EQ at -3dB 8000Hz Q=1.0, to reduce the effect on that undesired sound.

6.) The “drummer performance” factor – this is very important. Take for example a very aggressive drummer vs an inexperienced weak drummer. If you have noticed, those professional experienced drummers (such as those in modern rock bands) are very aggressive, lively and dynamic when tracking drums.

They know what to do to produce great sounding drum sound. They play hard, strong, dynamic and timing with the music. The results are great compared to those performed by amateur drummers who don’t care about getting their drum sound right. Remember that things like this have significant impact to the drum sound. This cannot be fixed in the mix using any plug-ins, no matter what you do. You need to motivate and direct the drummer if you are the producer of the project.

7.) The quality of your drum kit – some drum kits have legendary sound signatures for rock music, for example Tama, Pearl and Zildjian cymbals. Some drummers have their strong preference to a specific brand as compared to another because simply they know it sounds great. And if it sounds great with a great drummer– less headaches on the part of the engineers at the recording/mixing session.

Content last updated on August 14, 2012