When people talk about drums, they often talk about two specific parts of the kit: kick and snare.
But the other parts of a drum kit are just as important – like the overheads. Depending on how you mix them, they can actually have quite a large impact on how your kick and snare sound.
So let’s talk through a few steps to get your overheads – and ultimately your entire drum kit – to the next level.
1. Roll off the top and bottom.
This is the first step toward getting great overheads – roll off everything you don’t need.
Believe it or not, they can actually sound better if you roll off everything above 18 kHz (at a 6 dB/octave slope). The more you roll off on top, the warmer your entire drum mix will become.
In much the same way, the more you roll off on the bottom, the clearer your drum mix will become. Don’t go too crazy, however, otherwise you’ll lose all of the kick and snare that you’ll need to use later. Starting with somewhere around 125 Hz and slowly sweeping up to taste is a good place to start.
2. Start with them down in the mix, then bring them up to taste.
Next, you’re going to want to place them correctly in the mix. Make sure that they are present, but not too overbearing. You certainly don’t want them to take over the mix, otherwise you’ll have a thin sounding track.
I usually push them up to the point where I think they’re just a little too loud, then back them off about 4-5 dB. This can help you figure out where that point is, as well as show you where they should be. Experiment with how much you need to pull them back once you’ve reached your “too much” point.
3. EQ for better kick, snare, or toms.
Now comes the fun stuff. With a good parametric EQ, start making your other drums sound awesome. You can do this in two ways – depending on the style you’re going for. If you want super clear, uncluttered, extremely tight drum sounds, you can cut the frequencies around the kick, snare, and toms to make the individual tracks stand out. This can be useful if you’re doing a lot of sample replacement.
The other method is to actually boost some of the better frequencies for some of your drums. Let’s say you want really beefy toms. Find those frequencies (probably going to be in the 200 – 600 Hz range), and play around with boosting them slightly. This can really add to the overall color of the drums, and allows you to control how loose/tight your drums are.