layering drums


Getting the perfect drum sound is one of the hardest things to do in the studio. This is a constant source of headaches for sound engineers all over the world. If you want to record percussions and make it sound new, unique drums need to be employed to produce fresh beats.

And here’s a secret most sound engineers know that the general public doesn’t: sound engineers love to use the low pass filter to reduce inconsistencies in the tracks they record.

One of the reasons why producing excellent drum sounds is a challenging aspect during the recording session is because it is a multi-faceted instrument. A basic drum set is made up of a kick drum, a snare, 2 toms and a crash and ride cymbal. All of these components produce different sounds and because of their close proximity to each other, have the tendency to bleed into one another.

This tends to muddy up the original sound of the individual component of the specific percussion being played at any time. One way to reduce this is to record the individual sounds through a booth but that would then remove the personality of the drummer playing the instrument. And no matter how closely you place your microphone on the surface of the percussive instrument, theirs is still going to be some stray sounds bleeding into the track.

If you use a pass filter, you can effectively remove the stray sounds by identifying the register where the stray sound is coming from. Take for example the kick drum. This component provides the low end in the mix. The sound from the cymbals which provide the highest frequency in the mix can essentially reduce the desired effect of the bass drum in the low end registry. By using a low pass filter, you can remove the high end of the sonic spectrum from the specific track where the bass drum is.

kick drum

Close micing your drums can be a good alternative to this only if you’re going for a live feel. If you’re going for a more professional sound, you have to clean it up. You can also solve this issue by using an electronic drum kit as the sound coming from these musical instruments are triggered through digital means and not through the acoustics of the percussive instrument. Therefore, there is no chance for any bleeding to happen. The only downside to this is electronic drums do not provide the type of dynamic level that only an acoustic drum set can. What you get is a uniform, almost monotonous sound coming from your kit and your record is going to come out sounding robotic. There are other ways to solve the issue of sound bleeding through individual tracks but it requires a lot of isolation and proper microphone placement.

In conclusion, it is possible to produce unique drums sounds by using a low pass filter to remove unnecessary frequencies that cut through the mix unintentionally. A good sound engineer would make it a point of consideration to ensure that all of the tracks he records is cleaned up perfectly before sending it over for mixing.