Friday, August 28, 2020

Drums - Room Mics - Natural Approach

Video Created by JOEL CAMERON - Transcribed by TOM BOWSER

The following approach is probably more useful when mixing lyrical or acoustic driven music where you want a more natural sense of space around the drums and you don't want a really hyped image.

Room mics are similar to overheads in the sense that they add space to the drum mix.

A couple of approaches that can be used are to:

  1. Mix the room mic to complement the overall sound/presentation of the drum kit and leave it fairly consistently there.
  2. Use the room mics as a reverb to give the drums snare, toms a bit more ambiance. In pop music you probably don't want much added ambiance to the kick drum mic/s.

Expander Gate:

One method is to use an expander/gate on the room mics. Use the snare (try Top snare mic first) signal to open the gate. Use the gates side chain, send the snare signal to the gates key input. The expander/gate triggered by the snare will be used to control the level of the room so the gate opens on the back beat/snare drum. See directions on how to set this up after the section on EQ to learn more.

NOTE: Unless you have a specific reason not to, add dynamics processors before EQ in the serial signal chain. If you add EQ before dynamics processors you alter the frequency content of the signal which can affect the response of dynamic processors that follow it.

EQ: Begin with subtractive EQ.

  1. Add an EQ to the track.
  2. Slowly bring in the room mics until you begin to hear them and the difference they make in the mix.
  3. Filter the low end using the LF (low frequency filter to reduce the amount of lows/bottom end. Begin at the stock 100 Hz. Soften the LF EQ curve using the Q control of the filter.
  4. Try removing a little low mid frequencies (LMF). Begin at the default 200, dip by 6 dB then sweep to lighten the sound a bit, but not to much to make it sound thin. Find the spot where it lightens without being to light. Joel used a setting of around -3dB at around 330 Hz. Soften the Q of the EQ curve if needed.

NOTE: Decreasing the low frequency spectrum of the room mics will allow you to bring up the fader volume of the room mic in the mix.


Use an expander/gate on the room mics. We want to use the expander/gate to reduce the level of the room. We want the expander/gate to open on the "back beat" of the drums with the snare. Sound travels roughly 1 foot per second. Use the distance of the room mics from the drums to estimate the attack time of the Expander / Gate in seconds.

The following instructions are written using the Expander/Gate Dyn 3 included with Pro Tools. We need to route the snare's signal to the expander/gates side chain.

  1. Choose an unused bus to route the snare to the gates side chain. Use a mono bus if the room mic is mono and a stereo bus if the room mic is stereo.
  2. Create a send on the snare and route the send to the bus created in the previous step.
  3. Click on the tiny key in the gates SIDE-CHAIN section to enable the side-chain.
  4. Click on the tiny speaker in the SIDE-CHAIN section of the gate to enable/listen to and verify that snare signal is present in the side chain and controlling the gate. Make the following changes to the gate settings while listening to the snare as the side-chain signal. It will be easier to adjust the gate while listening to the side- chain signal only.
  5. Set the RANGE to -7 to -8 dB for a more natural sound, down to -12dB if you want more GR (gain reduction).
  6. Start with an ATTACK set at around 8ms (milliseconds).
  7. Increase the HOLD for a more natural sound to around 700 to 800 ms.or shorter if you like the sound.
  8. Increase the RELEASE to around 4 to 500ms for a more natural sound or until it sounds the way you want it to sound.
  9. Turn off/disable the speaker to listen to the expander/gate as it reacts to the incoming signal.

If the drums were recorded in a bigger room you could use longer release times.