028 MixCoach Minute-How to achieve balance on drums

In this episode of the MixCoach Minute, Stone asks how I achieve a great balance in a drum mix. My answer is that balance is a moving target.

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Raw Transcript:

Kevin: Hey guys, it is Kevin again with MixCoach. It is time for another
episode of the MixCoach Minute. Again today we have my good friend Stone
Walters from the UK. Stone always asks great questions and he thinks about
mixing I think even more than I do but he always asks great questions.
Stone, thank you for coming again today and I guess just take it away.

Stone: Cool. Thanks Kevin. Again, thanks for having me. This question was
kind of picking up where we left off yesterday with the whole idea of the
drums perspective and audience perspective. This question has to do with
how you achieve a great balance when it comes to drums. You know, I guess
one of the great challenges that a lot of mixers will have is if you have
got a multi mic kit; you have got a room mic, an overhead mic, all the toms
and the snare and maybe two mikes on kick, two mikes on snare. How do you
go about crafting a drum sound that it cohesive and sounds like one
instrument rather than separate entities?

Kevin: Okay, well a few episodes ago on the MixCoach Minute, tell me if you
have seen this episode or not; it was about automating at the last minute.
Do you remember that episode?

Stone: Yes.

Kevin: Okay, in my opinion, achieving the perfect drum mix or the drum
balance is a moving target.

Stone: Right.

Kevin: That is the reason that I tell my guys on my videos and on MixCoach
Member, “Don’t automate anything that you don’t need to automate.” Because,
and this is the reason that I do it is because I am adjusting the mix up
until the time we print it because with your ears tending to want to hear
something different everyday, and that is why I advocate a drum bus and
then a band bus, because I want to personally be able to adjust the mix at
the last second, even while I am printing the song sometimes I will be
nudging drums around. So I don’t think that drums are ever something that
you get balanced and then move on.

Stone: Right.

Kevin: It is one of those things that you are always working on until the
song is printed and then sometimes when I hear my stuff on the radio I’m
still wishing I had another chance to nudge drums around. But I will tell
you what has helped me lately is my headphones. I picked up a pair of grade
‘O’ headphones and to me, this happened one time, I was mixing on the song,
you remember before we started this interview I was playing a song and you
recognized the song. On that particular song, when I first got my grade O
RS2 headphones, I put them on and I listened and I thought, “Wow! Those
toms are muddy and they are about two dB too loud.” So I adjusted them and
I did not hear them in my monitors.

So getting the perfect drum mix or the perfect drum balance is something
that you should probably not let affect whether you move on in your mix. It
should be something that you get the best you can, while you have the
chance to get it, move on, listen back from another… When you’re
adjusting drums you’re kind of at the 5,000 foot level, if you are flying a
plane you are at the 5,000 foot level you can still see everything and then
as you ascend in a plane, you kind of have got the 10,000 foot level where
people look like ants and the drums tend to not look, you’re not paying as
close of attention to that.

Stone: Right.

Kevin: Then before you put it away, or even while you are mastering you
have got the 30,000 foot level. So you’re listening from much further back.

Stone: Right.

Kevin: So then, the tiny nuances of if you’ve got enough air on the drums
really comes from the 30,000 foot perspective. So it is really a moving
target. You never get the perfect drum blend and then move on. It is
something that changes. When you push a guitar track up, sometimes the
balance of the drum changes and that is why I advocate, any time you see me
do a mix tutorial on MixCoach Member you will see my drum busses are there
and I am always adjusting them in some way.

So your question was, “How do you achieve that perfect drum balance?” That
was my long answer. My short answer is that I do not think that you can get
the perfect drum blend so that you can move on in your mix. I think it is
something that happens throughout the whole mix even to the last minute.

Stone: Right.

Kevin: Does that help?

Stone: Yes, absolutely. I think what is interesting even when you talk
about the different levels, how the drum balance evolves in the mix as you
kind of adjust other things. I think that is a really useful insight as
well.

Kevin: Good. Glad to help. Well hopefully we’ll do another series of these
with Stone. Stone asks great questions. If you have got some questions that
you want Stone to ask you can hit him up on Facebook or on the website, go
to and watch one of his or read one of his brilliant articles on MixCoach.
They are definitely worth the read so check them out.

Again, I think Stone would agree with me that MixCoach Member is the place
you want to be if you want to learn to mix and get into a great community
of guys like Stone and myself. Check out MixCoachMember.com and we will see
you tomorrow.

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