Friday, August 28, 2020

Drums - Processing - Hi-Hat

Video Created by JOEL CAMERON - Transcribed by TOM BOWSER

You often do NOT need much of the Hi-hat microphone in the mix. You can often get the amount of Hi-hat you need from the overhead microphones. However, in denser mixes you may need to use the Hi-hat microphone to give the hi-hat definition in the mix.

If the Hi-hat mic is positioned to high when it was recorded to "let it breath" you can get a lot of snare leakage into the hi-hat mic. If you then use the hi-hat mic/track high in the mix you tend to get a phasy snare response that's fighting the close mic on the snare.

The goal of the following section is to reduce the amount of snare sound present in the hi hat track.


  1. Create a pre fade send (click on the PRE button on the send fader) on the top snare track (if one does not already exist from a previous step)
    • Left click on a blank area under the SENDS section of the tracks channel strip.
    • Choose the word "bus" then choose any unused MONO bus. You know a bus is not being used when the numbers (or name) that identify it are colored white. Yellow indicates the bus is being used.
  2. Rename the bus and call it "TOP SNARE SEND" To rename the bus right click on the bus button and choose "Rename…".
  3. Insert a Pro Tools Compressor/Limiter Dyn 3 on the hi hat channel.
  4. Enable the side chain of the compressor on the hi hat by clicking on the small key in the SIDE-CHAIN section of the compressor. The small key will turn blue when the side chain is enabled.
  5. Set the key input of the compressor to the unused bus chosen earlier (TOP SNARE SEND). In the DIGI Compressor / Limiter you choose the key input by clicking on the dropdown arrow to the right of the small key symbol located toward the top left side of the compressor/limiter UI/window.
  6. Use a fast attack (10.0 us or so) to catch/bite off the front of the transient of the snare in the hi hat microphone/track.
  7. Use a fast release (26.6ms or so) You want the compressor to release so fast you don't notice the snare drum was compressed. A fast release will also allow the hi hat through.
  8. Use a compression RATIO of 2 or 3/1.
  9. Adjust the compressor for about 6 to up to 18dB of gain reduction. When used in heavy rock where you may need to bring up the hi hat to enable it to cut/be more present in the mix.

NOTE: The hi-hat track is being compressed, but the snare drum is triggering the compression.


  1. Insert the Pro Tools EQ 3 4-band or EQ 3 7-band in the hi-hat track AFTER the compressor.
  2. Disable the LF (low frequency) and LMF (low, mid frequency) and MF (mid frequency) bands of the EQ. Left click on the "IN" button to enable or disable a band. A band is enabled when the "IN" button is blue.
  3. Enable the HP filter at 6dB/oct to reduce the low end present in the hi hat mic.
  4. Cut and sweep with the high mid filter (HMF) to reduce the level in this frequency range if the hi hat sounds tiny or harsh (often a problem that results from using cheaper solid state microphones).

Bypass the EQ and listen then re-enable the EQ to verify the difference in the hi-hat track both with and without the EQ.

Consider blending the sound of the hi hat mic with the sound of the hi hat in the overheads.

NOTE: The low end can cause phasiness or a blurred snare drum image. Use subtractive EQ. Sweep from low to high until you hear the low end disappear (from around 500 to 700 Hz), The sound of the high hat should remain unchanged in the mix.

Reducing the low end also gives you a little more headroom if you need to push the faders up to achieve a louder sounding mix before you reach for compression.

If the hi hat sounds a bit metallic/tinny try filtering at the HMF high mid frequencies. Sweep back and forth to find the right frequency range then reduce as needed. See the image above.

NOTE: Remember to disable any EQ bands not being used. If an EQ band is enabled it influences the sound of the track in subtle ways even if you have not changed the filters settings. Look at the image above. EQ bands that are not used are disabled.