How To EQ Drums – A Simple and Effective Guide to Drum EQ
The drum sound is the backbone of any mix. The bass drum keeps the pulse going, the snare drives the rhythm forward, and the feel of the drum beat is what gives the song its groove.
Knowing your way around the EQ is a very important aspect of getting a great drum mix going. The following post will give you the best principles for getting that great drum EQ.
Every drum mix is different, and your preferences will vary depending on what kind of sound you are going for. That said, looking around in those frequency areas will give you a good starting point to that awesome drum sound.
Kick Drum EQ
The happy medium in a kick drum sound is a thick bass thump from the low-end combined with a driving click from the mids. Different genres have different drum EQ, but those two areas are universal when it comes to a good kick drum sound.
50 – 100 Hz – Boost to add low-end punch. Beware of boosting too much though as it can clutter up the low-end and get in the way of the other instruments occupying this spectrum.
150 – 250 Hz – If you’re worried about boosting the low-end too much because you think the kick drum is already pretty thick, try cutting in this area. It reduces potential boominess from the kick while allowing the lower bass frequencies to breathe. Cutting here gives thickness to the low-end without adding muddiness to the overall sound.
300 – 600 Hz – Here you find the infamous cardboard sound. If boxiness plagues your kick drum sound, cut somewhere in this area. Metal and hard-rock kick drums have a scooped drum EQ at 300 Hz, and some kick drum microphones even have a pre-designed EQ curve that scoops out the mids to reduce boxiness.
2 – 4 kHz – This is where the snap, crackle, and pop is. If you have a hard time getting the kick drum to cut through the mix, don’t add more low-end, add more mids. A broad boost in this section will bring out the beater sound, Where you decide to boost depends on the genre. A broad boost in 2 kHz is good for any pop/rock style while a narrower boost at 4 kHz will bring out the click you hear so prominently in metal music.
10+ kHz – You don’t always need to do anything to the area above 10 kHz. Kick drums rarely need ‘air’ since most of their character comes from the low-end and the mids. You could even filter out the higher frequencies with a low-pass filter to reduce drum bleed. It can also give your kick drum a thicker, more focused sound.
Snare Drum EQ
Many of the guidelines still apply for any drum. For instance, if a drum is too thick, you can fix it by cutting out some of the low-mids. If it’s too boxy, you need to tame the area around 300 – 600 Hz.
150 Hz – If your snare sounds too thin and needs some extra weight, adding some 150 Hz can easily thicken things up.
500 Hz – For more body to your snare, the fundamental frequencies around 500 Hz gives the snare a rounder sound.
3 kHz – Add clarity and punch by boosting this area in the upper mids.
10+ kHz – You don’t notice a big difference when you start adding air to the snare, but it does lift the snare sound up a bit. A boost in the highs is similar to how a low boost in a bass instrument is felt rather than heard.
Snare drums can give you annoying ringing overtones that you need to deal with. The best is to use a separate EQ to cut the ringing sound out. Use a narrow Q, boost all the way up and sweep the boost across the frequency spectrum until the ringing sound pops out at you. When you find it, simply reverse your boost to get rid of the ring. Rinse and repeat.
How to EQ Toms
Toms are simple to EQ. You want to reduce boxiness, increase thump and add attack.
Here’s what you do:
Cut the Mids – Wide boosts work well when you just want to completely get rid of that boxy sound. Just make sure you leave some left so that it doesn’t sound hollow.
Add the Lows – Since every tom has a different diameter, their fullness frequencies differ. Floor toms sound full when boosted at lower frequencies, at 80 ö 100 Hz for instance, while smaller toms need boosting at closer to 250 Hz. Sweep around until you find the sweet spot to boost.
Sprinkle with Highs – Similarly, add the attack by boosting from between 5 kHz and 7 kHz, depending on the size of the tom.
I like taking a master EQ approach when it comes to overheads. Bus both of your overheads together so that you only need one stereo EQ.
Then you can approach it one of two ways:
Master EQ – Do slight cuts and boost to create the best sounding overall EQ. This means adding a slight low-end boost to bring out the kick drum, reducing some of the overall boxiness and adding presence and air in the upper-mids and high frequencies. This will give the overheads a great overall drum sound. With this method, you can start your drum mix with the overhead sound. Then you can add the other drums to the overheads to enhance an already great sound from the drum-kit.
Cymbals only – If you only want to use the overheads for the sound from the cymbals, use a high-pass filter to cut out everything up to about 500 Hz. Sounds drastic, but if the other microphones sound great and you can’t get a good overall overhead sound going, this method can be a great alternative.
Overall EQ with bussing
Finally, you can do the same overall EQ as I explained with the overheads, but this time with all of the drums. Simply buss them all together to one stereo group and add a stereo EQ. Then use that to sculpt a perfect master EQ for your drums.
I guarantee that these frequency areas will help you solve many of your drum EQ problems. If you want even more tips on using EQ to get better sounding drums, check out the EQ Cheatsheet below.
71 Free Shortcuts to Easy Separation and Balance in Your Mixes
If you’ve been struggling to hear all the instruments in a mix, my EQ cheatsheet will help you out.
- Learn to clean up your low-end, reduce bleed in your drums and eliminate annoying resonant frequencies from your recordings.
- Get rid of muddiness in your low-mids, tame the harshness in your mix, and get rid of your boxy sounding drums.
- Learn where to add presence to your vocals, brilliance to your acoustic guitars, thickness to your keyboards or weight to your bass. These tips are broken down by instrument and help you fix your frequency problems with simple solutions that you can use right away.