When it comes to editing drums, nobody does it better than BT (a.k.a Brian Transeau), the Guinness World Record holder for the most edits in a recorded piece of music (6,178 to be precise). His audio-production and editing skills are legendary, but don’t let that scare you: BT’s methods, insanely complex as they are at times, can be applied to a wide variety of styles and recording situations. Here are three drum editing tips and tricks from the master himself.
1. EQ Drums
Always shelve the snare, hi-hat, room mikes, and cymbals between 110Hz and 150Hz. A 12db shelf works great, because you don’t want a wall. It is revolutionary how good this sounds in mixing drums.
Always compress before you time-correct your drum tracks. That way, when you are fixing attack transients, they are unaffected by the compression. It makes for ten times the punch in drum sounds. Try compressing everything — acoustic drums, electronics, percussion, and so on.
Also try as many compressors as you can. BT recommends compressing not just each individual track but the mix as a whole through multiple compressors, and then comping the different compressed tracks. For example, let’s say you’re using two compressors: an 1176 and a Distressor. If the bass drum sounds particularly good through the 1176 and the snare sounds great through the Distressor, create two stereo mixes: one of all the drums through the 1176 (minus the snare), and one through the Distressor (minus the kick), and you’re rocking.
Use a side-chain key gate to trigger a sine wave with a .75- to 1.5-second decay tuned to the lowest root of the song — usually between 30Hz and 80Hz. It should be side-chained with the kick drum and mixed in soft. Compress the sine wave (with a gradual release envelope) with the kick drum before doing the whole mix. This will give live drums ass end for days!
If you want that your drums really sound perfect, you will probably need some drum editing at the final stage of polishing the recording.
Grouping the tracks and slice editing are some of the essential things to learn before you start drum editing.
Here are some crucial tips for audio editing that will be highly useful if you want to get a high-quality sound of drums.
Duplicate the playlist for each of the drum tracks
You might have to do a few experiments while editing the drum track, and it’s normal to make mistakes. That’s why you should create an independent copy of the track, layered on top of the original.
You might need a few takes to get the track just right. Do the editing on the copy, so you can have the original unedited and easily reachable if you mess something up.
It will be easier to make any revision if you create strategic backup points when editing drums.
How to group the tracks
If you are going to edit the time or length of multitrack drums, it’s very important to group the tracks. Otherwise, you might encounter phase problems and lose some weight from the drum sound.
A multitrack drum recording uses multiple microphones to capture the same performance from various locations around the kit. To maintain the drum tracks in sync, an adjustment that modifies the time of one track must be applied to all of them.
There are a few reasons for grouping tracks:
- You can adjust the level of many tracks at the same time. Grouping allows tracks that have different levels dialed up to be adjusted altogether. You can change the overall level while preserving the inter-channel balances of the different fader levels.
- With grouping tracks, you can apply the overall processing, such as compressing or adding effects, to all the tracks in a group.
- You can cut or move a section of music on several tracks as a unit.
Temporary grouping is a way to perform the same operation on multiple channels, which can be applied in many ways.
Select the number of tracks by selecting the channel names. This way, you will select both channel strips and all the channels in between.
After selecting several tracks, you can perform certain operations on all the selected tracks simultaneously.
This includes the basic channel strip functions like Mute and Solo, insert plug-ins, bypass plug-ins, add Sends, or change track height to multiple selected channels at once.
Temporary track grouping can be very handy, but it doesn’t allow for the most common grouping application, such as fader or pan moves.
Subgrouping runs several channels through an Aux channel strip. This allows the level of all tracks to be altered at the same time with the Aux channel fader.
The tracks will no longer flow directly into the main mix bus, but they’ll go through the chosen bus to the subgroup Aux and through the subgroup Aux channel to the main mix bus.
The overall level of those subgrouped tracks can be adjusted as a unit with the subgroup Aux channel fader without the risk of altering the individual tracks’ level balance.
The Mix Groups come in handy if you want to make adjustments to several grouped tracks within those tracks themselves.
Mix groups can link several channels without altering their routing.
With Mix Groups, you can change the overall drum level by adjusting all the individual drum channel faders themselves, maintaining the level balance between them.
The Mix Group allows you to modify the levels of all of the Grouped faders proportionally by changing any of the faders in the Group while keeping the level balance between all of the faders in the Group.
What is better: Slice editing or time-stretching?
Most music editing services have two ways of getting audio in time when you are making the audio correction. The first one is slice editing, and the second one is time-stretching.
For the best results in audio editing, you should use slice editing instead of time stretching in a drum editor.
Slice editing divides an audio recording into many events depending on the positions of the signal’s attack transients.
It includes basic editing operations: cut, slide, trim and cross-fade. It’s a slower process, but it does not alter the audio quality.
On the other side, time-stretching alters the speed or duration of an audio signal without affecting its pitch. It is a fast way to fix the drum sound at once, but it will lower the sound quality.
Slice editing is advantageous because, unlike time-stretching, it avoids undesirable audio elements and delivers more natural-sounding loops when you adjust them away from their original tempos.
Additional tips for editing drums
- If you cannot do it yourself, find a reliable audio editing website or music editing service that offers drum editing at a high level. You don’t want to waste time and money getting a sloppy audio correction that will not satisfy you.
- When editing drums, technical quality is not the only important thing. Think about the genre and the overall atmosphere and sound of the song you want to get. If you are making an audio correction for someone else, talk with the musicians about the feeling and sound they are looking for.
- You probably won’t need to edit the whole song but only the problematic elements. You can find all of those elements if you thoroughly listen to the whole song many times and focus on the elements that drive the song.
The most essential elements of drum editing are grouping the tracks and slice editing, taking precautions by setting up the backup points during the process.
Almost every drum editor program will include these elements, but you will need to master the technique if you want to edit the drums yourself.
If you are not confident enough that you will do a good job, you can always choose some of the audio editing services that will polish your drum recording professionally.