Rack Toms.... WTF?

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Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Member Since: Mar 20, 2009

OK... I am fairly versed now in the mixing process, but one thing that has still got me by the balls is getting the toms to have some oomph. They just sound flat and lifeless. I have two major issues that I can't seem to grasp.

1. If I EQ the toms like I did the bass drum (i.e.. some low end + a bit of high end), the background "cymbal bleed" becomes a bit higher than the rest of the mix

2. If I add a gate to remove the cymbals/background noise, the toms no longer sound natural.

So what I'm doing to compromise is keeping the EQ, but reducing the gain so the cymbal bleed isn't as apparent. But now the toms are barely distinguishable in the mix. Does anyone have some recommendations on what to try? I'm especially interested in how to use Low pass or High pass filters and suggested general EQ settings. In Ardour, the GATE plugin has quite a few options that I don't really understand, namely:

LF key filter Hz
HF key filter Hz
Threshold (db)
Range (db)

Attack and decay are pretty self-explanatory, but what's got me confused is the threshold and range and how they work together. Also the order of the filters. Is the LF filter cutting out noise below whatever Hz is selected and HF filter is everything above? Is there a general rule (like set LF to 100Hz and HF to 1200Hz)? Sorry for the long post.. toms got me boggled!

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I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Jul 31, 2009 10:30 am

I think what those parameters establish is a listening range for the gate. You can set it up so that the noise gate only opens when a certain frequency range exceeds the threshold.

For instance, you can set the low frequency to 1KHz and the high frequency to 4Khz and that'd be listening for the human voice. Or you can set them to 60Hz and 90 Hz respectively and that'd be listening for a kick drum. Then the gate would not be triggered by things outside of that frequency range. This keeps the kick drum from opening the snare's gate, or the snare from opening the tom's gate, etc. if you get bleed from one track to another and you're trying to isolate only one sound source.

The threshold is how loud something has to be to open the gate. Set the threshold low, and the slightest noise in the listening frequency range will trigger the gate. Set the threshold high and it'd take a really loud noise to open the gate.

The range parameter is something that I'm not familiar with. I'm curious to hear what that does.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Jul 31, 2009 11:08 am

Excellent summary; it all makes sense!!! So what I'm doing wrong is setting the low and high filters too wide, which is almost allowing all noise to pass. No wonder why I didn't hear any noticeable differences. Out of curiosity, what is the general frequency of toms then?

Setting the threshold low makes sense now too. I thought it was the opposite... set it just below the db reading from the tom hit itself. So if the tom is registering at or about -14 dbs, set the threshold to like -20 dbs. That way anything below -20 was dis-allowed to pass though. That's probably why a lot of the tom rolls sounded warbly. Perhaps I need to experiment with like -35 to -50 dbs to get a better response and cleaner sound.

The range option has me confused too. By default, it's set to -80 dbs. The more I move it towards 0 dbs, the louder the output is (but really crispy). The cymbal bleed will sound like tin garbage cans being smashed in your face by the time you hit 0 dbs.

Czar of Turd Polish
Since: Jun 20, 2006

Jul 31, 2009 12:26 pm

When I do gate the toms, I only look to lower the background noise as when I get them completely quiet they sound unnatural as you stated. I would try sweeping with a paraEQ to find the most intrusive freq that the cymbals are coming through and do a narrow cut on it. Beings tom attack can be found anywhere between 3.5 and 10k (depending on sound your looking for), after taming the cymbal bleed you should still be able to find a good attack range that the cymbals are not prominent in.

No matter what though, I get bleed through my tom mics. The one thing I found that alleviates this is my playing. Pounding the toms/snare/kick and not so much the cymbals.

Just some thoughts...

I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Jul 31, 2009 12:34 pm

Pounding the toms/snare/kick and not so much the cymbals.

I'm no drummer, but that exact bit of advice has saved me when it comes to recording drums. Plus it helps to make the drums sound huge and the cymbals not so intrusive. I hear that's how John Bonham got his drums to sound so huge.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Aug 01, 2009 06:41 pm

When you are dealing with a gate and the word key comes into use it usually that is the trigger point where the gate opens up or closes up. Being a frequency set up it will not open the gate until the LF key is met and or the same with the HF key.

Or at least that is what it should be.

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