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antler

Advice for mixing electronic drums?

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Up until recently, I've made most of my music using acoustic drum samples from Superior Drummer. I've managed to get a good feel for how to mix them, using parallel compression, and a bit of post compression EQ.

Lately, I've been experimenting more with electronic music, and using drum samples that are closer to that genre. The thing I'm finding is that electronic drum samples generally seem more processed/ready out-of-the-box, rather than the somewhat raw drum recordings of SD's acoustic kits. If I apply a similar workflow, I'm finding that I usually get quite an unnaturally hyped high end.

Could anyone offer any tips on how to approach mixing electronic drum samples? e.g. would it be better to lay off the parallel compression/skip it altogether, or should I just approach it in a different way?

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On the rare occasions when I use synthetic drums, the only vanilla processing I apply is EQ, often to reduce that "unnaturally hyped high end" you describe. More often, the fx will be things that make them sound even more unnatural, such as delays, reverb, distortion and modulators.

Acoustic instruments are far more tonally complex and dynamic, which lends themselves to treatments that either highlight or hide the many overtones that are in there, and/or their dynamic characteristics. Electronic percussion just doesn't have that depth. So acoustic fx tend to be subtractive in nature, while electronic drum fx tend to be additive.

Also consider combining electronic and acoustic drums. You can end up with an instrument that sounds like it might exist in the real world, but with an interesting twist. The classic example is mixing an 808-style gated sine "kick" under a real kick drum sample, for a deeper low-frequency component. But you can do the same thing with snares and toms. There's no rule that says electronic music must be 100% electronic.

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On 6/28/2021 at 9:50 PM, antler said:

Could anyone offer any tips on how to approach mixing electronic drum samples? e.g. would it be better to lay off the parallel compression/skip it altogether, or should I just approach it in a different way?

Layering is your friend here. Most drum tracks you hear in commercial electronic music have stacked the kicks and snares/claps in some way.

Think of like a jigsaw puzzle where each sample is providing one piece of the overall sound. You might think of a kick for example as being made up of a sub layer, a punch layer and a click layer and carving the unwanted parts away. This helps it translate on anything from a club system to smartphone speaker.  

Parallel compression is still a good option but you may not need to individually compress each layer for level control if the samples have already been treated. However sometimes it's still desirable for tone/character to run them through your favourite compressor.

If you want level control sometimes a limiter is better to just even things out without changing the sound too much.  A clipper can really help your EDM drums cut through and of course side-chaining your bass and possibly other tracks to the kick is an electronic music staple. 

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Generally, yeah, the sounds themselves don't need compression to even them out or adjust attack and decay like real world drums.

As the others have said, compression as an audible effect, deliberate heavy pumping with or without sidechaining to a compressor on the bass, those are the things that I hear.

It's about adding things that aren't already there. The sky's the limit if you're not trying to create a virtual drum kit in a room. I've smashed the snot out of the entire drum mix using a hard knee compressor or something from the electronic-oriented plug-in houses like W.A. Production.  They have a freebie called KSHMR Kick that's designed for kick, obviously, but I've put the thing on an entire drum mix and was very pleased with the results. W.A. are running a bundle sale right now.

Comb filtering, like MComb from the Meldaproduction FreeFX bundle, is something I've used, delay, whatever makes it interesting. Also be sure to have Boz Digital's Bark of Dog on hand.

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Posted (edited)

I have the opposite situation, I prefer electronic drums because they are drier and raw, whereas my acoustic options are swimming in reverb. I actually cannot stand using acoustic drums anymore (in Ni's Studio Drummer) because no matter what I do, they are swimming in reverb and sound clashy/trebley and thin (at least to me). I also have little control over some of the individual instruments as well. Superior drummer is probably different but I don't like the sound of acoustic drums on professional commercial recorded music either so my tastes might be different.

I guess it depends on what VST drum programs you use or in the case of electronic drums what samples/VST you use. I use Battery for everything now because I can control the sound of all the drums and layer drums within Battery and output every instrument to a separate track. Some samples are over processed but I generally don't use those or if I do, I knock the high end off with a filter and reduce the release time (both done in Battery) which tones them down and dries them up quite a bit. Then I output the cells to individual tracks and do any further processing/mixing in the DAW.

"Electronic drums" sounds like one is referring to some cheap Casio beat box but they don't have to sound like that. If you take an acoustic kick sample, remove the ugly reverb by reducing the release time and remove the bottom end a bit with a filter to get rid of that hideous rumble and then mix that with another sample of say a 909 kick where you keep the short reverb and remove it's high end a bit, but use it's cleaner low end, the result can sound great, at least to me. You can do the same with snares, just layer a number of snares that might be acoustic or electronic and then do whatever to suit your taste. Every drum sound you hear in modern music these days is a mishmash of layered options anyway, combining acoustic sounds with electronic sounds and synths etc.

It's easy to either not know where to start to create a sound or just get completely lost because of option overload with drum samples. Having a reference track that is close to the sound you want and then try to recreate it bearing in mind what the unprocessed sound might sound like underneath the FX. I like the drum sound of this song by Benee. Lots of layering of the snare with different instruments at different times, tamborines, claps, synth, acoustic and electric etc, all create impact and then going to dry drums, and the kick with the synth and bass etc. And the use of the various percussions.

Getting rid of those loud rock drums opens up the musical space for bass, instruments and vocals. The vocals really stand out nicely. Nice use of drums for this indie/pop genre in my view, original sound. There's a lot going on if you listen but it's all subtle and contributes to the catchyness of the tune.

 

 

Edited by Tezza
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Thanks for the advice everyone.

@Tezza I had been using XLN's XO along with some samples from a 10,000 Kicks/Snare/Hats pack that went cheap a little while ago. Picked up Battery along with Komplete a little while ago, and so I started playing around with that. I really like it - it's quite complex though, so still getting my head around some things.

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There's some good tutorials for Battery 4 around the place, I think Udemy and Lynda, now Linkedin have some, also some on Youtube. It's got a lot of stuff on it but you wont use all of it, nevertheless, it's nice to know what everything does. You don't have to use Battery to process each cell, you can also use it as a dumb sampler and link each cell or group of cells to a track in your DAW and do the processing there. I do a bit of each.

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Yeah, with electronic drums, it's more about getting out of your own way than anything else.  Use your ears, rather than experience. They rarely need corrective treatment, it's more about personalisation and 'roughing them up' here n there. You almost have to work backwards and think 'how can I make this sound less perfect?'

I tend to throw them through Decapitator at least 4 times, and put hats and percussion through EchoBoy for some really interesting rhythmical inspiration.

 

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On 6/28/2021 at 1:50 PM, antler said:

Up until recently, I've made most of my music using acoustic drum samples from Superior Drummer. I've managed to get a good feel for how to mix them, using parallel compression, and a bit of post compression EQ.

Lately, I've been experimenting more with electronic music, and using drum samples that are closer to that genre. The thing I'm finding is that electronic drum samples generally seem more processed/ready out-of-the-box, rather than the somewhat raw drum recordings of SD's acoustic kits. If I apply a similar workflow, I'm finding that I usually get quite an unnaturally hyped high end.

Could anyone offer any tips on how to approach mixing electronic drum samples? e.g. would it be better to lay off the parallel compression/skip it altogether, or should I just approach it in a different way?

I wonder if it has to do with the genres.  I have some tutorials from Trance producers and they don't sidechain either.

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