11 Tips for Better Sounding Drums Using EQ
You might be interested in the new project I’m working on. It’s a brand new book on mixing I’m tentatively calling “80/20 Mixing.”
The book is out and it’s called Step By Step Mixing.
It’s a written adaptation of my Mixing With 5 Plug-ins course for those that don’t have time to go through the videos or can’t afford the price tag.
It covers all the things you’ve been struggling with the most:
But it also covers some mixing approaches and philosophies to keep in mind.
It’s half theory, half practical solutions to your problems.
Why am I telling you this?
Basically so I get my ass in gear and finish the damn thing.
But I also thought I’d take the opportunity to give you a sneak preview into the practical tips I’ve included in the EQ chapter.
This chapter is all broken down into bullet points that you can easily reference whenever you have a problem you can’t figure out.
I’ve done this for drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals but I wanted to give you a few choice solutions to some EQ problems you might be having:
Common Solutions For Fixing Drums With EQ
- Cut the kick drum in the 300 – 600 Hz region to get rid of boxiness. Sweep around with a narrow Q and a big boost to find the boxiest frequency and then get rid of it.
- The same works well on a drum group bus, toms or any other drum that needs smoothed out. Start with a cut around 400 Hz and see if your drums tighten up a bit.
- If you have multiple microphones on drums, such as an over and under snare mic, then make sure you check the phase relationship between all the drums. You’d be surprised just how much punch you can add back into a drum sound if you just make sure everything is in phase.
- The typical philosophy for kick drums is to cut the mids and boost the lows for bass and the high-mids for the beater. Although I’ve found this to be true most of the time, some genres need a heavier hand in the lows. Metal kick drums can get muddy really fast if there’s too much low-end. You might want to add a shelving cut filter to tame the lows while you add a big boost to the beater area around 4 kHz. Let the bass guitar handle the low-end presence and make the kick cut through in the mids instead.
- Harsh cymbal noises can be tamed with a cut in the 2.5 kHz area.
- Home recorded drums often have annoying low-mid buildup, causing the kick drum to have too much energy in the 100 – 250 Hz area. Don’t be afraid to cut lows and low-mids in order to clean up your drum sound. It doesn’t always take a low-frequency boost to create powerful bass. Sometimes it’s about cleaning up the area to hear the bass that’s already there.
- However, if you need more low-end oomph in your kick drum then find the right frequency that sounds good to you by boosting around 60 – 100 Hz.
- If you want to add body to your drum sound try hunting for it around 150 – 250 Hz. If you like a meaty snare sound then boost the low-mids to bring out the thickness of the body.
- Alternatively, if you’re looking for more sizzle or attack, bringing out the 2.5 – 3 kHz character can help bring it out in the mix.
- If that brings out the rattle of the snares too much, a high-shelving boost around 10 kHz will bring out the brightness of the snare drum without adding harshness from the snares themselves.
- The area around 2.5 kHz is a good starting point to bring out the attack of any drum, whether it’s the snare, toms or the beater of the kick drum.
Be aware that EQ is subject to taste, experimentation and style that changes with every mix you do.
Every time I open up a new mix I instinctively think of these guidelines when I’m listening to what I want to add or subtract.
However, that doesn’t mean I blindly follow these areas if those decisions don’t make a good mix. I’ve often had to fly in the face of common wisdom just to make things cut through and fit together, and that’s always what’s most important when it comes to mixing.
Nobody cares that you can pinpoint frequencies like a wizard. People care whether the mix sounds good, nothing else.
It’s my hope that the tips above have given you some good ideas on what to try in order to create a better sounding drum mix.
If you’re looking for even more information on this topic, I created a special guide called EQ Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to EQ that teaches you how to EQ in-depth: