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Doctor Werewolf’s Adam Zae shares his thoughts on drum processing

Just my $0.02 about drum processing. As a bass music producer I tend to use a lot of drum samples that have loads of compression or limiting already built in but a bit of bussing is still necessary to make everything stick together a bit more.

With this in mind I’ll often choose a buss compressor/limiter that is very coloured (eg snag thickener, driver, guitar rig, amp, camel crusher) so I can use less of it but still bind my drums/percussion together. Also send the more limited/compressed samples in lesser amounts than the unprocessed bits.

It’s a rare track where I won’t now just throw the whole lot at the one buss, cymbals, snares, toms, kicks and misc stuff. Fuck it. The Drums are what people dance to, make them honk.

I now sidechain almost everything for this same reason. You gotta slice through the mix and get the max out of those hits. However, for many voices I’ll choose very surgical lengths, zoom right in to the drum waveform and figure out to the 0.001 where those instruments are getting pumped.

Also, kick tone/phase seems to get asked about a lot in the Heavyweight Bass Producer Group. My take: with kicks ALWAYS work in wav/aiff. If you’re using a sampler vst or something like nicky kick, once you’ve got what you think is the right sound, save a new version of your project and bounce the kick to audio. Phase issues? Zoom in like a grown up and move shit. See where the kick is putting the cone at any moment. Yes using your ears is important but train your eyes and ears to work together IMO.

“Always work in audio” also applies to drum layering. Music is made by a vibrating cone (not you, the speaker). The cone can only be in one place at one time, so when you’re layering 2 samples over each other, 1+1 doesn’t always equal 2. Look visually for phase problems and if you only want the attack of a sample, only layer that bit and cut the rest off. Make sure you always a/b test everything extensively once you’ve tried it. Make a copy of your new layered creation and put it on a new track. place the original sample next to it. Adjust their clip volumes so they are peaking at the same point, then listen to which one is ‘louder’. Sometimes you will be surprised. Keep it simple…

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