Toms are a really great way to add texture to drum fills and create section transitions or even drive the entire song. In this tutorial we’ll be looking at some tips that will help you get tom drums to cut through a mix.
Make sure that your tom sounds are tuned and recorded well in order to get a good mix. If you’re using VST or audio samples then make sure you choose the best tom samples.
If your tom drums are recorded live or you’re layering different tom sounds to create one big tom sound, then make sure there’s no phase cancellation. If they’re live also make sure that there’s no mic bleed or if you want the bleed to be there then blend it well with other sounds and avoid phase issues.
Once you got that covered then you’ll have to decide what comes 1st between the EQ and compressor.
EQ Settings For Tom Drums
Toms are mostly the easiest to mix out of all drum sounds. You just need to focus on the thump, attack, stick and air. That’s basically what you need to focus on. The thump is the resonance or warmth of the tom, also known as punch.
Higher rack toms don’t rely on the thump as compared to floor and resonant rack toms. If your tom drums are lacking thump then make a boost around 100Hz-250Hz.
The attack brings up the rhythmic nature of the tom and makes it cut through a mix, making it more audible and present. To add more attack then boost around 3kHz-5kHz. The stick is mostly known as the click of the tom, which you can get by boosting around 6kHz-8kHz.
The air on the toms makes the drum shine in a mix. Some people may use the overheads to get some air for the toms but there could be too much bleed or spill so I would advise you to add the air directly on the toms by creating a high-shelf boost around 7kHz-12kHz.
The way I equalize toms is by cutting out anything below 60Hz to remove the rumble. Then bring up the thump, stick, attack and add some air. Finally make a big dip in the low-mids to remove mud and ringing tom noise.
Compressing Tom Drums
Toms don’t really need a lot of compression in order for them to sit well in a mix. But that will all depend on the dynamic range of the toms. A slow attack time of about 10ms and a medium to long release time will work well.
A ratio of 4:1 or less is good and a gain reduction of about -4dB. You can also add your toms in a group or bus channel to glue them and add more processing. Parallel compression also works well on tom drum sounds as they don’t really need too much compression.
Panning and Effects
When it comes to panning tom drums I refer to how the drum kit was setup and pan according to how the drum player was positioned. I don’t keep any toms on the center of the stereo image, I always pan them right and left.
A reverb effect will help you find space, width and depth for the toms so that they sit well in a mix. Use a short room or plate reverb and don’t add too much reverb, it will muddy your mix and push the toms at the back of the mix.
To help avoid the mud, I always add an EQ on the reverb signal. On the reverb signal, use a high-pass filter to cut out everything below 60Hz and make a dip in the lower-mids, that should prevent the reverb from adding mud to your tom mix.
Finally, the last thing I would do is to add tape saturation or distortion. This will add some crunch, analog warmth and harmonics to the toms.
This guide should help you get your tom drums to sit well and cut though a mix. If you have any questions then leave a comment below and please use the share buttons below to post these tutorials on your social network sites, I would really appreciate the support. See you again soon.