Gritty tips for processing Roland TR-909 drum sounds

Let's process and mix a 909 kit using a combination of cheap outboard processing and modern software treatments

1. The punchy TR-909 kick responds well to grungy analogue drive, so we've recorded a 4/4 kick hot through a Mackie CR-1604 mixer channel for cheap '90s flavour. Distortion will exacerbate low mid mud, so carve out frequencies around 120-250Hz and 4-500Hz if needed. Chunky compression adds punch.

Slightly driven 909 kick

2. More forceful mixer input gain pushes the 909 kick into tougher, trashier territories. Again, we tame low mid bloat with subtractive EQ, then compression reshapes the squashed hit's dynamics. Boosting the kick's fundamental reintroduces low weight that the intense distortion removed.

Overdriven 909 kick A

Overdriven 909 kick B

3. Step sequencing encourages improvisational programming, so instead of placing the clap sound on the traditional beats 2 and 4, we've jammed in a syncopated clap pattern from the TR-8 before layering the kit's rimshot for thickness. Subtle auto-panning and delay spread the repeated claps.

Syncopated claps with rimshot

4. Our panning, swinging 909 closed and open hi-hats give the groove a signature flavour that's ever-popular in the worlds of house, techno and garage. Sustained, pitched-up cymbal notes are placed on the offbeat, then soaked in reverb for splash.

909 hi-hats

Reverbed cymbals

5. Try using short cymbal or ride notes to creatively back up the offbeat hi-hat. Here, another cymbal part is mirroring the open hat's notes, adding attack. Panning them to the far right of the stereo field adds an extra dimension to the groove.

Panned cymbal layer

Cymbal layer with hats

6. Saturated snares and distorted toms are peppered and panned throughout the groove for added impact, and a delayed crash signifies the downbeat. To finish, we've bussed the drums to a single group, upon which we've applied dirty parallel compression via Sly-Fi's Deflector plug-in.

Drums in the mix

Drums with parallel processing

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