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QuickStart Guide to EQ’ing Your Drum Bus

I spent some time mixing this week and one of the main things I thought about was how important the drum bus is to the overall sound of your drum kit.

I route my drums so that everything ends up in the drum bus. It’s easier to manage but it’s also important to not do anything too drastic because you don’t want to screw with the sound too much.

So, here are some thoughts you can use whenever you find yourself EQ’ing the drum bus.

First of all, stay away from drastic EQ moves when EQ’ing the entire drum bus. Any move you make here 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. 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.

  • Be careful with the filtering if your kick drum is routed to the drum bus. If you’ve left it out then you can take out more low-end to clean up the drums, but always keep an eye on making sure you keep that low-end power in.
  • A cut in the 300 – 400 Hz range can take out any unwanted boxiness so experiment with cutting a few dBs 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 the 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 more added weight in the snare, a gentle boost in the 500 Hz area can bring out the tone 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 in 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.

Try those tips out next time you’re EQ’ing your drum bus, and if you need more help with EQ in general check out my Ultimate Guide to EQ here.

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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