In this article, we’ll guide you with steps that you can follow to EQ ride cymbals whenever you come across them in a mix.
In short, make sure to pay more attention to the high-end since, as you can imagine, that’s where all bright frequencies live. But not just the high end, you’ll need to apply a high pass filter to filter out any of the low end noise that your cymbal mic would’ve picked from the environment. Aside from EQing, there are a few things to consider, such as mixing samples, live drums, and using compressors and dedicated plugins.
How to EQ a Ride Cymbal
You should always keep in mind that the ride cymbal is able to produce a variety of sounds based on their thickness that vary from shimmering to loud and accented sounds. In the low-end, you’ll most likely find some resonating sounds from other drums, and ride cymbals don’t produce any useful sounds as well, so you have to apply a high-pass filter to cut anything from 20 Hz to 100 Hz.
In the midrange, if the ride cymbal sounds too muddy, you should cut around 200-500 Hz. If the ride cymbal sounds too thin to your taste, you should boost around 400-800 Hz. And if ride cymbals sound too harsh, then you should apply a gentle cut around 600 Hz to 1 kHz.
You’ll find a lot of bright sounds and a bit harsh sounding frequencies in highs. So, with the help of a low-pass filter reduce any harsh frequencies from the 2-5 kHz range. Address any issues with ride cymbals being bleak by applying a high-shelf boost around 5 kHz. And get rid of anything that sounds too bright around 10 kHz.
Commonly, it’s a good idea to get rid of any low frequencies despite they’re inaudible, but just in case of any low-end that was produced by resonating drums and hardware, you should use a steep high-pass filter to cut anything below 20 Hz or even 60 Hz. Also, you can leave the frequencies in this range intact. Additionally, ride cymbals don’t produce any useful sounds in a range from 70 Hz to 100 Hz, so you should consider clearing this range with a high-pass filter as well.
You should be extra careful with anything that you do with mids because, by chance, you can get rid of something important as well as reduce the weight and punch from ride cymbals.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t do anything with low-mids unless there’s extra mud that makes anything too smooth and even. If you find out that cymbals sound too muddy, then you should consider a cut somewhere around 200-500 Hz.
If you hear that the cymbals sound rather thin, then it’ll be a good idea to add some weight by boosting from 400 Hz to 800 Hz.
If ride cymbals sound way too harsh or have that specifically annoying ‘wash’, you should apply a gentle cut somewhere around 600 Hz to 1 kHz. But while cutting, be careful as the same range is inhibited by the punch of the toms, so make sure that only cymbals’ wash is affected.
Highs is the area where a lot of bright and glassy sounds live. You should carefully listen to the frequency range from 2 kHz to 5 kHz and look for the frequencies that really hurt your ears when they remain boosted and apply a low-pass filter to them to reduce them by 5dB or so.
If ride cymbals sound rather bleak and not that pronounced, it would be a good idea to apply a high-shelf boost around 5 kHz, but try not to overdo it.
If the cymbals sound too boxy, you should consider adding air by gently boosting from 7 kHz to 10 kHz. Another good idea is to cut anything that is way too bright and is a source of fizz, it can be found around 10 kHz, so you should get rid of anything that is over this range to improve the focus.
What else you can do
Aside from EQ, there are a few things that you can do as well to make the ride cymbal sound good and fit in the mix.
Mixing the track that has only samples is a way easier thing to do as you need to make only minor improvements as samples always sound at their absolute best and the only thing that you have to do is get rid of clashing frequencies. Mixing live drums is way more complex as if you don’t use the separate mic to record ride cymbals, you will spend a lot of time surgically cutting them out from the sound of overheads. Mixing samples and live drums is also an option, especially if you don’t like the sound of the ride cymbal at all.
As compressors more often affect the tonal component of the sound, it’s really up to you whether you will use them or not. These days there are plenty of plugins to choose from that will get the job done and if you’re up to experimenting, we encourage you to discover new ones.
If our track is made from various drum samples, including ride cymbals, then EQing them would be a bit easier than EQing live drums because sampled drums are already pre-mixed in order to sound their absolute best. You won’t find any resonance, slapback to deal with, or drum bleed, but instead, you’ll have to focus on making all of the samples sound good and cohesive together.
As drum samples are made in such a way that they will sound independently good, you have to listen carefully to capture and get rid of any clashing frequencies. The good idea here will be to boost prominent frequencies on cymbals while cutting the same frequencies from the complement instruments. After that, you can start surgical processing and get rid of any low-end frequencies in ride cymbals.
Mixing of live drums recording
Of course, it will be better if you use a separate mic to capture the sound of the ride cymbals because in another case you would have to carve it out from the sound of overheads. This means that you will have to deal with a lot of bleed from the other drums and the useful sound of other cymbals.
That’s why you have to be extra careful during the mixing stages, especially during EQ in order not to get rid of something really important. Also, you might find the next 2 approaches such as outside-in and inside-out be of help when you’re mixing live drums.
In the outside-on approach, you move from the sound of your overheads to the close mics and this technique is good for big drums that are recorded in spacious environments. You should try this method if you’re recording jazz, rock, or acoustic sound that needs to be airy. The thing that you need to be 100% percent certain about is the quality of your overheads.
In the inside-out approach, you move from the sound of the kick to the room. This technique is good when you need synthetic drums and you don’t like the sound of your overheads. Implementing this technique gives you a lot more control over the way you build the drums and gives you more freedom to shape the sound you want.
Mixing samples and live drums recording
It may happen that you’ll come to the decision of mixing live drums and samples, which is a completely appropriate situation when recorded drums sound flat. As an example, we would take a perfectly recorded drum part, but the sound of the ride cymbal is nowhere near to your taste.
So, the first thing that you need to do is to find a sample that will complement your musical idea. The next step is to make sure that the recorded drums and sample are in tune. After that, if necessary, automate the trigger threshold. When it’s done, check whether you have any frequencies that are being canceled out, if that’s the case, adjust the latency settings in your DAW. Then, apply a bus EQ for uniting live recorded drums and ride cymbal sample in one cohesive kit.
When you’re done with EQ, to create a feeling that both tracks were recorded at the same place you have to put the same reverb on both tracks. And the final step would be to apply a compressor which will blend the lines even further.
It’s a well-known fact that compressors are mighty tools that allow you to manage the dynamic response of the drums and they are typically used for creating a more controlled sound, helping to unite the mix, and emphasizing the attack of every drum. Also, compressors tend to influence the tonal component of the sound that ‘s why if you decide to use them you can make the musical situations better or worse. If you decide to use a compressor, then we suggest using a slow attack and slow release.
It really doesn’t matter which plugins you would be using, as you will achieve the desired result in any case. We think that there is nothing bad in experimenting and trying something new, that is why you might want to broaden your horizons while getting to know a variety of plugins from the respected manufacturer.