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“Do you put an EQ on the drum bus first?”

A subscriber writes in with a question,

“Hey Bjorgvin, online session drummer here. Gotten some good tips from you! Quick question: Do you advocate putting an eq on the drum bus first, then tweak each individual channel? Thanks so much.”

EQ’ing the drum bus first can give you some big wins. It allows you to shape the entire drum sound with only a single EQ plug-in and usually a bus EQ will react nicely to a LOT of frequency information.

However, as I say in chapter 3 of EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ, “Stay away from drastic EQ moves when EQ’ing the entire drum bus.”

Any move you make on the drum bus will affect the entire drum kit, not just the drum you’re trying to cut or boost.

A good starting point is to listen to what the drums sound like and think critically about what the drums need as a whole.

From there you can gauge whether the drums need more weight in the low-end, some cleaning up because they sound too boxy, or whether they need some more punch in the high-mids or air from the cymbals.

Here’s a quick excerpt from EQ Strategies where I talk about general guidelines for drum bus EQ:

  • Filter the drum bus up to 32 Hz. You don’t want to filter up any higher unless you’ve left your kick drum out of the drum group. If that’s the case feel free to filter even higher, about 100 Hz, and see whether it cleans up the mix or takes out too much low-end power.
  • A cut in the 300 – 400 Hz range can take out any unwanted boxiness so experiment with cutting a few dB in those areas, sweeping around until you find where your drums sound the cleanest.
  • Low-mid buildup and boominess is a frequent problem, especially in a home studio. Scout around in the 150 – 250 Hz area and see if you can reduce any boominess caused by annoying resonances in your room.
  • For added weight, a gentle boost in the 500 Hz area can bring out the fundamental tones of the snare. However, be careful if it starts getting too honky in the other drums. If that’s the case you’re better off using that EQ boost on the individual track.
  • If you need more presence and punch from the drums in general, in case they’re getting drowned in distorted guitars, then add a little bit in the high-mids around 1.2 – 3 kHz. If those boosts start getting in the way of the vocal, make sure you back off and tweak your frequency selection.
  • Harshness in the cymbals can be tamed at around 2.5 kHz, especially an annoying hi-hat.
  • Finally, if your cymbals sound dull or the drum kit needs more brilliance and excitement in the high-end, try a shelving boost in the high frequencies above 10 kHz. A little bit goes a long way so don’t go overboard in your boosting.

If you liked this breakdown, you’ll get more simple and practical EQ tips for any instrument when you get EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ here.

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About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

At Audio Issues you’ll learn simple and practical audio production tips you can use right away to improve your music from your home recording studio.  Björgvin is the best-selling author of Step By Step Mixing and the founder of Audio Issues. He helps musicians and producers turn amateur demos into professionally produced records they can be proud to release.

We help home studio musicians and project studio producers make a greater musical impact in their lives by teaching them the skills needed to grow their hobbies and careers. We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use right away to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

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