After the release of our Tech House Drum Tools sample pack earlier this week, we have put together our top 5 drum processing tips, for you to apply and achieve the professional sound you’ve been looking for!
Check out the full pack here: Tech House Drum Tools
1. High Pass
On drums such as high hats, you may not be able to hear any of the low frequencies but quite often they are there, whether your visual EQ shows them or not. Use your ears and high pass! Bass frequencies can build up quickly, especially in dance music. By taking away these useless frequencies you stop the bottom end from getting muddy and allow room for your kick and bass to do their thing!
2. Transient Designing
Sometimes you may have the exact sound you want, but it’s missing a slight tail or punch. This is where transient designing becomes useful. It basically redesigns the ADSR envelope on the sound. Reducing the attack on drums will bring back that punch to the sound, which works brilliantly with most drum sounds. Logic has its own designer called Enveloper, Ableton has a slightly different version called Drum Buss that can yield interesting results, but our favourite is Transient Master by Native Instruments. Simple, yet very powerful.
When first starting out I think the biggest mistake most producers make is drowning everything in reverb. Sometimes using a reverb isn’t required at all. Sometimes it’s needed in very small amounts.
When using reverb on drums, I want you to think of a real drum kit in a room. Each sound will produce a different amount of reverberation in the room due to the frequency range it uses and the velocity in which it’s hit. The reverb itself is the same, because all of the kit is in the same room, but the amount of reverb for each drum is different. Why should your drums be any different? Adding different reverbs to different drum hits can make them sound unnatural.
I like using a plate reverb on a bus with an EQ prior in the chain (taking out everything below around 140hz), to which I then send each individual hit. As soon as the reverb is noticeable, I dial it back slightly. Subtlety is key!
(These, of course, are just guidelines! Learn the rules of music, to break the rules of music.)
4. Grouping Drums
Grouping drums allows you to process them all as a whole and make them uniform. I like to add slight compression to glue them together (an optical compressor works well). Grouping also opens the door to creative fx in your arrangement. Try adding a filter and at the end of certain phrases in your track, automate the filters cutoff to add variation. The same technique is great for other FX such as flanger, chorus or delays. When using a delay, be sure to add a limiter to ensure feedback loops are under control.
5. Parallel compression
A term that sounds complicated but is actually very simple and effective. In layman terms, it means splitting a signal and applying heavy compression to bring out the body of the sound, of which is then layered with the original.
Start with a bus and add a compressor set with a heavy threshold, heavy-infinite ratio, short attack and medium release. Then simply send the sound you are trying to enhance to the bus until satisfied. This method is most commonly used with kicks to add that low-end body to allow it to cut through the mix. Tom drums also yield great results with this technique.
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