FULL SNARE AHEAD
When mixing drums, we all know the main aim is to achieve a smooth blend between separation and cohesion – but it’s easier said than done! Over the years, I’ve spent hours working on drums only to come away frustrated. A good rule of thumb that’s helped me is to ensure that the snare drum is the loudest – or at least one of the most upfront – elements in the mix. Volume-wise, levelling the kick drum slightly below the snare will balance these vital hits. Then, all the other complex rhythms sit behind to carry the groove along.
After that, listen for any parts popping out, or not sitting correctly. Slight volume adjustments on your individual drums have a huge effect here. This technique doesn’t work on every tune, of course, and it depends on the style you produce, but give it a go and see if the results work for you.
In most drum ’n’ bass tracks, the percussive parts do the majority of the work. They form the core character of the track, and build interest and variation throughout. Usually if your drums sound great on their own, the rest of your sounds can be easily introduced and the track almost writes itself.
To guarantee quality, I always evaluate my latest beat by referencing it against a released, mastered track – using my CDJs, I can mix them together just as I would when DJing out. If they sound decent, and punch through the other tune, I know I’m on the right track – or I’ll instantly hear what needs fixing. For example, the cymbals may need more ‘sparkle’, or my kick could be a bit too subby. It’s a technique that has guided me through studio struggles, and it’s something I swear by when engineering. If you don’t own decks, go down the usual route and reference in your DAW.