Essential Tips For Producing Drums & How To Master Your Music At Home

T Racks Opto Compressor

Music production is becoming more competitive, and you need to find a way to mix and master your music correctly. In this post, let’s talk more about tips on making better and more precise drums, why your mixes sound thin, and what you can do to master your music at home.

Essential Tips For Producing Drums:

 

How To Consolidate Drums and Make Them More Compatible

 

You have to create a Drum bus – A drum bus is where all your drums are linked into one track (at least those that you want to link in.) Then you have to use VSTs that will make drums more “glued.” When doing so, avoid over-processing and keep in mind that cleaner is better than louder.

How To Make Transparent and Polished Drums That Fit In The Mix With Other Instruments

 

This tip is similar to the first, just more specific – In this case, you have to use an Opto compressor. An Opto compressor will reduce additional edginess so the final result will be polished drums in your mix.

How To Make Drums Punchier and Edgier Using Specific Frequency Bands

 

For this query, a multi-band transient VST will do the job. With this unique plugin, you can shift the crossovers and adjust the bands for your needs, resulting in total control of your drums. Here is the list of the multi-band transient VSTs:

  • Neutron 3 Transient Shaper (included in the bundle)
  • Transify Multi-band Transient Processor by JST
  • Waves Trans-X
  • MT-1 Multiband Transient Processor by SoniqWare
  • FXpansion Maul

Why Your Mixes Sound Thin And What To Do

 

It’s not about cutting highs with your EQ.  You have to start using saturation, tape saturation, exciter plugins, and analog EQ. These are perfect tools to help you get rid of the thin sound. Also, try to make your sounds mono. Using these tools, you will get thicker and beefier sound across the whole frequency spectrum. Here is a list of a few plugins that will help you get rid of that unwanted, thin sound –

Soundtoys Decapitator – Analog Saturation Modeler (Especially for mixing)

Soundtoys Decapitator

Brainworx bx_saturator V2 – M/S & multi-band saturation tool (Great for mixing and mastering)

Brainworx Saturator

Melda MFreeformAnalogEq – Analog EQ (Briliant plugin for mixing – this plugin will have the biggest effect on your audio, though boosting your frequencies will look scary and weird due to the edgy peaks it makes. Once you do some frequency boosts, however, you will see how the other side of the frequency spectrum is adjusting according to your changes. So in the end, it will sound very natural. Plus, it removes the thinness from your audio.

Eddie Kramer Waves Signature Series – Bundle focused on Bass, Drums, Effects, Guitars, and Vocals. This bundle will make your sound rich, add necessary energy, and bring a nice color to your mix. You can also check the Kramer Master Tape plugin, which is great for mastering and mixing.

 

Krammer Drums

FabFilter Pro-DS – De-Esser VST plugin. Most popular plugin for De-Essing Vocals.

FabFilter Pro DSS

How To Master Your Track At Home (Explained For Beginners)

 

When you start mastering in your home studio, you must determine which tools you have to use as the first. We will use software VST plugins for the sake of this post. Follow these steps to see the results (Every track requires a different approach. This is more like a template or practice that you can try if you are starting out.) Also, read our post: How Important Is Mixing & Mastering In Music Production? (For Beginners)

1. The First Condition is Preparing the Clean Premaster of Your Track.

vst plugin master chain

2. Next, add active EQ to boost or cut the desired frequency range

3. Add additional Dynamic EQ  (How And When Use Dynamic EQ in Mastering?)

This is a very subtle kind of EQ that will make your mix fresher and more pleasing – Again, try to boost the frequencies anywhere where your track needs it. Finally, compare the first version without Dynamic EQ to the version where it’s turned on. You will hear that without this plugin, your track will sound flat and dull. Also, it all depends on if you used the Dynamic EQ a lot in your mixing process. If you did, then you might want to skip this kind of VST plugin.

4. Use the multi-band compression (Benefits of Using Multiband Compression in Mastering)

 

With this effect, your track will sound balanced and have will have a professional feeling.  You can adjust the parameters of each band without affecting other bands. This is the feature that gives modern music producers new possibilities when it comes to advanced mastering. This processing isn’t necessary, just additional. What is important is that you need to know when you can use it. There are plenty of quality Multiband Compressors out there, but here are a few that do a great job – FabFilter Pro-MB, iZotope Ozone Dynamics or  Drawmer 1973 by  Softube.

Softube Drawmer 1973

5. Don’t forget to add the Mastering compressor to glue things together

 

You have nothing to lose because this will gently boost what’s already done. Of course, you have to make some tweaks to make it sound good, though it’s a matter of practice and training. Don’t worry when adding this plugin. Excellent examples of Mastering compressors are – SSL G-Master Buss Compressor by Waves or Mastering Compressor by Sonoris.

Sonoris Mastering Compressor

6. Use the Opto Compressor (Why Use Opto Compression in Mastering)

 

This kind of compression will add more density and sustain without causing pumping, which can easily occur when using VCA compressors. Some of the examples – Waves Renaissance Compressor or Brainworx bx_opto.

Waves Rennaisance Compressor

7. Add Saturation/Tape Plugin (How Saturation Improves Music Mastering)

These plugins, as we mentioned above, will bring the color and warmth to your record and make your record rock-solid. Also, it will add potency in the low-end and high-end — in this case, our choice is Kramer Master Tape by Waves.

Waves Kramer Master Tape

8. Some might dispute this, though it works pretty well – Try to Use De-Esser.

 

The majority of people will use a compressor to reduce the high-end, though it’s not necessary all the time. Use a De-Esser in case you still want to retain the energy of your peaks. Don’t make massive modifications, just a little tweak that will fix annoying, edgy sounds. The best thing is that you will hear the peak almost the same, but without that undesirable effect.

9. Use An Exciter (What does an exciter plugin do?)

 

Exciters will make your track shinier and brighter in the highs, though they are also great for the low-end. Unfortunately, you are not able to achieve this kind of sound only with EQ, so an Exciter is a great way to make your mix more professional. Great examples are – Waves Aphex Aural Exciter or iZotope Ozone Exciter.

10. Use Imager (Why Use It and How To Use It)

 

We are approaching the final effects in our mastering effect’s chain. The imager is a kind of effect that is used in mixing, as well as mastering. When mastering, make sure to add this to make your track wider and elevate the bands that you want to be in the foreground. To do this, download free iZotope Ozone Imager.  Here is a default preset that a lot of producers are using nowadays:

iZotope Imager

11. Use Brickwall EQ to High-Cut 16kHz.

 

Make sure that you are adding this plugin to get rid of the the unwanted high-end area (GREEN.) Also, it’s good to add the band with a high Q (RED) that will soften your high-end a bit more. Great plugins for this are – FabFilter Pro Q3 or iZotope Ozone EQ. If you are using Pro Q3, use the option for Linear-Phase and set it to “Max.” This will correct your highs a bit and your track will have better quality. (It’s more CPU intensive) BUT we are going to tell you last and very obvious effect tool –

FabFilter Pro Q3

iZotope Ozone Equalizer:

Here is the Spectrum Analyzer where you can see the Brickwall High-Cut. Green color represents 16KHZ (16 000 HZ) High-Cut itself, and Red color shows how an additional band improved the shape of the High-End by the smooth transition.

12. Limiter/Maximizer

 

The limiter/maximizer is the very last thing you want to have in your mastering chain. Now, you will see how loud your track can be. Make sure that you tweak every parameter manually with this effect according to your track and avoid using presets, which you may have used with previous effects. Basically, when you decrease the volume on your main source (premaster), the effects will have more headroom and space, even if it has advanced processing.

It’s better to add the volume on the Maximizer/Limiter. The typical threshold for the Limiter is -6dB, but it’s all about your preferences and actual processing. Now, it’s time to choose the specific plugin that you will use. Please keep in mind that each one is different, so we recommend having at least two or three as backups in case that one doesn’t work well with your specific song.

Here are our recommendations for Limiter VST plugins – FabFilter L2, iZotope Maximizer, IK Multimedia Stealth Limiter, and PSP Xenon. Also, don’t hesitate to check our post How To Maximize The Loudness Without Clipping Or Distorting. iZotope Maximizer:

Izotope Ozone Maximizer

Conclusion

These tips were made in accordance with our experience. We are just sharing what we’ve learned over the years to make it easier for you.  You don’t have to follow the exact formula, as every single track must be treated individually. With that said, you hmust understand that these are simply tools and techniques that hopefully will serve you on your musical journey.