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How To Make Your Drums More Powerful With Multi-Band Compression

Multi-band compression is a great tool to understand. It can really help shape the sound of your mixes and it comes in handy when the full-band compressor sounds too heavy-handed on a track.

What follows is an excerpt from my Drum Mix Toolkit that teaches you how to use the multiband compressor on drums.

How to Use Compression on Drums

Compression is a lovely subject that everyone agrees on. Each drum has a specific setting that should be used and there’s only one right way to compress everything when you’re mixing any type of genre.

Just kidding.

Satire aside, compression can be really fun to experiment with during mixdown because there are so many different ways of doing it. One of the more powerful ways of applying compression is by using the multi-band compressor.

Multi-Band Compression For Bigger Drums

It took me a long time to start using multi-band compression effectively while mixing. I was afraid of using it for the longest time because I wasn’t really sure how to work it correctly.

So I just kept on using my other compressors, not realizing the potential I was passing over.

I always used multi-band compressors for mastering, but that somehow seemed easier and more straightforward.

It wasn’t until I realized the problem-solving capabilities of the multi-band compressor that I got hooked on using them for mixing, especially for compressing the drums.

A multi-band compressor lets you compress the entire drum kit at varying levels throughout the entire frequency spectrum. This is great when you need to hit the kick pretty hard in the low-end but don’t want the cymbals to constantly compress every time the kick hits.

Today I wanted to elaborate on how you can set your multi-band compressor to tackle the drums effectively.

A good process for getting into using multi-band compression on your drums is as follows:

1. Find a Drum Compression Preset

It’s always good to start with a preset you might like. You’re going to tweak it to fit the sound of course, but having a preset that gets you started saves you time.

2. Tweak the Crossover Bands

Solo the frequency bands in your multi-band compressor and move the crossovers to where they make sense to you.

Make the low-end band only tackle the low-end of the kick drum; have a low-mid band that’s tackling all the meaty stuff that can cause you problems in the dirty middle; tweak your high-mid crossover so you’re tackling the crack of the snare and the punch of the beater of the kick drum. Finally, let the high-end crossover worry about the sheen of the cymbals and the air of the drums.

Finally, let the high-end crossover worry about the sheen of the cymbals and the air of the drums.

3. Tweak the Compression Settings

At this point you really just have four compressors working together on separate frequency bands. Then you can tweak the individual compression settings, the threshold, ratio,

Then you can tweak the individual compression settings, the threshold, ratio, attack, and release until each compressor is working the way you want to.

Don’t be afraid to push one band of the compressor harder than another. Sometimes you need to be more heavy-handed in the lows and the low-mids while you only lightly compress the highs.

Multiband to the Rescue

Use the technique above to get started with compressing your drums with a multi-band compressor. It really is a helpful tool that can shape your sounds in a cooler way than any full-band compressor.

Compressing the Drum Group

Compressing the drum group can tighten up the entire kit. It glues the tracks together and creates a punchier overall sound. Go for a few dBs of gain reduction at a 4:1 ratio to get started. Then tweak the attack and release until you get a tight drum sound that isn’t completely cutting out the transients of the kick and snare while still riding the peaks of the drum bus.

I find a fairly quick attack that’s not all the way fast (i.e. letting the initial transient through while still compressing the entire signal) and a release that’s either timed to the song or at least resets itself fairly quickly, will usually do the trick. For really quick attack times and character, a FET style compressor like an 1176 will work well.

If you want a transparent compressor that doesn’t color the sound as much, you can go for a VCA style circuit, popularized by the DBX 160. But if you want tone, some character and a slow reaction time (guaranteeing your transients will get through), use a opto style compressor like an LA2A emulation.

Multi-band compression is a great option as well because you can tweak the compression settings differently depending on the frequency range. This is a good option if you want a higher ratio on the low-end to thicken it up and a more aggressive threshold on the low-mids to tame the boxiness and boom. You’ll then tweak the high-mids and high frequencies to let them breathe, possibly adding a slow release to the highs to kill the unnecessary sound from the room recording.

A third compression option is to be very conservative on the drum bus and use parallel compression to make them more powerful.

It’s an easy way to get the best of both worlds: a steady and dynamic drum group with some powerful compression blended underneath.

Get More Drum Mixing Techniques Inside the Drum Mix Toolkit

toolkitYour Drum Mix Toolkit is your one-stop-shop to getting professional sounding drums from your home recordings.

If you’ve been needing to learn how to mix acoustic drums or breathe new life into your programmed samples, you’ll discover new techniques and a solid foundation of knowledge to do just that.

If you’ve been needing to learn how to mix acoustic drums or breathe new life into your programmed samples, you’ll discover new techniques and a solid foundation of knowledge to do just that.

Click Here to Transform Your Drum Sound

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:Drum_Mix_Toolkit_Resource_Sheet_01

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

MultitracksBonus #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.

Percussion_Toolkit_00 (1)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.

Click the link below to grab your copy.

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About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately 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.

Björgvin’s step-by-step mixing process has helped thousands of musicians confidently mix their music from their home studios. If you’d like to join them, check out the best-selling book Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.