Audio Gym : Part Three – Mixing Drums

Why is a well balanced drum mix so important?
Drums, the beat, rhythms and percussion are an important part of compositions in most popular music genres; the skeleton of a song or track, so to say.

So what does well balanced mean here?

Every bone in our body has its place – right forearm, left foot, left hand and skull on top.

So do drums.

Imagine a drumkit, standing right in the middle in front of you.

What do you see?
Are all drums aligned behind each other? Or stacked upon each other in one column, standing in the middle?

No. You will usually see the bass drum in the middle on the floor, a snare in medium height on the right or left, then hi-hats, cymbals and toms, each in its place.

What do you hear?
Deducted from the positioning of the drums you can easily imagine 2 things – if all drums were in the center you would hear a mono mix. But we have two ears, the drums are spread all over the panorama so you will hear a stereo mix. Every bone, ahm, drum has its place.

What else do you hear?
Accents, velocity, volume – these are parameters which describe certain characteristics in a drum mix or beat – different drums usually have different volumes.

Maybe the drummer uses the bass drum very gently while he plays an accentuated pattern on the hi-hats.

We can assume that different absolute levels (measured in decibel) as well as different relative levels (one drum compared to another) are an important factor influencing our perception of a drum beat. This can be relaxed, aggressive, stomping or rolling, to name just a few.

Why are you nodding your head and moving your feet?
The answer is time. Or better timing. Shuffle, groove, quantization are the terms with which we describe the temporal dimension of a beat or rhythm. It can for example be laid back, forward, mechanic, loosely played or uplifting – all depending on the relative position of drum events in a defined time frame like e.g. 1 bar.

Up next I will show one way to build a grooving 16bar downbeat, including mixing chains and single step mixdown example.

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