When recording acoustic drums, the quality of the source material is key and the same goes for your programmed or sampled drums. Treat your electronic beats in the same way and you shall be richly rewarded, but that's not the whole story.
For your beats to deliver the goods in your tracks will require some inevitable mixing. To get pro-sounding drums, you need to be familiar with both corrective and creative equalisation.
Here are our tips for better drum EQing.
1. Cut the wood
Kicks can often sound 'woody' due to excessive bloat in the 300-500Hz area, so clean this muddiness away with an EQ dip. A high-mid and/or treble boost can help the kick cut through the mix - to start try adding a large boost at 2kHz and a smaller one at about 10kHz.
2. Saturated fat
A great way to thicken out weedy electronic claps is via a hefty dose of saturation - but watch out as distortion can heavily amplify bass and low-mid frequencies. Always follow any extreme distortion processes with EQ to carve out these affected areas.
3. Built-up treble
Treble can build up quickly in a mix, giving the illusion of brightness while actually thinning out your frequency balance. Pull down a shaker or tambourine loop's unwanted highs with a high shelf cut, then add back upper-mids with a high shelf boost to re-focus the upper areas of your mix.
4. Darker sounds
Often, rather than EQing out excess high-end, it can be better to begin with a darker sound and then add the desired amount of treble using an EQ designed for the task. This open hi-hat is purposely rather dull, so we're then using a high-quality EQ to dial in sufficient brightness.
5. Sub roll-off
Rolling off unwanted sub frequencies from hi-hats and percussion is a standard technique, but don't high-pass everything way up into the mids. Sometimes, a bit of low-mid in a hi-hat can give it weight and power, especially in a more raw, analogue- esque track, so judge your filtering in the context of everything else.
6. Apply reverb
Snare or clap reverb can make the difference between an average beat and a professional one. Apply reverb via an aux return, then EQ the reverb to tailor the signal's tone to fit the rest of the beat. High- and low-pass filtering will help sink the reverb into the mix a little more.
For more on mixing perfect beats check out Future Music issue 304, on sale now. From EQing and compression to blending electronic and acoustic sounds, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to master your percussion parts.