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Fix It In The Mix

Lesson 5 of 17

Tom Drum Techniques

Kurt Ballou

Fix It In The Mix

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

5. Tom Drum Techniques

Lesson Info

Tom Drum Techniques

So I guess we might as well dive into uh tom tracks so again um we need to find a way to extract extract tom's from our overhead track and again that's not going to be easy so if you remember from actually you know what let's pull up the video again for a second I'm going to go back to my unmixed version of this mix and um it's good approach holes and er watch this video for a second all right so he has three rack toms and I think I remember from earlier in the video this to floor tom says five times and so right hand and drummer and it's alive we're mixing this audio for live video so we're goingto pan we're going to think figure out the toms from right to left highest to lowest and anything we do regarding panning that tom's is going to be from that perspective but we have to figure out a way to get all the toms from this mono overhead so how are we gonna do that well the thomas aren't hit super frequently so what we can actually just start doing is um listening to just listen to the...

overhead track and find out where there's toms all right there's one um let's hear this that passage again okay well um he looks like they're pretty dynamic um so we can use the tap hopefully tabs transit will grab it um yeah maybe not yeah it's so let's try that and then actually we should be doing this on a duplicate of this track on uh like the original small and so we're to call this this new thing this duplicate will be our tom track and then we kind of can edit out everything that isn't tom's from that poor little fade on it and then uh and now we have and obviously there's symbol the k there's guitar the whole bunch stuff so we're dealing with similar problems that we had with the snare track um but, you know again let's just use this as a way as a reverb send and away tio que and compress the tom component of the overheads independent of the overheads, so and then you know, and then once we blend that back in with the overhead subtly, then we will have, you know, bit of independent control of the tops, so I've already gone through the whole tom track and edit it I'm just going to leave this thing because I don't need it right now and what that is is down here. I got a track called toms and I don't really have any plug ins on this one yet and there's that tom, thanks so what? But what I I have done here is gone through and got a bit of volume automation because the the overhead did a nice job of capturing the high tom's but didn't do such a great job of capturing the floor toms so I've I've used a mix of volume automation and clip gain to this track to kind of beef up the quieter tom hits the floor tom hits so that the tom seemed kind of consistent in volume, especially on the long long drum rolls, which he does a lot of where you just kind of runs around the whole kit. Um additionally, I've kind of kind of guest at um at panning and I'm really exaggerating the panning said so we will be using a ton of this track in there I'm like super hard super hard panning yet um so here's here's what that phil sounds like hard pant going from right to left as he goes from high tom toe low tom so assuming your guys here I should mention this earlier, I'm assuming you guys were listen to this stuff either on headphones or on decent sounding studio monitors like if you were watching your laptop, you're probably going to be missing a lot of detail and the nuance of the things I'm talking about you might not even really hear much of this this pan actually doing right now uh so went through the whole song and you see a lot of like rightto left panning on tom fills and uh oops looks like did that one backwards so let me fix that um well right toe left and uh yeah this other other cases where he was doing a little bit more interesting tom work where I had to do some different types of tom panting like the end of the song so you know that first fill clearly there's a ton of symbols in there and we're just gonna have to deal with it uh just to have us a little bit of independent tom control so here's where we get off the slides for second all right? So we've already done this uh duplication of the overhead track and we've edited everything's that tom's out of that overhead track we've done some automation to gain and pan the tom so that their level is a bit more consistent and we've made kind of a guess as to where the toms should appear in the stereo field based on what we know about how the times are positioned on the kid from the video we've we've been watching but here's here's where things get a bit more interesting this is kind of it's the kind of a weird stunt that I like to do and it can be it can sound really fake or can it can be really cool I typically used this on really thin sounding bass drums but it's also useful for tom's and what we do is a match going toe add a through the manufacturer a sine wave sound using the pro tools single generator which is um a nadia sweet plugin under under other and this this plug in enables you to create a sound a sine wave at whatever frequency you choose it has to be to the nearest hurt you can't do like some hurts so I, uh when I decided to do is, you know, it's five tom's but we don't really have you know we're never gonna be able to extract five separate tom tracks sweating decided to do was to to create two sub tone tracks using two different pitched sine waves and I you know as as the song was playing, I uh I got up my trusty guitar and figured out what key the song was in it seems to be an e flat, so I decided to choose sine wave pitches that were complimentary to the key of the song. You could also listen to the taunts himself and try to find pitches that match the initial are the original pitch of the drum itself since there's so many of them I wasn't going to be able to really match that I just decided to pick like a left a left sine wave pitch in a right sine wave pitch that air in the key of the song so in e flat I went with I went with seventy eight hertz which is about une flat on the rack topside and I went with fifty eight hertz which is a b flat with the fifth above the flat for the right sides when it when the floor to the final floor thomas struck you should be hitting a pure b flat um so but then how do we control the's signing so there's just you know we have that that first tom fill of ours and then we we just have a bunch of these sine waves kind of like running alongside running alongside the tom fills and let's let's hear let's hear with those with each of those sine wave sounds like turned up in here it's uh if you're not listening on good speakers at home is gonna be hard to hear because it's a pretty low pitch all right so that's sound we're going to find a way to combine that um constructively with our rack tom and then here's the lower one for the floor top oh sorry I had about behind that backwards the first one that I played was for the florida I'm still thinking drummer perspective so I'll probably make a couple of steaks with that but anyway this is thea rack tom tone and then again one more time before tom tone and together they're fifth so nice nice harmony there uh okay so what we're gonna do is um put a gate on each of these and we're going to use the side chain input of of the gate uh, too, so that the action of the gating on each of these on each of these subtracts is keyed off of what happens on the tom track that we extracted from the overheads. So we have made just a mute. Well, I created ascend out bus seven and eight from the tom tracks, and I chose to do with a steri ascend and say, follow main pan so as as the tom pans from right toe left, you know, initially it's going to be on ly sending out bus eight and then in the middle is kind of sending out both bus seven and eight. And then, by the time it gets to before tom side it's only sending out bus seven, so that will, as we gate these two sub tracks that will impart a degree of pan to the sub tract, which should follow the panning that we automated on the the extracted tom track so let's, uh, probably well, oh, yeah, I would have done this on a stereo tracks that we could listen to it together, but I think that stereo instances of the digi gate cannot accept stereo bus inputs. I think it still amano bus input, so I had to do it is to mano tracks so that I could assign the rack tom side to bus ate here the key and put on the gate two bus eight and then the key and put on the floor tom side two but seven uh, okay, so now um and we don't want it pre fader, but you know what? Let's uh I don't think I don't think I've grouped the sub's together so let's just group this up together so we can solo them independently. Uh, okay, so again, this is this is what the tom was like before all right? So it's pretty thin soundings, just the attack of the drum let's add in our sub town no, you know, it still feels pretty disconnected from the toms and it's going, teo, but at least it gives us a little bit of depth. You know, one of things I noticed from listening to the original sort of as is mix of the song is that, you know, the kicks had some depth to them but the toms since it was on ly the overheads were extremely thin, so, you know, with whenever the drummer did a fill that involved the bass drum as well as the toms, it was really sort of destroyed in separate sounding because the bass drums and tom's were occupying such different frequency space, I want to try to do something to kind of bring the toms into the same realm as the bass drum so that they feel as though they're part of the same drum set so that's what let's kind of watch what's happening with these gates is this goes by so so right now we're watching the the floor tom side of the gate so nothing's really happening at the beginning and then by the end the gate starts starts speaking I've I've set the attack bit on the slow side so that this doesn't open until after the initial attack of the tom and then the release is pretty slow it's one second so that's basically controlling how much decay we have so if I make actually if I make this region in which I'm looping a bit longer you'll be able to hear um we'll be able to hear the decay a little bit better once this thing is over you'll still hear some low sustaining beyond that that region all right, let's, go back to the slides for second and it's okay, so we've, uh created these subtracts um and I think you know it's adding cem cem depth that it also adds a bit of pan to it since there were so many mano sources in this mix we want we want to build the mix, you know, not just with with level and e q but also with with panning space and now are tom's air getting out of the way of the overheads obit and out of the way of the snare and just generally making the mix more wider and more modern sounding but also they now can occupy their own space a little better than they did before so we're gonna add two two more steps to this kind of um make the different tom singles we have feel that more cohesive and part of the mix is going to be to create a tom master um which sums all the times together which is similar to what we did with the various near tracks and then we're also going to add a bit of reverb to the toms toe to place them in the room okay? So back pro tools um let's make the's subtracts a bit smaller and now we're gonna feed into our tom master and uh that that is going to get a couple of a couple of plug ins on it so there's a ton of symbols leaking through so I think and it's also kind of feels like a bit of a void in the low mid to me between you know those those sometimes they're being just being pure sine waves they really don't talk you buy very much of the frequency spectrum um I want to try to fill in a bit of the gap between the sub and the extracted tom track from the overhead as well as filter out a bit of so the the high frequency believed from from all the symbols so when youse procure to again for that and um we're also going to filter out a bit of the extreme bottom and just to cut a um keep it from being too deep sandy we could I experimented actually at home with using you know the next doctor of up for my sub tones and that felt a bit too obvious to me it really did just sound like a wound happening at the same time as a tom so but so I think just doing a bit of a queue on on the sum of them it's enough to kind of tie everything together so let's let's take a listen to what that does oh uh I realize this is this is actually a duel mano you so right now we're doing this this is the stuff that we're doing to the to the floor tom sighed and then over on the the high tom side I think this probably needs a bit more filtering let's get rid of more hi hat oh it's bypassed yeah that's why all right so that's a bit more cohesive it's still a bit rounder that I would ordinarily have ah tom sound but I don't want to have too much symbol leakage and I think just the benefit of having some independence of the tom sound despite the fact that it's a bit dull is is worthwhile and then again, you know the usual final step just to kind of simulate my mixing console thing is is adding the brain works be ex consul so you can hear that I'm doing a bit of low mid carving, which I think kind of class is up the tom san but also when I'm what I'm with with any track when I'm adjusting the low mid content of the track, I'm not just thinking about what makes that individual track most dear pleasing, but I find that the low mid content has a lot to do with where a source is placed in the sound field like with with mohr loman content if you if imagine there's speakers in front of you with more low mid content, it seems to feel regardless of how loud the things mixed, it seems to feel closer to you when there's more low mid content and when there's less low mid content, it seems to sink back behind the speakers. So in the case of these times where we have a live show, even though it is a small venue you don't want to feel like you know the drummer's six inches from your face you want to feel like the drummers on the stage and you're watching from, you know, fifteen, twenty feet away or something like that, so I'm going to remove some of the low made content of the toms and then add a bit of attack uh to them as well just to make it sound you know, a bit a bit more classy and placed in the sound field so let's let's, listen listen that again so I'm also doing some additional compression here so it's similar to what I did with the snare drum where I'm tryingto try and coax a bit mohr attack out of out of these toms and kind of control this sustained so that the there's not like a buildup of residents so that there's there's punch from the bottom in but not a buildup of residents so let's hear what that sounds like toggle ing just the bypass of the compressor in and out probably could have done a better job with the makeup gain here getting the sound uh game this one up a bit actually and then gain it back down over here try to get the compressed in a compressed beam or at the same level so we could make a more intelligent comparison. Yeah so with with the compressor on I'm hearing definitely hearing mohr attack from the toms and particularly hearing the sub tones a bit more control than in and sort of brought into the mix and they feel more like a part of the tom sound to me van then without without any of this sort of this bus processing people talk a lot about bus processing in in recording and typically that they're talking about the the mix bus, the final mix bus. But you can do bus processing at many points along the way and it's particularly useful in this kind of divide and conquer, um, style of mixing where we've split, split different instruments into multiple components to be able to then bus compressed. Those in bus cq those together before they even get to the master bus is a way to just keep everything ah, whole lot more cohesive and, uh, then, finally, let's. Uh, let's. Add a bit of reverb to these toms. We're not goingto have any reverb going from the sub tones, but a bit of a reverb send from the from the extracted tom track will will further place it in the sound field and make it feel like part of the mix. So it's it's subtle but it's adding it's, adding a further layer of of cohesion and placement in the south field.

Class Description

The best way to get a great recording is to start with great source material, but that’s not always possible. Occasionally you are stuck with a less-than-perfect recording and the only thing you can do is to try and clean it up. 

Lucky for you, there are reliable techniques for restoring poorly recorded audio, and Kurt Ballou will teach you everything you need to know in Fix it in the Mix. 

While replacing drums with samples and reamping guitars are often effective ways to rebuild a sub-par recording, they are time-consuming and can diminish the uniqueness of the original recording. 

Fix it in the Mix will explore organic approaches to recovering and enhancing the natural tones from the original performances. Kurt will use recordings from real-world scenarios and walk you through, in detail, the audio restoration process. 

In Fix it in the Mix, Kurt will show you how to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions to audio restoration problems every engineer has faced. 



An absolutely fantastic course for anyone who is new (or even experienced) on how to use very innovative techniques to help bring some life to an otherwise poorly recorded demo. Thank you Kurt!


another fantastic course in the creative live audio section, kurt kills it,!! thank you!

Ashton Thebault

Definitely some handy tips in here that are useful for mixing live music, poorly recorded tracks and anything else that couldn't be rectified during recording. Kurt gave some tips I had never thought of and there were some valuable insights that came out from his discussions with people in the room. Very valuable if you deal with any sub-standard recordings and if you just want to get some tips.