Everybody has at least one top ten favorite song that has a thundering tom sound. You know the breakdown part where the drummer goes !Bam! !Bam!
For some reason “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC comes immediately to mind, even though I’m not a huge fan of the Hard Rockers from Down Under.
But anyway, it’s necessary to be able to coax a throbbing tom sound out of your drum tracks and by using these easy steps you are so much closer to your powerful rock drum sound.
Step 1 – Use Your Equalizer
When doing toms I prefer EQ’ing before I compress. I want the sound of the drums to come through before everything else so I start by sculpting the sound. Thunderous toms need a rich low end as well as a nice attack. What they don’t need is the boxy sound of the middle frequencies that clutter up the tom sound and make them lose their thunderous definition. The best way is to cut the middle frequencies first and then find the complimentary lows and high afterwards.
- Cut the Mids – Start your cutting at 300 Hz or so and sweep along the mids until the toms start sounding thicker. Subjectively, by taking out the middle frequencies you are making more room for the lows and highs to come out and play. Cut the boxy frequencies until you hear your toms getting thicker.
- Add the Lows – Add more lows to get a thicker tom sound. Depending on the size of the drum there are different frequencies involved. Big floor toms have a fuller sound around 80 – 100 Hz but smaller toms might need to be boosted even higher, around 100 – 200 Hz. Sweep along the lower frequencies with a wide bell curve, or a shelving boost until you find the frequency that compliments the tom.
- Sprinkle with Highs – Now that you’ve gotten a thick sound from your drum you might need to add some attack to it. A broad but small boost around the higher middle frequencies, say, 1.2 kHz – 5 Khz should give your toms a little more attack. Be easy on the highs since you don’t want too much. Just enough to compliment the thunderous lows.
Want more suggestions on improving your EQ chops? Sign up for my free EQ course here.
Step 2 – An Audio Compressor With an Attitude
Now that we’ve gotten the general sound of our toms going, it’s time to use some compression to make it even more powerful. Compression is a big subject and not one I’ll be delving into in detail here. However, we need to set our compressor to our drums and knowing what each part does is important. Let’s go through some of the parameters that are important for our tom sound.
- Medium Attack – We want the attack of the toms to come through before our compressor clamps down on it. If the attack is too fast the initial transient will be eaten up by the compressor. Timing the attack so that the compressor allows the initial hit to come through is important to this specific sound.
- Ratio – Set the ratio to around 6:1. By cranking up the ratio you bring up the power of the toms. A ratio of 6:1 isn’t extremely high so that you won’t notice the sucking sound of too much compression but it is enough to give your toms a powerful sound.
- Crank the threshold – If the toms are only used in hard hitting fills or specific tom parts, as opposed to low-key tom beats then cranking up the threshold is a good way of making sure the toms are heard. By lowering the threshold you are essentially squashing the signal harder and hearing all the little nuances and subtleties of the toms that otherwise would be too quiet to hear. Put your threshold at around -20 and make sure you are compressing at least 6-10dBs on the peaks, if not more.
Step 3 – Add Some Reverb
Now you should have a fairly thick and creamy tom sound. You can either leave it as is and focus on the rest of the drum-kit, making everything sound tight and great or you can add this one last step. Adding individual short reverbs to each tom can be a great way to add some more power to your tom sound. Short rooms or halls that don’t leave a long reverb trail can make your tom sound larger than life, especially if you pan them accordingly. By using mono reverbs and panning them behind each tom you can give your toms that extra punch you need.
By now you should be familiar with how you can get a thunderous sound out of your tom tracks. Not only can you use these techniques on your toms but try them on other percussion instruments as well. I use the EQ method in step 1 for many instruments, not just toms. By being familiar with what each processor does you can work faster and more efficiently on your mixes.
The Drum Mix Toolkit
If you don’t know all the tools you have at your disposal, I’ve put together a package that includes all the tricks and techniques I’ve learned in the last decade of mixing drums.
It’s called the Drum Mix Toolkit and it’s designed to transform your drums from weak and thin to powerful and punchy.
Here are some techniques you’ll learn discover when you get your copy:
- How to Use Bus Processing and Parallel Compression to Glue Your Drum Sound Together
- How to Blend Multiple Reverbs Together in Your Drum Mix, Making the Drums Sound Larger than Life
- How to Fit the Kick Drum and Bass Guitar Together in the Low End
- How to Take Full Advantage of the Phase Relationship Between Your Tracks to Make Every Track Sound Tighter
- What Processing to Use When You Don’t Have Drum Replacement or Transient Designers at Your Disposal
- Where to EQ Drums to Get Rid of Boxiness, Muddiness, and Harshness
- Your 6 Step Process for Using Drum Compression for Tighter Drums
- A Behind the Scenes Look at How the Ratio of Your Compressor Affects Your Drum Sound
- How to Use Multi-Band Compression for a Tighter, Yet MORE Dynamic Drum Sound
- How to Use Gates to Get a Cleaner Drum Sound
- Why You Should Use Analog Summing and Saturation to Add More Warmth and Depth to Your Drums
- Why Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is the Reason I Use This One Plug-in on ALL My Mixes
- The Difference Between a Drastic and Subtle Overhead EQ (And When to Choose Which)
- Adding Space to Your Drum Mix Without Making Your Drums Sound Distant
- How to Use Gated Reverbs Without Sounding Like You’re an 80’s Cover Band
Plus: 3 Exclusive Bonuses:
Bonus #1 – Drum Mix Toolkit Resource Sheet
- 25 Drum Mixing Resources to Improve Your Mixes Even Further
- An Overview of Popular Sample Replacement Tools
- Where to Find Transient Designer Plug-ins
- Resources for Practice Materials
- Advice on Making Your Mixes Translate to Every Speaker
Bonus #2 – Practice Tracks
- In case you don’t have any multi-tracks to practice your drum mixing, I’ve included a drum recording you can use to try out all the tips and tricks you read about inside the Drum Mix Toolkit.
- Drum tracks include a drum track recorded in a home studio setting, with a kick, snare, under-snare, two tom mics, stereo overheads and a room microphone.
Bonus #3 – Percussion Toolkit – Make Your Percussion Punch Through
- Where to Pan Your Percussion to Make Your Mix Sound Wider
- How to Use EQ and Compression on Shaker, Tambourine and Hand Drums
- Three Easy-to-Use Effect Techniques to Create Depth and Space With Your Percussion and Make it Fit With Your Drum Mix
365 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
As with all of the Audio Issues products, if Drum Mix Toolkit doesn’t live up to your standards I will happily refund your money, no questions asked.
You try all the tricks and even keep the tutorial for a full year before deciding whether you like them or not.
“I take my guarantee very seriously. I am not interested in keeping your money if you do not get any value from what I’m creating for you.
So if you’re not happy, I’m not happy.“