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Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

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Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby squeakystool on Wed Oct 17, 2018 5:27 pm

Hi, just wondering if anyone can help me. I have the BFD Deluxe drum pack (recorded in Kentucky room) and am trying to mix an album with them using the Mod Orange kit (with the Sonar snare). I am going insane trying to get a decent mix happening.

Don't get me wrong.... I love the kit. I love the room. The samples are the most playable of any sample pack I've used (dynamics wise etc). And of course I am a huge fan of Steve's sound/ approach/ aesthetic. The whole album has been recorded around these drums. I am now in the mixing stage.... and I cannot get a decent drum mix (for a rock mix, think Sonic Youth, Fugazi etc)

What am I doing wrong?

Every drum mix ends up lacking bottom end, feels muddy and cloudy in the mids, nasty 'whistling' between 1-2K, lacks sparkle yet feels harsh and brittle once I've scooped out the problematic lo mids...

None of the kick drums seem to have much thump at 50hz, and I seem to always end up scooping a wide 12db at 300 and boosting 6db at 50 just to get them to poke through a mix, but even then I'm still mostly getting a muddy 200-500 kick rather than a solid thumpy low end kick. For jazz this would be OK (and I like 500hz in kick drums in a non-rock context). But in this context the drums are totally masking the guitars and bass in the low mid range.

The room/ ambient mics seem very cloudy overall with a huge 'lump' at 250hz and a very 'papery' quality at 1k. When I cut the offending frequencies there is nothing left but harshness with no (usable) low end.

Is there some magic formula for mixing drums in the Kentucky room that I'm missing? I've been referencing other albums which had their drums recorded in Kentucky (not studio B) and I hear loads of gorgeous low end and detailed, shiny top end with that slightly gritty adobe brick sound on top ... sounds great!

Why can't I get something similar?!!! (not fair!)

Sure, samples are a compromise (obviously), but mix wise they should not be THAT different to the real thing.

May I ask ..... were the BFD sessions considered a success (within the limitations of sample libraries of course)? Where you generally happy with how the recordings came out? Am I trying to mix a dead horse, as it were? ....or is it 100% mixer error on my part?

Anyone know of any other songs, drum mixes of (better yet) multitracks of any other Kentucky drum sessions on the web that I could use as a reference? (to compare sounds on a per channel basis).

What are the normal EQ moves for the ambient mics for that room?
What about compression, how much and where (channel, drum bus?) to get that wonderful roomy sound? I've tried all sorts of combos and nothing seems to work.

Should I give up? :(

I really, REALLY want to use these samples. ... I HATE most drum libraries with a passion, but these 'feel' great in terms of expression / playability ... but I just cannot get them to work sonically in a mix (other drum libraries sit in the mix much better sonically, but sound bloody awful in terms of expression - ie they sound fake). So I really want to persevere with the Deluxe pack. But after dozens of failed mix attempts I do not know what else to try.

Any advice from anyone would be most welcome! ... including general tips about mixing drums recorded in that room.

Sorry for long post.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby kerble on Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:23 am

ahoy! I moved this to the tech room, as that tends to be a bit more visited. The original topic is still in the studio questions forum in case, but hopefully someone can help out. Welcome aboard!


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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby J. Burns on Thu Oct 18, 2018 1:44 pm

This is a total dumbshit suggestion and forgive me because you've probably already tried this...

But yesterday I was mixing some practice demos (no samples but go with me here) and I was freaking out because the kick kept disappearing no matter now hard I maxed the fader or how much 80hz or 7k I added.

Having tried everything, I flipped the polarity on the kick channel.

THERE was my kick drum.

So you've probably already tried flipping the polarity, but if you haven't I would say it's worth a shot.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby bassdriver on Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:57 am

are you using the preset as is or did you start tweaking the sounds in BFD3? most of the presets don't sound very good to me, but there are tons of parameters in BFD that you can change.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby squeakystool on Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:43 am

Thanks for the replies guys.

Phase looks good. Flipping does not help.

I am just printing the samples dry ('as is') and not doing any mixing inside of BFD. I am mixing the individual channels (kick, snare, OH etc) in Reaper as per a normal drum recording.

The manual has minimal tracking notes from Steve ..... a bit of limiting on the OH's, an 1176 on the kick out mic, some minimal EQ on the snare etc. The room/ ambient mics sound like the MIGHT have some compression on them, but there is no mention of this in the notes. Maybe there isn't...

In any case, even when I apply the most minimal compression to the room mics (just nudging the needle a bit) I still find I have to carve out around 9db from 1k down to around 250 which basically removes the entire mid range. Otherwise you get all sorts of nastiness and the whole mix is very fatiguing.

It just seems a bit excessive. Typically I might just remove 3-6db of mud around 300-500 and that's about it.

I wondered it this excessively pronounced lo/mid range (let's say 200-2k) in the ambient mics is a feature of the room .... I wondered if the venting to the basement had anything to do with it. In addition to the excessive mids I also seem to be missing a satisfying low end (50-100) in the ambients and the close mics. I've tried either cutting (high passing) everything below 100 in the ambients and relying on the close mics only, AND keeping it in - and either way I have no real sense of the lows in context of the full mix.

I cannot tell you how many time's I've given up on theses samples and used some other drum library only to get a more conventional (and user friendly) drum mix ... but which leaves me bored to death and ruins the songs.

So I guess I am committed to these drums because I've built the album around them and they just make the midi performances come alive (a lot of drum libraries do not).

They just have me baffled .... they are not like mixing any other drums I've ever mixed. That's why I was wondering if the room itself has some sort of weird quirks about it...?

To be clear - I am not dissing the studio acoustics, I am referencing other drums (real recordings) made by other bands in the same room and the drums sound perfect. This only adds to my frustration! :)
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby Boombats on Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:07 am

What are you using for monitors?
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby squeakystool on Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:24 am

Boombats wrote:What are you using for monitors?


Some ancient Alesis Monitor Ones (don't laugh, they rock!). It's not the monitors though, because I hear all the frequencies I want in my reference mixes (including other bands recorded in that room), and also in other drum libraries.

These drums seem to have a very unique frequency 'footprint' from the get go (ie before any FX), compared to your standard rock drum recording. It feels like a code I need to crack or something, rather than your standard 'remove mud, add sparkle' kind of mixing formula.

That's why I wondered if there was a secret formula for mixing drums recorded in that room.....
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby elisha wiesner on Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:11 pm

Out of curiosity, have you tried mixing them without any eq, dynamics or effects?
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby 154 on Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:37 pm

kind of an aside, but I don't have this issue with the Electrical EZ Drummer samples ("Alt Rock Pack"). In fact, I generally keep the sub-y bass drum capture pretty low or it gets too boomy for my liking (esp. after compression stages)

Compared to other samples the EA ones have a more roomy sound (even in the close mics) and the overheads have a zingy high end that might get rolled off going to tape, so I keep 'em kind of low (or EQ'd) for ITB mixes at home. But they are the closest version of how I like to hear and record drums that I've found.

Those BFD samples are a little older (10+ years), right?
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby bassdriver on Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:25 am

mhhh this sounds really strange. while I don’t like many of the BFD3 presets, you should be able to get a great drum sound when you tweak the presets to your taste.
have you tried using BFD as a plug-in in reaper? have you listened to the stereo mix coming out of BFD? does it sound the same as the single tracks you printed?

there’s a lot of parameters in the tech page that you can change and mix the sounds to your taste. for example the bass drum will only sound good with it’s room mics.
I disabled the snare / bass drum bleed as it added some annoying noise. it could also be that in the preset the dynamics are disabled which dosen’t add to a lively drum feeling.

I too use reaper but am using BFD3 simply as a stereo plug-in as I found the BFD mixer, effects and eq’s work great and don’t find it necessary to mix each track on it’s own.

I wonder if something went wrong when you printed the single tracks.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby tmoneygetpaid on Sat Oct 20, 2018 2:13 pm

elisha wiesner wrote:Out of curiosity, have you tried mixing them without any eq, dynamics or effects?


This.

Don't want to speak for the guy, but boss man will rarely process drum sounds, and when he does, he is light with his touch. The faders and the drummer and the drums are how you get the sound.

So I'd suggest removing all your EQ and compression, and try to get close with just the balance.

The roominess builds up from the combination of overheads, front of kit, and room mics. It's not all the room mics. Those images also seem to compliment each other- dark overheads and a bright front of kit mic, bright room mics. So if you remove one or have it too low, your mix will feel off.

Kentucky is dark and the lower mids are prevalent.

The tape itself may do a little, but not much. If you listen to a band in "input" on the Studer, it still sounds like Steve.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby squeakystool on Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:24 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I didn't know EZ Drummer had some EA recorded drum samples - will check it out (although I don't have EZ drummer). And yes, the BFD pack is more than 10 years old!

As for the mix..... yes I've tried everything from no FX to full blown smashed to bits (and the tracking notes indicate some light compression going to tape on OH and kick). But whatever I do (dry or nuked) there just is no satisfying low end or highs .... just vast amounts of VERY FATIGUING lo mid - mids (200 - 2K). If I scoop it all out there still is no sense of lows/ highs, but just a kind of clattery harsh mess, and if I leave it in there is no room sonically for the guitars and bass to sit.

Like I said, I can get other drum libraries to sit in the mix no problem with bags of low end thump/ chest and nice juicy highs.... but I kind of wanted to use the Deluxe pack because the actual kits are great and the articulations are very responsive to midi (great dynamics).

Ho hum.... I feel I may be flogging a dead horse here.... especially if nobody else owns this actual pack and can comment on it directly. Sometimes I wish sample libraries had never been invented - more trouble than they are worth LOL
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby eliya on Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:01 pm

I'll be the jerk.

The problem is how you mix and what you mix on, not the samples. Taylor and Elisha are right - remove EQ and dynamics. But if the kick still doesn't cut through, your mix is messed up. Make room for the kick in the low end and the midrange.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby steve on Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:05 pm

I've never tried mixing anything from those samples, but I've heard other people do it and it sounded pretty good.

When I'm mixing a piece of music I typically have a rough mix balance in my recent memory because most mixing is done at the conclusion of a session where we've been listening to some kind of rough balance from the start, so finalizing it into a finished mix isn't a start-from-scratch process.

Once in a while I have to gin up a mix from scratch on something recorded a while ago in a different session, and I generally start by building the rhythm section, starting with the drums, bass and other rhythm instruments being added one at a time. If you have a finished mix and try to plop into it a pre-recorded drum kit (or a kit made of samples) I'd be surprised if the balance of everything else was necessarily suitable. I'd be inclined to break everything down and start from the drums as is my normal practice.

As other people have mentioned, I don't do a lot of EQ or other processing to the recorded sounds, except to solve specific problems. I don't remember the recording session for those samples in detail, but I recall everything sounding pretty normal to me, meaning I'd still be disinclined to start using EQ and other processing until problems presented themselves, and then I'd be judicious about it.

Good luck.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby numberthirty on Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:37 pm

gnangle wrote:define "satisfying low end or highs" and maybe we can zero in more on exactly what youre after? can you play us a sample? ive used BFD with no weird issues for quite a while and dont struggle with any of these issues. im curious to hear what youre hearing.


Exactly.

Could you Google Drive/Sendspace one of these rough mixes that you see an issue with?

An example of how you have been addressing it?
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby bassdriver on Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:36 am

there you go, some examples of BFD Deluxe drums and EZ Alternative 2 for comparison. stereo file directly out of the plugins. no fx, no tweaks.

https://soundcloud.com/bass_driver/tracks
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby 154 on Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:02 am

Not just limited to EA recorded stuff, but roomy, dynamic drums are definitely a tug of war to mix. Opening up the rooms/OH/kit mics certainly makes more sense of the drums (like what bassdriver was saying), but can wipe out other mix elements. Stripping it down to spot mics will certainly free up some mix room, but if mixed especially with a bunch of close mic'd/DI' instrument sounds I can picture how it might seem clattery or weird.

So yeah, kind of a combo of what others have said: if you're making a Big Drum Record, start with those and build (and compromise/sacrifice elements of) the rest of the mix to suit that. If it's a dense guitar layer record or whatever, you might need to find tighter, controlled drum sounds. There are a lot of great sounding albums of that nature that probably have stale isolated drum sounds, but that's what is required for some things.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby FuzzBob on Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:09 pm

One hard fast fix is to solo each spot mic, locate the fundamental, and steeply high pass right below it. That eliminates a lot of garbage while not effectively EQing any drum tones.

High pass the overheads and rooms, too. Gentle slope, just use your ears and go as low with the cutoff as you can get away with.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby FuzzBob on Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:04 am

Except the kick of course.
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Re: Struggling with Kentucky Drum Mix

Postby japmn on Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:55 pm

Boombats wrote:What are you using for monitors?


this was my first thought as well.

Also I don't really think of boosting 50hz to make a kick cut through more, that's more like chest bump territory. Maybe try like 80 hz at a tight Q? And like not too much. Be careful not to gut it so much either. -12db at 300hz (how wide?) is A LOT of cutting. More than I would feel comfortable with. To me, it sounds like you may have monitors that are thick in the 250-500 octave, or are mixing in a room that magnifies that range to your ears. Whats the room you are mixing in like? Small, boxy and untreated? Just a guess.
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