The Essential Guide to Mixing Drums

Do you want to learn how to mix drums? Here’s the essential guide to mixing drums on your own like a pro.

Mixing drums is a tricky business! We’ve all heard the stories of legendary engineers spending hours getting the perfect drum sound, right? But do you have to spend that much time tweaking and tweaking?

The Essential Guide to Mixing Drums

This blog, The Essential Guide to Mixing Drums, covers everything from basic EQing and compression techniques to advanced drum bus processing strategies. So forget those long studio hours—it’s time for you to get mixing! Though mixing drums seem daunting, with some practice and knowledge, anyone can begin to craft drum mixes.

Understanding Drum Sound Mixing Fundamentals:

Mixing drums are a crucial part of making great music. The rest of your track can sound muddy or hollow without a good drum mix. Here are some essential fundamentals to help you achieve maximum punch and clarity in your drum mixes.

  • First, there’s “panning,” which is how you spread the individual elements in a drum kit in the stereo field. For example, the snare slightly panned to the left while cymbals and toms panned somewhat to the right to help create pleasing sounds.
  • Next, there’s “EQ,” or equalization, which allows you to adjust the frequencies of individual instruments or entire sections of drums within a mix. This is important for dialing in clarity and presence in the mix. For example, using EQ on the kick drum can bring out its thump and make it cut through better in a dense mix.
  • Finally, there’s “compression.” It helps out volume levels between different drums and makes their sound tighter and more consistent. Compression also makes your tracks sound bigger by creating additional sustain and punch.

EQing Different Drum Components:

When it comes to EQing drums, it’s essential to recognize the different components of a drum mix. Each component has a different frequency range and requires its own set of EQ settings to sound right in the overall mix. Knowing how to EQ each component will help create a balanced, natural-sounding drum mix.

Let’s take a look at each of the components and how to EQ them:

  • Kick Drum: The kick drum is typically for low-frequency and should be given plenty of boost in the low sub-frequencies (60–90 Hz). You can also add some mid-range (200–250 Hz) for warmth.
  • Snare Drum: You want to give the snare some midrange warmth (500–800 Hz) and extra presence intensity (3–8 kHz).
  • Hi-Hats:  For hi-hats, you want to add more high-end frequencies (6–10 kHz) while cutting out lower midrange frequencies (400–600 Hz).
  • Toms: Give some extra low-end punch (30–90 Hz) and a clear presence in the mids (350–5 kHz).

Compression on Drums and Percussion

Now we come to the most crucial part of mixing drums: compression. Compression makes drums, and percussion instruments sound great in a mix. It’s what will make the track sound more tight and focused.

Compression on drums and percussion can be achieved in three main ways:

  1. First, use a compressor on your drum bus to add punch and definition to your overall drum mix.
  2. Place a compressor on individual drums and percussion tracks. Each with its own settings to control specific frequencies or dynamics on a track.
  3. Use parallel compression to give your drums and percussion more presence in the mix by adding an uncompressed signal in parallel with your compressed signal.

Mixing Acoustic and Electronic Drums Together

Mixing acoustic and electronic drums can be incredibly effective if done well. Here are a few tips:

  • Capturing the acoustic drum sound

The first step is making sure you capture the right acoustic drum sound. This involves setting up the microphones correctly. And then choosing one microphone as the central pickup and others as auxiliary mics to flesh out the mix. Next, ensure you balance attack, sustain, and decay for each drum by adjusting levels and EQing each channel separately.

  • Volume Balancing

Once you have your acoustic drum sounds recorded, adjust their volume relative to your electronic drums for proper balance. Some engineers keep the electronic drums back, while others bring them forward as a driving force behind each track. Finding the correct ratio takes a bit of experimentation, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works best!

  • Utilizing Effects

Finally, once your mix is balanced, don’t be afraid to use effects like reverb and delay to enhance the sound of drums. You can also experiment with panning or stereo-widening effects on certain drum elements or individual channels to create depth in your mix.

Automation in drum mixing

Are you thinking about trying out automation in drum mixing? If so, you’re in luck! Automation can help you get the perfect sound with minimal effort. But how?

  • Mixer plugins

Mixer plugins are a great way to automatically tweak your settings in real time as you play so that everything sounds balanced. For example, you can add a plugin to your snare without manually adjusting the mix for each track. This process is also known as “side chaining.” And it ensures that all elements have enough headroom and never sound too loud or muddy.

  • Drum machine sequencing

Drum machine sequencing is another excellent way to use automation when producing drums. It allows you to program parts ahead of time and create intricate patterns with a few clicks of your mouse. For example, you can use the step sequencer to quickly create beats with different sounds. Or use the piano roll editor to draw precise curves and patterns.  These processes will help you take your drum mix to the next level!

Here you can also know about The Complete Drum Set Buying Guide.


With this guide to mixing drums, we hope you can mix drums on your own. Whether you’re a beginner just starting or an experienced pro, the principles of mixing drums remain the same. With the right approach and knowledge, you can create a fantastic drum mix to bring your music to life.

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Jr. Robert A. Plant

Hey there! I'm Jr. Robert A. Plant, an artist, blogger and reviewer who's absolutely in love with the world of music. I have a knack for reviewing music gear, sharing my thoughts and insights at Raisingsand FX. When I'm not exploring gear, you'll find me lost in the creative process of writing songs. Music is my passion, and I'm here to inspire and touch lives through my artistic journey.

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