Drums - Processing - Rack and Floor Toms

Video Created by JOEL CAMERON - Transcribed by TOM BOWSER

We're going to use a compressor to add some weight or mass (from a dynamic standpoint) to the tom drums. The attack (when the drum stick strikes the drum head) is such a strong part/component of the sound of the drum that we want to contain it somewhat using a compressor. This will allow us to create a better balance between the attack and the resonant component of the tom drum sound.

For this tutorial we use a Pro Tools Compressor/Limiter Dyn 3. We begin with the rack toms then work on the floor tom.

Compression:

  • Instantiate a compressor Pro Tools Compressor/Limiter Dyn 3 on the tom mic/track.
  • Increase the speed of the ATTACK (turn the control/knob counterclockwise) to around 1.8ms or so in order to grab the transient a little bit. We want a fairly fast attack to grab the transient, but as soon as the transient is gone you want to release it quickly so that you can listen to the sustain of the drum and that gives the impression of a larger more toneful drum. Why? The attack primarily consists of high frequency content. If the high frequency content is contained than overall there's more low frequency content audible in the drum. We are using compression to make the tom drum sound larger and to enhance the tone portion of the tom drum.
  • Set the RATIO to a lower ratio of 2.01 (2/1) or so. For general dynamics control/reduction and for a natural sound use a lower ratio of 2/1 . Use a higher ratio setting for a more aggressive drum sound.
  • The faster the release the more body you'll have in the sound. Set the RELEASE control to around 30ms or so. When the compressor is engaged/compressing it's essentially turning the signal down (gain reduction) by a set amount and then it releases it back to where it was.
  • With the release control setting you are essentially turning up the sound. Compression reduces the sound level. You want a fast ATTACK time to reduce the drum transient (drum stick striking the drum head). As soon as the transient is gone you want to RELEASE it quickly so you can hear the sustain of the drum which gives the impression of a larger more toneful drum. The attack of the drum primarily has a high frequency content and if that's contained than there is overall more low frequency content present in the drum sound.
  • THRESHOLD should be set so you have from 3 to 5 dB of gain reduction (GR).
  • Increase the GAIN control to make the input and output levels about the same. Use the IN and OUT level meters to verify your settings.

We're looking for around -3dB to -5dB in gain reduction. This means you can probably bring up the GAIN of the compressor a bit to make up for the dynamic reduction.

EQ: Use subtractive EQ to remove what we don't want and reveal what we do want. EQ the toms together listening to both as you EQ the low tom then the rack or high tom second. The examples below should serve as a starting point. In reality each drum and drum set will be unique to some degree.

High Rack Tom

  • Reduce the very low end beginning at around 35Hz by about -3 to -4dB down at 20Hz. Widen the Q a bit (.75 or so) to make it a more natural/smoother curve.
  • Boost LMF (low mid frequencies) at around 110Hz or so. Narrow the Q to focus on the frequencies you want to boost rather than boosting a broader range of the low end frequencies which tends to muddy everything up. Remember: We are trying to make the high tom sound more similar to the low tom.
  • Reduce HMF (high mid frequencies) by 2 to 3dB or so at around 1 to 1.2kHz or so if and as needed to reduce the papery sound of the drum head. Use the Q control to soften the EQ curve a bit for a more natural sound. This can help reduce the "papery sound" of the drum head. Verify this is needed and useful before implementing.

Low Floor Tom

  • Reduce the very low end beginning at around 35Hz sloping down to about -3 to -6dB at 20Hz. Widen the Q a bit (.75 or so) to make it a more natural/smoother curve.
  • Reduce the LMF (low mid frequencies) 2 to 3dB or so at around 110 to 125Hz. We want to balance the sound between both toms to make them sound more alike/as though they belong together (if they don't already sound that way).
  • Reduce HMF (high mid frequencies) by 2 to 3dB or so at around 1 to 1.2kHz or so if and as needed to reduce the papery sound of the drum head. Use the Q control to soften the EQ curve a bit for a more natural sound. This can help reduce the "papery sound" of the drum head. Verify this is needed and useful before implementing.

We want to balance the sound between both toms to make them sound more alike/as though they belong together (if they don't already sound that way).

NOTE: When placing mics for recording: If you place the mic toward the center of the drum you will get more of the attack as the stick hits the drum and less overall drum resonance. If you move the mic more toward the rim of the drum you tend to get more tone or resonance assuming the drummer is playing in the middle of the drum and not on the edge.

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