In this article we hope to help you understand how to EQ electronic drums whenever you come across them or use them in your mixes.
In short, you first always have to start from your musical idea and choose everything else according to that. As the most weight of your drums is located in the bottom end, you should apply a low-cut filter somewhere around 50 Hz, and keeping the low-mid region clean will help a low-shelf filter between 200-300 Hz.
If your drum mix sounds too plastic, cut somewhere around 2 kHz, but if you want to spice your drums a bit, apply a gentle boost around 1-1.5 kHz. To add clarity and presence, add a high-shelf boost around 5-10 kHz, and to eliminate any dirtiness, use a high-cut filter around 15-20 kHz.
Keep reading for further details…
How to EQ electronic drums
You and your music idea are what defines the future composition. While drums are amongst any musical instruments in your track, you, as a sole creator, have the ability to make them sound exactly as you want them to. One of the ways to do that is to keep in mind that every drum machine has its own frequency response. It can be set differently each time, depending on what you have in mind. For this sole purpose only, we’ll give you the basic EQ settings that later you apply to any musical situation.
The overall thickness and weight of your drum mix are determined by the bottom end, where the most noticeable instruments would be. If you use any vintage drum machine, you have to put away its low end to make the kick drum sound more refined and give it some room to breathe. Too much low end can definitely kill your mix. You can do that by applying a low-cut filter somewhere around 50 Hz. If you need the drums to sound more aggressive and meaty, you can boost them a bit somewhere around 100 Hz.
Then, you should check whether your toms are clashing with either each other or your kick drum. If they do, you may choose to give priority to toms and apply a low-shelf filter to eliminate any frequencies in the area of 120-200 Hz. Try not to overdo boosting as, as a result, you may have your drum mix sound too boomy and unlistenable.
It’s generally a good idea to keep the low-mid region as clean as possible because the overall cleanness of the mix depends on this area greatly. So the more defined low-mid area sounds, the more dynamic drums would feel. If your drums sound too muddy or too boomy, you should look for any problems between 200-300 Hz. It’s very likely that you will find some areas where you can apply a low-shelf filter.
Also, the same region carries the fatness of the snare or toms. So if you notice that something is too heavy, you should solo that drum and see how much of the low-end you can take away. Note that you should be careful when applying changes in the low-mid range because the last thing you want is for your drums to sound artificial or too clean.
It’s quite possible that every instrument in your drum mix can clash somewhere in the high mids and the more occupied your drum part is, the higher the possibility of drums being clashed. But you should not aim at removing everything from this area as you surely don’t want your mix to sound artificial. You can easily find the problematic areas in your mix just by following the ‘plastic’ or boxy tones. In order to eliminate plastic sound, cut somewhere around 2 kHz but try not to overdo it. If your drums sound too dull and bland, you might consider boosting them a bit to make them bright by adding somewhere around 1-1.5 kHz.
While making changes in this range, it’s also a good idea to listen to each of the drums in the solo mode to apply some surgical changes where needed.
This area is where all hi-hats, cymbals, shakers, and other types of percussion live, but this area is also used to handle other drums as well. If your mix lacks presence and clarity, you can apply a high-shelf boost somewhere around 5-10 kHz. Also, applying any sort of boost in this area will add more punch, so be vigilant if the genre of your music does not really need that. The same region where you’ll be applying a high-shelf boost is responsible for crisp hi-hats, so pay attention to how they sound in order not to lose them. If your highs sound too dirty, you should consider applying a high-cut filter somewhere around 15-20 kHz to eliminate them.
Applying surgical EQ will help you a lot in terms of avoiding excessive EQ and its consequences, such as noticeable artifacts that would require some valuable time from you while eliminating. So, you can do a very aggressive boost with a very narrow Q and then, by using a swipe, find any unpleasantries and unwanted frequencies. Afterward, you can apply a very precise cut in those areas and listen to the complete mix in order to check whether it sounds good or not.
Before you start working on your track and applying an equalizer, there are a few things that you need to do beforehand.
First, you should choose a drum machine, luckily the market is full of various drum machines and you can easily find one just for you. Afterwards, you should spend some time on adjusting it, though you won’t spend much time as if you were tuning the real one. Knowing how to mix electronic drums in each particular case depends greatly on your decision of the genre and style of your future composition. Keeping in mind all these factors will help you greatly when you’re EQing.
Choosing drum machine
When you’re choosing a drum machine, the first thing you need to consider is whether you want an analog or digital drum machine. Analog drum machines produce sounds by using analog synthesis and manual controls. As a result, analog drum machines give you a natural warm tone. Digital drum machines, in turn, are based on a one-shot sample of acoustic drums and the user controls the sound by envelope, panning, and tuning. These days, there’s an option of having a hybrid drum machine that offers you both digital and analog sounds.
The next thing that you really need to think through is whether you have enough free space. Despite modern drum machines being far from hulking units, size still needs to be considered. Generally, small-sized drum machines aren’t good for gigging as you need to be very precise in tweaking the right knob. Larger units require more free space to be stored when you have a break from touring life.
Aside from that, the next thing is the matter of taste, there are plenty of decent analog drum machines apart from Roland 808. Each of them has its peculiarities and you have to handpick it accordingly.
Virtual drum machines
If for some reason, neither analog nor digital drum machines are for you, you can always choose from the wide variety of VST drum machines that might be a better value for money. Still, you have to bear in mind the quality of sampling and how many drums you actually need. As we established, there are plenty of libraries that offer you a limited number of drums or an extensive library not only with one drum kit but other percussion elements. Also, you should know how to play these drums despite them being a virtual instrument.
Unlike acoustic drums, the electric ones and virtual ones don’t need that much tuning. Still, there’re a few things that can be done. Firstly, you can control the pitch as it can change the overall characteristics of the sound. From there, which drum’s sound would be changed relies completely on the musical idea that you have in mind. Secondly, you should use high-quality cables that would eliminate the chance of any rattles, buzzes, or sources of unwanted noise and they tend to have a longer life span. Thirdly, you should use a workhorse of an audio interface equipped with decent converters because the quality of the sound and monitoring depends on it.
Last but not least, you have to know exactly in which music genre your future composition will be. The general advice here would be to go from the listener and don’t be carried away by excessive experimentation. Usually, listeners know what to expect from each music genre and they might not have the same feelings about your brand-new creative idea. Also, it’s important not to forget that in electronic music, it’s a common tendency to use additional effects and in that case, you have to apply an equalizer after.
We all love electric drums because modern technologies made it possible to have as many as we like. Still, there are a few nuances in the mixing process and EQing that every composer and audio engineer should know. So we hope that this article helped you to learn how should EQ your electronic drums the next time you come across them in a mix.