How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch? - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 10 Old 04-24-14, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

Hi everyone,

I'm currently working on a track for a Pop-Punk band. I'm trying to get my drum tones sorted before anything else. What I'm already doing is parallel compression for all the elements in the kit and a drum room reverb on all the elements with a low cut till 70 Hz so that the lows of the kick and toms don't boom and a high cut so that I don't have excess of cymbals. The problem that I am facing is that I can't get my drum tones to be loud enough without losing the punch. What I know from previous experiences is that the moment you turn down the levels of anything, the perception of the punch is lost, it starts to sound thin. Also if I have these tones peaking then in the overall mix, I'll have to lower them in any case whereas the guitar, bass and vocals would already be compressed and still have the punch required. I don't want to reduce the levels of guitars, bass and vocals because I don't have the drums loud enough. What are the other ways with which I can get this sorted? Please help, I'm badly stuck and frustrated because of this!

P.S. - I've tried clipping the drum elements, it just doesn't work, it takes the life out of the attack of the tones.
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-24-14, 01:32 PM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

First of all Do Not use compression, That will kill the dynamics and flatten out any punch that they will produce. Mix in such a way that your over all track has headroom to alow for peaks.

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post #3 of 10 Old 04-26-14, 11:05 AM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

tonyvdb wrote: View Post
First of all Do Not use compression, That will kill the dynamics and flatten out any punch that they will produce. Mix in such a way that your over all track has headroom to alow for peaks.
Properly set up parallel compression won't lose any of the dynamics though - it just adds extra, as the original uncompressed drums are still all there.

Can you describe your setup in more detail please?
What drum tracks do you have available, how are you mixing them now & where did you start?
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post #4 of 10 Old 04-27-14, 09:15 PM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

I use tom and kick compression only as a limiter in case the guy gets crazy.

Before using a high pass, find the major resonance of the drum and notch it out. Then bring up the high pass. I usually HP the floor at 40 to 50, and a bit higher on each tom (run it up till you can feel a difference, then run it back down a little).

Last edited by TimmyP; 04-29-14 at 07:11 PM.
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-28-14, 05:15 AM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

As has already been said use minimal compression if any. How are you EQing the individual drums? I like to find a balance between having the attack push the meters and the tone / resonance of the drum provide the weight. Too much attack will generally push the any mix bus compression / limiting you have in your chain into action, sucking the life out of your sound. If you can EQ the tone / resonance of the drum right you should find a more thick, punchy sound.

I hope this helps.
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-29-14, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

As of now, I do not have a recording setup. I'm using the samples of the Headbanger's kit in EXS 24 Sampler in Logic Pro. I find them the most natural sounding. Parallel compression helped a lot in pushing a lot more attack into the drum tones. I've individually used parallel compression on kick, snare and toms. Also, I've sent all the drum tracks to a bus having the logic's space designer plugin with a drum room tone. That improved the tone a lot. But to get more, I had to used the Waves JJP Drums plugin on the all the drum tracks. I have used it in very subtle amounts on the kick and snare but in much more amount on the toms.
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-20-14, 05:17 PM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

Bumping an old thread, but I think it's worth it that I post this since some info posted above can be a bit misleading for newbs.

It's true that compression can kill your transients when using too fast attack times, but the way you set the compressor parameters will determine if you reduce or increase drum punch.

Here's a very good thread about this on an other forum. The last bunch of posts down the page by the great James Murphy are the posts that are really interesting, they give some very good insight concerning the ways that compressors work.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-21-14, 07:26 PM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?


Compression is a powerful technique for enhancing the punch of drum smacks. The trick is to compress the body of the hit and let the transient and the sustain either-side pass through or be amplified with the make-up gain. Once you know the theory, a little experimentation with the attack and release controls of a fairly fast compressor should get you there. I still use a Drawmer spectral compressor for giving Kick and snare punch using my analogue live rig.

I made some oscilloscope screen-grabs into ppt slides for AE students some years back, -I'll try to find them.

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post #9 of 10 Old 02-26-15, 08:55 PM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

I have been able to get all the snap you would want without compression. On a drum kit I only use compression to help with transients so I start to ease it in at 0 db.

We use a parametric EQ to find the crack of the particular drum, even the kick drum. I think they usually come out around 400 to 1kHZ. Dial that up to enhance the attack and you will never lose a drum in the mix. You can do the same for the primary lower frequency of the drum also. Push those two and you have plenty of drums all day long.

Good luck.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-09-16, 11:06 PM
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Re: How to get your drum tones to be loud and still keep the punch?

I hope it's OK if I post to this old thread, but I may have something new to offer for viewers of this challenging topic. I've been recording drums for over 20 years, in various styles and situations. It's taken these two decades of trial and error to get a process which has only recently started producing results which I would call somewhat "professional". My home setup is rather simple and old-school, with lots of analog stuff. I close-mic with SM-57s on the toms and snare, a matched pair of Rode NT5s X/Y overhead, and a Sennheiser e902 in the kick. Drums are tracked dry at 44.1/24 to a Korg D3200, with peaks at -6dB. The magic comes in the post-processing.

I then individually re-record every drum track by passing it from the aux-out on the Korg through the following outboard processor chain:
Behringer UltraGraph EQ (curve varies with drum) ->
Art Pro VLA ][ (optical compressor, used as a peak limiter) with a threshold of -6dB, 4:1 ratio, 1ms Attack, and .3sec Release ->
Samson S-Gate 4 with a 1ms Attack, .25sec Hold, .5sec Release and 100% Range ->
Then back to the mixer for gain staging and on to the Korg to re-record at 44.1/24.

The EQ setting is what varies the most, with the remaining processors basically set the same for each drum. Of course, the gate cutoffs are adjusted for the pitch of that particular drum but the gate shape is typically the same. I then re-record each track individually, making sure I have good gain staging throughout the chain for low noise. The result is a fat track, with the transient from the stick hit tamped down just enough to let me push the overall volume more and gain body from the drum as a whole. While I understand some may think my fast attack might kill that stick hit, I find that just a touch of limiting lets me pull forward the body of the drum and give a full sound, without losing anything at all. In fact, with close-micing I feel there's far to much stick-hit volume wise, when compared to shell resonance, so tamping down anything beyond that -6dB threshold works well for taming transients and evening out peaks. All important if you want to push volume and avoid clipping. The use of gates on the skins is absolutely essential if you want a clean sound without a lot of cross-bleeding with the mics. Then any cymbal bleed that gets through is not a big deal and you don't need to wreck your stick attack and drum tone with EQ cuts on the highs. Also helps cut down the mud and leave room for adding reverb in mixdown.

The optical compressor is much more musical than anything else I've used and gives me a very natural drum sound that cuts well through even the heaviest of rock. Once we drop these tracks into a mix, it's just a little reverb and some final compression to make them play well with others. A word about the mix too. As a drummer, I naturally like my drums loud. So for the drums to remain natural and cut through the mix, that means everything else comes down a bit. This helps me push the drums louder in the mix because I've given myself some headroom. Think about how a live band sounds. That kick and snare are cutting through everything, if it's mixed right. With the above setup, my transients are under control thanks to the VLA and everything comes together. Honestly, a little clipping is not that big of a deal if it's occasionally on a snare hit. I mean, it's white noise anyway. But by keeping my levels in line while mixing, I leave room for that punch to be present without clipping at all. It's important to not try and mix as if you were making the master. Don't go for loudness, just for level balance. This leaves room for the mix the breathe. Finally, for the mastering stage, I use WaveLab and shoot for a loudness of around +12 LU, no more. If you want it louder, consider the volume knob as a solution. Besides, if you over-compress your master, it'll sound flat when played on the radio or any other medium that is auto-compressing tracks for loudness continuity. Just go for awesome when you crank that knob, no matter how far you need to turn it!

If you want to hear recent examples of my work, just visit SoundCloud and listen to Aztec Visions or Radiant Life Energy by Dr. Joyner. These are decent drum sounds, by my estimation. It may not be professional quality to some ears, but in 20 years of trying, this is the closest I've gotten to my ears being happy with them. I'll take it. All done with basic mics and outboard processors. I work with computers all day, so plugins aren't my thing. I need my knobs to grab and twist with eyes closed. To each their own.

Hope this helps someone, and thanks for reading all that detail.

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