Drums - Processing - Bass/Kick Drum

Video Created by JOEL CAMERON - Transcribed by TOM BOWSER

You isolate the drums first using expander/gates or editing (Example, Pro Tools Strip Silence) to minimize the bleed in the track from other drums & external sources (use editing if needed given the context of the music, the amount and type of bleed).

Isolating the drums limits the amount of bleed that is also processed with the drums when they are processed (EQ, Compression). Also, by isolating the drums first, if the drums are well recorded you may not need to do much processing.

Isolation (with downward expansion and noise gates) is usually not done during tracking. Any mistakes in settings would be committed to the recording and could not be undone. LISTEN before drawing any conclusions.

Though it may sound good, low end on the kick drum has to be managed especially if there is a really rich bass guitar that will be layered with it. Why? Because the low end of the kick may trigger low frequency compression when it's getting mastered or trigger limiters used by radio stations. Kick drums need to marry well with the bass in a mix and give the rhythm articulation. The kick/bass drum and bass guitar should complement each other.

NOTE: Not much is needed to "fix" a track when the drums were tuned and recorded well.

EQ: Always begin by using subtractive EQ then use additive EQ as needed. By removing unwanted frequency content from the tracks you make more room for what you're keeping in other tracks. Using subtractive EQ first often results in needing less additive processing later to reach your desired result.

  • External Mic: Check the low mids (LMF) on the external mic. Reduce/dip then sweep back and forth across the frequency spectrum to find where you want to cut/reduce (as/if needed). Experiment with narrowing the cue and deepening the cut steeply to make sure you're in the right neighborhood when sweeping. Generally with external mics you may need to cut 2 to 3 dB or so around 125 to 150 Hz

Controlling the low-mids by reducing them improves the attack of the track. It also allows you to raise the level of the external mic track for a more complete, blended sound.

  • Internal Mic: Using subtractive EQ reduce the low mids if needed as was done with the external mic. You may need to cut 2 to 3 dB or so around 110 to 130 Hz.
  • Add some attack to the inside kick mic/track by boosting/increasing the HMF (high mid frequencies). Boost about 3db, then sweep to around 5k or so. You can narrow the Q, then boost to more precisely find the best frequency range to boost. After you find the frequency range that adds the attack that sounds good on the kick try widening the Q again. If you widen the Q you can bring the tracks overall level down because it's affecting more frequencies adjacent to the center frequency.

Listen to ensure you have the right amount of attack in the kick/bass drum tracks. By removing some LF content you are revealing the attack elements of the sound.

Expander/Gate

External Mic: If you bring up the level of the external mic it's decay component will be stronger than it was at a lower level. To modify the decay component we can add an Expander/Gate and trigger it with a send to its side chain from the internal mic.

  • Instantiate a Pro Tools Expander/Gate Dyn 3 plugin as an insert on the external mic.
  • Create a pre fader send (click on the PRE button of the send) on the internal kick drum mic/track.
  • Choose an unused bus and use it to route the internal kick drums send to the Key Input of the expander/gate you inserted on the external kick drum mic. If a pre fader send has already been created on the mic/track you can use it.
  • Choose the unused bus used for the kick drum send as the key input of the expander/gate plugin inserted on the external mic.
  • Enable the side-chain on the expander/gate by clicking on the little key image next to the words SIDE-CHAIN of the side-chain section of the expander/gate.
  • Increase the ATTACK of the expander/gate to as fast as possible to allow the transient through (turn the attack control all the way counter clockwise to 10.0us).
  • Increase (slow) the RELEASE time (turn release control clockwise) to around 725 ms.
  • Increase the HOLD time to around 100 or 105ms.
  • Set the RANGE control to -10 to -12 or lower (-8) for a more natural sound.

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