Livening up digital drums with bus treatments
Here’s how to get a forceful, characterful drum sound using assertive group processing
While many consider drum bus processing to be a subtle act, it can be a great way to impart your beats with bags of character. In this example, our drum group is comprised of a sampled breakbeat and drum machine hits.
First up, to unify our bare-sounding drum groove, we’ve applied an overall drum reverb effect to all the drum signals via an aux return. Doing this instantly adds ambient ‘wash’, and fills in the gaps between hits.
Next, we group all the drums to one single group output for collective processing, and dial in a healthy dose of parallel compression. This pulls up the drums’ sustain and helps create a sense of assertive ‘pump’.
After the compression, we’ve strapped this vibey limiter over the entire drum group. Rather than simply taming erroneous peaks, this device is slamming the individual sounds together for a slightly saturated ’90s flavour.
Now our drum processing is set up, it’s time to go back and tweak the individual elements to suit. For a touch more fatness, we boost the fundamental frequencies of the kick and snare with EQ. The clap layer is a bit dull, so we brighten it with a high-shelf EQ boost, and widen it with room reverb.
Our drums are complete, so we can now plan ahead to the arrangement stage and prepare some creative bus processing for breakdowns, intros and edits. We’re using Bitwig Studio’s stock Flanger device to switch the beats into a ringing, chiptune-like wash of metallic feedback.