In this article we’ll try to come away with a good understanding of how to EQ toms when you come across them in your mix. What we will provide are simple guidelines for you to follow, but it’s up to you to use your ears and follow what they tell you according to taste.
In short, here are some quick tips. Start by boosting about 4dB around 200 Hz. You can add more attack by boosting 4dB around 4-5 kHz, add the sound of the stick by boosting 6dB around 7 kHz. To get more air, start by using a high shelf filter to boost 2dB around 10 kHz.
In the rest of this article, we will go more in depth.
More EQ settings for Toms
Modern vs Vintage Sound
To get that modern tom sound, simply boost the low-end at 6dB around 150 Hz, apply a cut of 15 dB around 800 Hz to eliminate boxiness and boost 9 dB around 6 kHz, and if you want a metal sound of the toms, you should know that reaching it is possible even if you have a rather flat and boxy recording.
To have a vintage toms sound, you should start by rolling off everything lower than 90 Hz with the help of a high pass filter. After that, boost about 4dB around 200 Hz. Then, boost again about 4 dB around 4.5 kHz. Finally, boost one more time about 6 dB around 7 kHz.
EQing Rack Toms
While reshaping rack toms, start with low-end, boosting about 4dB around 150-200 Hz to make a fuller sound. Then, get rid of any muddiness with the help of a cut of 2-5 dB around 300 kHz. After that, eliminate any nasal and cardboard sound with the help of cut about 15 dB around 700-900 Hz and don’t be afraid to go on it a bit aggressively with a narrow Q. Finally, with the help of a high-shelf filter, add punch and attack by boosting 8dB around 4 kHz and boosting 2dB 8 kHz.
Now what if you want to get warm sounding rack toms with a little punch to it? The first frequency range that is worth your attention is 240-500 Hz, which also is responsible for body and fullness. As rack toms aren’t that big, they don’t produce a lot of low-end, so you shouldn’t cut too much within the range, only if you need to reduce boominess. Boosting the same range gives you a nice shot at adding body or fullness to the tone.
On the other hand if you want a modern sound, just get rid of the boxiness that occupies the 500 Hz – 1 kHz region. It’s better not to use wide cuts within the range as you risk exterminating everything that makes good sound instead of making it better.
If the toms sound rather flat, it might be a good idea to boost them a bit using narrow Q within the range of 5-7 kHz. The same action adds attack and specific crack sound. And when toms sound way too rough, it’s a good idea to reduce just a bit of the attack with the help of cuts within the same range.
EQing Floor Toms
While reshaping floor toms, start with low-end and boost about 4dB around 80-100 Hz. After that, to eliminate boxiness and muddiness, cut about 15 dB around 400-500 Hz. In the high end, do the same action we described in rack toms.
When you’re dealing with floor toms, you should be focused on how things are in the low-end and whether there’s enough attack. The first thing that you have to do is to get rid of everything that lives under 60 Hz. Having done this will also help you with avoiding any conflict with the kick drum.
After you have done that, you should boost everything that lies in the range of 60-120 Hz because this is where the fundamental tone of the toms lives. While boosting, restrain yourself from going over your head and adding more than you should, otherwise, you end up with a muddy sound instead of punching and booming. The perfect spot for boosting is around 80 Hz and you get, as a result, adequately booming and full sound.
The next range to address is 250-400 Hz, where you can find some ring that easily annoys. The best way is to apply a gentle cut within the range. After that, we suggest you deal with boxiness that lives around 400-800 Hz. The best way to address it is to apply a cut of 2-3 dB.
Finally, you want to add some attack to your toms. The best way to do it is to boost around 1-2 kHz to add some snap. And boost around 3-5 kHz to add attack. Alternatively, you can boost only those areas if your toms need only a bit of attack added. While boosting, beware of causing any ringing sound that becomes evident if you solo your track out.
Toms vary in size, so big and small toms need a bit different frequencies to be boosted to achieve good results.
To achieve a fuller sound of the bigger toms, try to boost in the range of 80-100 Hz. To get fuller sound out of smaller toms, try boosting around 100-200 Hz. Also, you can use a high shelf boost within the low-end to look for the frequencies that magnify toms.
It’s important not to forget about the “thump” of toms, which is the resonance and rumble of the drum. You can find out that there’s not enough thump around 100-250 Hz. If this is the case, you should proceed with boosting within the range of about 4-6 dB. If, after this, the issue isn’t resolved, you should check other parts of the mix to see whether other low-end instruments have a lot going on within the range. Or it can happen because the toms were poorly recorded.
The mids quite commonly host a lot of boxiness and mud that we don’t like in our mixes. And, unsurprisingly, toms experience the same problems as other instruments in this range.
To fix this, start by looking around 300 Hz, where most likely you’ll find most of the mud and bland sounds in the toms. Use a wide Q and cut around 300 Hz to make toms. If your toms sound alive again, good job!
The cardboard sound occupies an area of around 700 Hz, applying a precise cut here helps you to add clarity to the sound.
Finally, it’s a good idea to boost around 1-4 kHz to add a bit more attack. Balance is the key, boost a precise amount till it corresponds with the low-end.
It’s important that your toms have an attack to its sound. This helps them to be emphasized in a mix. To do that, you can boost 4-8 dB in the range of 3-5 kHz if you notice that your toms are buried over other instruments or aren’t punchy enough.
To add more brightness, try to use a high shelf boost of around 5-6 kHz. You shouldn’t worry that you boosted more than it’s necessary because some music genres will only benefit from it. Especially rock and heavy metal tend to use a way larger boost within the range.
Sometimes, especially when you have a very busy mix, it’s a good idea to add a bit of that “click” sound that comes from the stick hitting the tom. Adding such a sound affects the attack and helps the ears to focus and grasp the sound of toms from the whole mix. Boost about 6 dB within the range of 6-8 kHz.
To add a bit of air to the sound of your toms, use a high shelf boost of 2-3 dB within the range of 5-12 kHz.
Solving issues with weak toms
The first issue that you might come across is that the toms may sound way over boomy and flat. The best way to deal with that is to use any transient shaper. Increase the amount of transient attack via attack dial and provide the toms with a delicate squeeze with the help of decreasing the amount of sustain. If you do contrary actions, it will help you deal with the issue when toms sound way too intense.
Another issue is that toms may sound plastic, unnatural, and short of body. To deal with this sort of problem, you may need to use saturation. If the genre allows, you may use a tape saturation that surely adds some harmonic content that toms are lacking.
If somehow you ended up working with very poorly recorded toms, the only thing that might help you, in this case, is to use a subharmonic generator that supplies you with low-end content.
Finally, you can change the situation with toms by using compression. The best way is to set the ratio 4:1, attack at 10 ms, release at about 300-400 ms, and set the threshold at 6dB of gain reduction.