layering drums

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ned-ryarson
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layering drums

Post by ned-ryarson » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:26 am

the idea of layering drums to have a 'bigger' sound that cuts through your mix....

what kind of drum sounds do you layer? snares? kicks? percussion? full loops?

do you have to have two snares at certain pitches to avoid phase cancellation or anything??

a lot of the drum loops i create do not cut through my mix, or can sound pretty weak on their own.. yet i hear drums in other tracks that seem to be like 1 kick, 1 snare and some high hats - as in, there doesn't seem to be any layering going on.. maybe there is!? hmmmmm.... :?

so what type of music do you make, what type of drum sounds do you use, do you layer any and do you have an specific techniques that you recommend??

cheers

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Re: layering drums

Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:50 am

Learn to use compression and EQ, that's how you make drums sound big.

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Re: layering drums

Post by optimus prime » Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:32 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:Learn to use compression and EQ, that's how you make drums sound big.
A lot of the times yes. But you can make some amazing drum sounds by layering all sorts of things together, playing with pitches, etc. When you have a collection of, say, a hundred snare drum sounds, you can combine them into thousands of unique new sounds, just by playing around, experimenting. I'd say this technique definitely works best for snares. A lot of cancellation issues on kick drums. Also crash type sounds, FX and stuff, you can get very rich sounding textures that way. Which makes me realize, what I'm talking about here are not BIG sounds, but RICH sounds. Kinda similar, but pretty different.

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Re: layering drums

Post by Hybrid88 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:39 pm

My biggest tip would be to look for good drum samples and be really critical and only use the best sounding one's for each situation - ie. you can EQ and Compress and process the h**l out of a shitty sample and it will still sound shitty - whereas if you get the sound selection right from the start, your set.

Also, when layering try to get sounds that are different in their character, so layer a deep booming 808 kick with a punchy tight kick, but don't layer two (or more) that cover the same sonic territory as they will compete for space and sound like a mess - also non-resonant highpass and lowpass filters are your friend ;)

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Re: layering drums

Post by tekkentool » Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:00 am

Ahahah! I've posted my drum layering technique on here before but I'll go again anyway.

The first thing I do is the kick, I get a really bassy kick drum, a really top heavy kick drum, then a kick drum with a really "snappy" sound. I take the bassy kick drum and eq it so (guess what) I only have the bass frequencies left in that kick. Then I take the top heavy kick and I eq that so (guess what) it only has the high ranges. With the snappy kick, I edit the sampler so it has no sustain and a fairly snappy decay. I then run this through a high pass filter with a small bit of resonance. Then you just tune that peak to whatever frequency you want the snap to fit in (usually about 1-2 Khz for me). You then run these 3 kick drums into a "kick bus" which has an EQ and a compressor on it.

For the snare I'll take two snares (bassy, high) and a really nice stereo clap sound. I'll do pretty much the same thing as above but with a snare sound and the clap layered. Goes into a snare bus, compression eq etc. and a tiny bit of verb send which I share with the hats.

for the Hat bus I just send however many channels I've used into a hat bus, this has a verb send and a tiny bit of bitcrushing sometimes.

these drum busses (kick, Snare, hat) are then all sent out to a drum bus which has a limiter, so that the Kick/Snare volume doesn't overtake the entire mix.

Either that or I send it out to a Clean channel, and a parallel processed channel. The parallel processed channel has all frequencies under 250 hz or so cut out, is then compressed to h**l, with a tiny bit of overdrive on it. Then both of those channels are sent out to a limiting channel again.

This is just the way I do it for big electro/dubstep drums. But it works out pretty well and you get huge kicks/snares that don't push your final limiter too much.


Hope that helps, I can post an example later if it's needed.

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Re: layering drums

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:47 am

EQing and compressing applies with layered drums or with single hits too. The reason I'm suggesting that is that you can't just layer stuff and expect it to sound good, but if you know what you're doing with EQ and compression you can make whatever you use sound big.

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Re: layering drums

Post by rharris07 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:30 am



This Holy Other track is a really great example of good taste in layering drums. This doesn't mean everyone will agree with me, I'm just saying that he does a really good job at the Art of Noise approach where he layers various kinds of electronic drum samples and snaps/claps/etc and doesn't allow it to be too much. You can layer 50 different snares and claps, but it has to be mixed just right...or it can be so overbearing on the listener.

I would agree with the compression and eq statement as well - using compression has really changed how i write drum parts for my music. I do electronic disco/horror disco and instrumental electronic stuff 99% of the time, and using compression correctly (or even going overboard with it at times for a different sound) has really strengthened the sound of my drums, without creating an overbearing sound for the listener. It allows them to punch when I want them to, and if I pull off of it - then they can sit a little softer in the mix when needed.

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Re: layering drums

Post by ned-ryarson » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:31 am

tekkentool wrote:
Hope that helps, I can post an example later if it's needed.
yeah please do, sounds like you really believe in your drum layering method!
Hybrid88 wrote:My biggest tip would be to look for good drum samples and be really critical and only use the best sounding one's for each situation - ie. you can EQ and Compress and process the h**l out of a shitty sample and it will still sound shitty - whereas if you get the sound selection right from the start, your set.

Also, when layering try to get sounds that are different in their character, so layer a deep booming 808 kick with a punchy tight kick, but don't layer two (or more) that cover the same sonic territory as they will compete for space and sound like a mess - also non-resonant highpass and lowpass filters are your friend ;)
this makes good sense
Stab Frenzy wrote:EQing and compressing applies with layered drums or with single hits too. The reason I'm suggesting that is that you can't just layer stuff and expect it to sound good, but if you know what you're doing with EQ and compression you can make whatever you use sound big.
im on it... i do use compression on drums. however with eq, i rarely BOOST frequencies... always used it too cut frequencies and filter them out, when wanting to make room and avoid clashing. im guessing my boosts should be subtle?? Ill look into that, cheers.


another thought... ive recently been using Battery for my drums. I like using it as it's good for creating loops nice and fast and although it allows a certain amount of processing for each individual drum sound (bit crush, verb, 'saturate'), I'm thinking i might just start sampling each drum hit completely separate, so i've full control of each drum sound separately... What you guy's using for your electronic drums these days? any good libraries you recommend?

If you take a listen to my music on soundcloud there, my more recent stuff is quite pop'y .. ive been going for a postal service kind of drum sound (snappy/clappy snares)

cheers

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Re: layering drums

Post by nvbrkr » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:25 pm

Couldn't access your soundcloud page, because it required me to have an account.

I recognize this problem from the days I did pop / rock type of music with the aid of a computer (early days for DAWs around 1999-2001). In my case it was due to the mixes being just too full of different elements, so that the drums would just get buried under the rest. I'd typically strum chords on a guitar pretty much non-stop throughout the song, have some of those chords doubled by keyboards, have the keyboards also do the bass and then added a lead guitar and double-tracked or even triple-tracked vocals... all drenched in reverb... no wonder the snare couldn't find its proper place in the mix. Later when I went to work in a small studio I realized many bands had this same problem and it was always caused by the mixes just being too full of everything. That doesn't mean necessarily that there were too many tracks being used, but that there just wasn't enough space left due to the way the instruments were used. This applied to rock, hiphop and different types of electronic music pretty much equally.

I'm not against layering as such. As you note, it can make the drum sounds more interesting. It's nice to couple up acoustic drum sounds with electronic sounds and get both flavours at once. My experience from working with artists that are starting out just makes me think the layering is often done as a last resort to make the drums standout in tracks that should be approached differently. I also think layered drums easily result in an uneven response across different monitoring systems (I can't claim to be 100% sure why that's the case). However, phasing does seem to affect also the snares and that's probably why they may end up sounding "plastic" to some ears. With my own c**p I tend to layer the hi-hat sound in any case, just to add some variation to them.

Sometimes settling for mediocre sounding drums is better than ending up with drums that sound like they were tinkered with too much.

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Re: layering drums

Post by clubbedtodeath » Fri Sep 02, 2011 3:02 pm

There's two things we've forgotten, Ned:

1) Side-chaining compression

This can be tricky to understand/master, but it's a good technic to use, especially with beat-heavy music.

Basically, if you put the kick drum on a seperate track, you feed into the side chain input for the compressor on the bass track/whole mix. When the kick drum plays, this causes the volume on the bass/mix to 'duck', so that the kick drum is more prominent. Therefore, you can get a really massive kick drum, without peaking your mix too much.

(See here for details).

2) Parallel compression.

I believe it was Stabbers who first put me onto this. Quite simply, what you do is produce an uncompressed track, and then a heavily compressed track, then mix the two together.

This can be applied to just the drum tracks, or to the whole mix. I apply it to the whole mix -- often, when using mastering compression (multiband), I find the bass of the kick gets squashed a little too much; however, leaving out mastering compression means the kick is too peaky. Parallel compression works well for me, and I can adjust the % mix of the compressed/non-compressed tracks to suit. It's also more subtle than side-chaining compression, which for me at least, tends to give mixes the techno-esque pumping which I despise.

(See here for an explanation.)

Hope this helps!

Cheers

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Re: layering drums

Post by ned-ryarson » Fri Sep 02, 2011 6:38 pm

cheers clubbed ill look into that.. side chain compression sounds like an lfo on, say, a bass... isn't it?

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Re: layering drums

Post by tekkentool » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:10 am

clubbedtodeath wrote:There's two things we've forgotten, Ned:

2) Parallel compression.
tekkentool wrote: Either that or I send it out to a Clean channel, and a parallel processed channel. The parallel processed channel has all frequencies under 250 hz or so cut out, is then compressed to h**l, with a tiny bit of overdrive on it. Then both of those channels are sent out to a limiting channel again.
Not even forgotten ;)

parallel compression is THE technique for punchy EVERYTHING.


Also sidechaining is really good but isn't really a layering technique. I've always seen it as more of a stylistic decision. If you're sidechaining for mixing purposes then just sidechain to individual bands of frequencies that are overlapping. (So connect the end of the sidechainer to control something like sub 200 hz if your bass is getting muddied etc.).

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Re: layering drums

Post by tekkentool » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:15 am

I made a demo of my technique anyway. Enjoy.

1. Low kick. (all high range eq'd out)
2. High kick.
3. HPF filtered tuned "punch".

those 3 eventually layering on each other.

1. Low snare.
2. High snare.
3. clap.

Same thing.

Using the different filtered Kick bits to make drum offsets and grooves.

Then the drum technique in a song context. A bit of sidechain action going on here as well.

This entire thing has been parallel compressed as well.

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Re: layering drums

Post by ned-ryarson » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:26 pm

sounds great man

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Re: layering drums

Post by clubbedtodeath » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:54 pm

tekkentool wrote:Also sidechaining is really good but isn't really a layering technique. I've always seen it as more of a stylistic decision. [ ... ]
Re-read my post; you'll find it's both. But let us not digress into pedantry.

Ned - typically, it's the kick drum and bass-line that compete for frequencies. Therefore you sidechain the kick track to the bassline track compressor, so that the bassline volume ducks down when the kick comes in. It's pretty straightforward to use, but I prefer parallel compression.

Cheers

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