If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you may remember me preaching this little line a few times: “A static mix is a boring mix.” In this post, the same concept applies: “A static drum sound is a boring drum sound.”
Want an easy way to make your drums more interesting, have your drum fills cut through a dense arrangement, and to make your mix overall more interesting?
Increase the volume of every single drum fill by a few dbs.
I can already see the gears of realization grinding and the thought entering your mind, “Wait…automate every single drum fill?! But that takes up a lot of time! And it also really f*ckin sucks!”
Yup, every single drum fill. You want a good mix, you have to work for it. It’s tedious, it’s a bit boring, but it’s incredibly effective.
In my typical mix template, I have a handful of drum busses going on through to the master channel. I group these together and every time there’s a drum fill or something else interesting happens, the drums get boosted somewhere between 1-4 dBs. Usually it ends up being 2-ish dBs.
Is the drummer’s playing really busy? Are you mixing intricate metal and there’s a fill every 4 bars? Is it a 7 minute epic prog-rock song and you just don’t want to spend all that time on drums? Suck it up soldier, we’re making records here. You’ll get quicker at it with practice. Also, there are instances where automation can be copy/pasted. Maybe the choruses have fills at the same spot each time…copy/paste and BAM!… you just saved yourself a bit of time.
There may be a few exceptions here and there, but on the whole, you should be pushing all the drum fills a bit further forward.
Keep your mixes dynamic by keeping your drums dynamic!