In our search for the perfect mix, drums very frequently sit at the center of our frustration. A lot of the struggle can be finding balance between so many tracks. But when you can perfectly get every piece of a kit in the right space when mixing, the results are damn near audiophile nirvana.
Where Do I Start?
No matter what project you’re working on, at least 50% of your drum’s sound is based around EQ. You need to make EQ decisions with confidence, because how you EQ will affect your other processing and balance with the rest of the drum kit. With tools like Drumforge’s DF-Q, you’re able to commit to your decisions without fear or second-guessing your decisions.
As your experience continues to grow, making EQ decisions becomes second nature, and you start to find a standard approach to how you mix drums. At it’s core, your EQing will always be the base for your drum sound.
Common EQ Mistakes
The biggest misconception around EQing drums comes back to fear of commitment. A lot of the time, our first instinct is to make only small changes to our drum sounds because we know how much went into tracking them in the first place.
You’re afraid to boost or cut as much as might be necessary for the ideal drum tone, but you shouldn’t be. The best part of working with plugins is that they’re non-destructive. If you need to go back or disable an instance of a plugin, you can.
So jump in with both feet. You’ve got nothing to lose by making the drums sound like you want them to sound. If it’s your own project, you get to make your own decisions, and likely have plenty of time to do it. If it’s a clients project, even better! They’re entrusted you to mix their song, which means they trust your judgment/work. You can boost/cut as much as you think is necessary to get the result you’re all after.
Subtle & Effective: Parallel EQ
If you decide there are elements of the tracked drums you’re losing when EQing, this advanced approach might be for you. Similar to parallel compression, parallel EQ lets you make extreme EQ decisions on a copy or aux and mixing them in alongside the raw drum tracks.
This technique can be immensely effective at accenting key elements of your drum kit. One of the biggest benefits of parallel EQ is the ability to automate the processed signal to stand out when the drums should be the focus.
Taking the parallel approach means that you can bring out the best in your kit without overdoing the EQ. Once again, use as much as you think is needed. It all comes back to your judgment.
What Else Can I Do?
It’s going to come down to personal taste on most of your mixes, and that’s why practice is going to be the key to your success. By making better EQ decisions, you rely less on other processing tools like compressors to hide your apprehensions.
A great exercise is to try and get your drum mix to sit right based on levels, pan and EQ alone. If you can get a decent mix with those three tools, everything else is just icing on the cake. Jump into our guide on how to "EQ Your Drums Like A Pro" for more.