Starting Points For EQ'ing Drums


Now before I even start this one, I'm just going to say that these are just starting points. Every drummer, drum kit, microphone setup, room, etc., requires a slightly different approach. But regardless, try these out as a place to start, and then tweak from there. 


As you'll see from most of the shells, I love to cut mids. So my first step here is chop out 500 Hz. For most of the genres that I record, an aggressive approach is required, so I'll usually grab an SSL style EQ and cut 12-15 dB at 500 Hz to start. Next, if we're in a genre that needs a really bright top end on the kick, then I usually start by booting 8 kHz at about 5-7 dB. Next, I'll head down to the bottom end and boost 65 Hz by about 4-5 dB. Then I will engage by the HPF at about 40 Hz and the LPF at about 9 kHz. Usually, I'll have to adjust the output gain of the plugin to level match. This is so I can A/B with the original to see if I've made improvements (always do this!). At this point, I start adjusting the frequencies and amplitudes to the song. I tend to adjust the HPF and LPF first if it's too bright or too subby (I think that's a word?). Then I sweep the midrange to find the optimal point to cut the mids. I find myself lately moving the frequency lower, somewhere between 300 Hz and 500 Hz. If I still can't get it where I want, I'll start adjusting the frequency of the bottom and top (the 65 Hz and 8 kHz points). 


I use a similar approach for snare. I have a few starting points, then I tweak. So, I start with boosting up low end. I like a beefy snare sound, so I usually start around 150 Hz, cranking that up a ton, like 8-10 dB. I set the HPF to about 130 Hz, and use this to control the low end (I tend to do this alot). Next up, I like sucking out the mids, usually between 300 Hz and 800 Hz, cut out 15 dB. Yeah it's drastic, but I'm using my ears at this point and thats what I like. Also, depends on the type of snare drum. Next up, I find theres a bit of "crack" in the snare around 2-3 kHz. I don't like adding much of this, as I get's a bit "thwacky", but maybe boosting 2-3 dB. Finally, I like that sparkly top end, so I'm add 5-7 dB of 8-10 kHz. I again use the LPF to control some of the nasty highs, maybe setting it to 10 kHz. Just like last time, I'll sweep frequencies while listening to the song to see what fits best. I like to use the controller section on the SSL Matrix 2 to do this, rather than looking at the screen. That way I use my ears. 


Toms are pretty easy, lots of the same principles here. I start by boosting between 75 Hz and 150 Hz, depending on the size and tuning of the tom. I like to sweep around to find the optimal bottom end frequency (as with kick and snare), then kicking it up by 5-7 dB. Next up, guess what? Cutting mids again. This time, I'll pull out anything between 250-600 Hz. This again depends on the tuning and the size of the drum. You can use this as a way control muddiness. If you want to really sharp staccato toms, cut the midrange hard (15 dB). If you like them to have some resonance, keep this down to 2-3 dB. Use your ears! Next up, let's boost the top so they get some of that "clicky" sound coming through the mix. Boost up 7-10 kHz, again depending on the tom. Try 4-6 dB as a start. Again make use of your HPF and LPF to control any nastiness in the top and bottom. Finally, sweep around while listening to the song until it seems to fit!


For hats, I have a pretty pigeon-holed go to. I run them through my Vintech x73i EQ, I crank up the HPF to 300 Hz, and then I viciously cut 1.6 kHz. Then sometimes I'll add a touch of top from the same EQ. That seems to get me right where I want it every time. I may LPF in the box after, or even use a de-esser to tame some of the harsh peaks. 


I don't necessarily have a go to set of frequencies here, but theres a reoccurring patterns happening. First, I may HPF both sets to about 100-150 Hz, sometimes the overheads I go up to 250 Hz. Next up, I like using the Pultec EQP-1A to add some top, usually at 10 or 12 k. Maybe 4 dB. Then I'll take the Pultec MEQ-5 to pull out a touch of mids, but nothing too crazy. Maybe 2-3 dB around 200-400 Hz. Just trying to get some of that boomy, boxy-ness out. If I want super bright cymbals, I'll crank the hell out of the EQP-1A top end and use a de-esser for when it gets out of hand. Again, listen in context and start sweeping frequencies to find what works best. 

And that's that for drum EQ. Don't forget, these are just starting points. Try starting with these settings and exploring on your own. My tastes will undoubtedly be different then yours, so don't treat these are hard fast rules. Let me know if you have any other questions about drum EQ! 

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Velveteen Audio