Sometimes we get so dug into the mixes we work on that it’s hard to tell what’s good and bad. It’s easy to slip into “little tweaks” that make a bit of difference, but don’t drastically improve your mix. So how do you go about gauging your drum mix on the spot without waiting for your ears to reset or running off to listen in the car?
Compare Your Transients to Competitive Mixes
Your transients are one of the biggest elements to bringing life to your mix. They’re the spikes that catch your listener’s attention and keeps it there. Transients are the driving element of a good drum mix.
While mixing, it’s sometimes convenient to have reference mixes available for comparison. By having a finished drum mix available, especially in the same genre, you can toggle back and forth to compare your mix to another.
This practice will give you a quick way to see if your mix is being affected by ear fatigue, and gives you a quick reset by having some new material to break up the repetitive nature of mixing. It’s a great trick when you can’t take a break due to time constraints on a mix.
Your EQ Isn’t Cutting It
A lot of your drum mix should come from how you’re EQing it, but sometimes it can’t do it alone. If you find yourself stacking a ton of EQs with little effect, there’s a chance your drum mix is too cluttered for it to really be making a difference.
The problem with EQs is that they usually only affect the main frequency when applied with a narrow band, and too vague a range when used with a wide band. What you really need is something like an exciter than can boost your main frequency and its harmonic overtones.
Avoiding “The Box Effect”
Have you run into the awkward situation where you’ve backed your drums into a corner and they suddenly sound like they were recorded in a small box? It happens, but it doesn’t mean you’ve got to start over.
There’s the possibility that during your mix, you’ve lost a lot of the overtones and room in your mix. Adding room back in can be difficult, but you’ve got options. You can reach for the level on overheads and room mics to try to bring some of that room back in, or you can add in some reverb to create a new space.
Up until recently, adding overtones and harmonics back in has proven more difficult. You could try to add it back in with EQ, but usually once the harmonics are gone, they’re gone. With new multi-band Xciters like DF-XCITE, you’ve got more options to bring dull sounding kits back to life – a luxury that was previously unattainable.