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Learning how to mix drums (using gates in a side chain)

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Learning how to mix drums (using gates in a side chain)

Postby russianpolecat » Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:55 pm

Hello!

So, I'm working through Mike Seniors excellent book - Mixing Secrets, and I'm currently learning about gating/expansion etc. I'm working with Cubase 5 and using files from this Shaking Through session (which is creative commons so no problems with Copyright).

Here are the files - (click the link to stream them)

Kick_Out

Kick_In

OH_L

OH_R

These are the stems -

Kick_Stem

Snare Stem

Drum Stem

There is a lot of spill as you can hear, mainly due to the constant cymbals, so I figured it would be good to learn how to gate using these files.

General issues - I prefer the sound of the kick on the Kick_Out, but there is a load of spill. I was thinking that I could be maybe gate some of that out. However, I couldn't get the gate to trigger reliably so I tried using a side chain, but either I've not set it up right or else there is some other problem because side chaining doesn't seem to make any appreciable difference. The way I did it was to setup a Grp channel first, then I inserted a gate on that. I outputted the Kick_Out trk to the Grp, and also sent the trk to the sidechain. I then tried to use the HP filter (100Hz) to try to isolate the kick, but I'm still getting too much cymbal. Maybe there is just too much spill on the trk to gate reliably? I dunno.

I'm also having problems with the OH, because the cymbals are really present in them, over powering the snare. I'd like to either boost the snare or reduce the cymbals. I tried EQ but it made them sound too phasey with the rest of the trks. Linear phase EQ? Multiband expansion? Tips appreciated.

Ta in advance,

Chris
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Re: Learning how to mix drums (using gates in a side chain)

Postby The Elf » Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:33 pm

This is one of those ‘I wouldn’t start from here’ moments…

If I was mic’ing a kit with just a pair of overheads and two kick mic’s I would be finding the balance at source, not looking for it afterwards. Such a low mic count represents a commitment to a sound such that 95% of my drum mix would come from the overheads, with just a little of the kick mic’s to help out – and likely not gated at all.

There’s a lot to be said for letting the drum mic’s breath and sing, rather than trying to clamp down on every bit of spill. Over time I’ve found myself gating less and less and when I do gate/expand I may just lift the louder signals 3/4dB out of the melee for the important backbeat.

So your examples (sorry, I can’t access them here) aren’t the kind of start I’d make for creative gating!

All that said, I understand that you are simply using this as an opportunity to experiment, so with that in mind…

For the kick…

You would typically find that there is less spill on the inner kick mic, so I might use that to provide the trigger signal for the outer mic’s gate. You can get heavy with filters/EQ (or even expansion) on the trigger signal until you get something that opens the gate cleanly.

You can also get tricky with the trigger signal, maybe pulling it a tiny amount ahead to let the attack of the outer mic get through unscathed.

For the snare…

Whatever you do with the snare is going to be a bit (lot!) of a compromise. My first approach might be to see if I can find a filter/trigger/gate setting that only opens with the body of the snare signal, but I suspect that this will be a fruitless task if the spill is as bad as you say.

Even if you do manage to find the sweet spot for the gate I imagine the result will sound quite lumpy. At that point I’d be looking at a drum replacer.

Hope something here helps.
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Re: Learning how to mix drums (using gates in a side chain)

Postby russianpolecat » Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:37 am

Hi, thanks for that. I understand the side chain principle, but it's the practice that I'm having difficulty with. How would you route your Kick_In to trigger the Kick_Out (with EQ) example above (I'm using Cubase as I said)? This is what confuses me, how would you do it so that you only hear the gated Kick_Out??

Ta
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Re: Learning how to mix drums (using gates in a side chain)

Postby The Elf » Fri Jul 22, 2011 11:14 pm

Switch on the kick-out gate's sidechain, then allocate a send from the kick-in's channel to the kick-out's gate's sidechain input - I usually set the send to pre-fader/0dB and turn the source channel fader down. Then just fiddle either with the sidechain filter in the gate, or EQ of the kick-in channel.

To monitor what you're doing (aside from simply listening how the gate is reacting, which is the important thing) you can do a sidechain listen, or if you're using the channel EQ you can simply turn up the channel.
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