Kim Lajoie's blog

The Case For Starting Your Mix With Drums

by Kim Lajoie on July 11, 2013

Graham Cochrane:

In my workflow I like to [send the drum tracks to a single group/bus] and then even hide the drum tracks. Why? So I’m not tempted to go fiddling with the individual tracks again. One slight change and the whole drum mix can fall apart. That’s what is so tricky about mixing drums. So by giving them special attention at the beginning, you can know they sound good and you can move on from there.

This is excellent advice. It’s not so much about where to start a mix (personally, I almost always start mixing with the lead vocal), but the advice about grouping the drums and then treating them for the rest of the mix as a single instrument is great. It’s a different way of listening and balancing. Once you have (and have convinced yourself that you have) the drums sounding great, you can then focus on making them work with the rest of the instruments in the mix. It’s an easier and faster way to mix.

It also applies to electronic drums. Focus on making sure the kick and snare are sounding great and balanced with the other percussion elements. Then group them all together and move on with the rest of the mix, comfortable in the knowledge that you probably won’t need to go back and make major changes to the drums.

I do the same thing with vocals. I get the lead vocal and backing vocals sounding great, then move on (and hardly revisit them). It’s like drawing a line in the sand. “This is the centrepiece of the mix, and it sounds great. Now it’s up to everything else to fit around it.”



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