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Drum Track Processing Tips, Part 4: Ambience

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On November 29, 2009 · 0 Comments

by Thai Long Ly

You have received your WAV’s from an online recording studio, imported the tracks into your session and pulled up the faders to zero. “Wow, that’s a lot of room”, you say. Sure, that is a lot of room if you solo the drums. But when you start adding keys, vocals, guitars, bass, etc.

is there still too much room
? Or are the drums now sitting in a nice “space” in the mix eliminating the need for artificial reverb? I usually like to record my room mics on the hot side, with plenty of level. Often I will use even more than I’ll actually use in the final mix, but that way it’s there if I need it.

You will get the same results from this, in that it will give you a lot to work with when it is time to create atmosphere and space.

Now,if you want a Beach Boys type thing or a dry drum sound reminiscent of the 70′s, then back the faders down.

If you are going for that tight modern R&B sound, then mute the room mics completely. For a rock project, crank those room mics up from the start!

Here is a creative, fun use of room mics: bring the room mics in during choruses, or during big drum fills, leaving them low or out on verses. This creates sonic excitement without resorting to EQ or level changes. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment with processing.

Healthy use of compression on room mics is pretty much standard practice for rock productions. The aim is to get the compressor pumping in time with the track so that the drums start to get lively. You want the drums to sound like they’re about to explode out of the speakers!

But dig this: once you realize that good drum tracks aren’t merely about punch and impact, that it should have depth and a real sense space as well, your productions will take on a whole new life. The quickest, most natural way to a cool sonic landscape is through the creative use (and non-use) of room mics in your mix.

Check out my other articles on drum processing on this site, covering topics such as use of compression and gating. In Part 5 equalization will be the focus. Until then, enjoy applying what you have just read.

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Testimonials From Just a Few of Our Happy Clients:

Shay, this is Andrew. I just wanted to give you a call
and let you know everything worked out great with your
drum tracks.

actually, the guy who mixed them even asked me who I got
to play on them and I told him about you.

said whoever engineered them did a great job recording them.
Just thought you’d like to know."

Andrew Synoweic


Godwin is an amazing drummer with an instinctual approach
to music rarely encountered today.
Every time I work with him in the studio I’m amazed at how quickly
he locks in, and how great his drum sounds are.

Ken Andrews:
founding member of the groundbreaking group Failure;
producing/mixing credits include: Charlotte Martin,
A Perfect Circle,
Tenacious D,
Chris Cornell,
Nacho Libre Soundtrack,
Pete Yorn,
Jimmy Eat World


is one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever had the pleasure
of working with. He is a real musician that plays with taste,
incredible feeling, and he is amazingly versatile in his

Charlotte Martin
founder, Dinosaur Fight Records


is a true professional – He is solid, has great feel and
great tone – One need look no further."

Ty Stevens
Warner/Chappell staff songwriter;
wrote “Rock This World” and was Musical Director for Hillary
Duff (Hollywood Records);
M.D. for Jennifer Pena, Daniel Rene (Univision);
wrote music for Disney, Verve, Universal, artists Mindi Abair;
Musical Consultant for Aly & AJ (Hollywood Records);
guitarist for Mandy Moore, countless other credits


Godwin is one of the top session drummers I’ve had the pleasure
of working with. He’s a one take wonder, which is great in
the studio because time is money. Shay was extremely professional,
and well prepared. He has killer sounding drums, and was
able to give me all kinds of snare tones to choose from.
We will be working together for many years.

Jay Ruston
Producer/Engineer/Mixer, credits include Brian Wilson, The
Donnas, Abandoned Pools, Dianna Ross, American Idol,
Morrissey, Polyphonic Spree, Meatloaf


has an attention to detail while working on parts in a song
combined with keeping it simple and soulful. His vast knowledge
of musical styles and professionalism in getting the job
done in a timely manner is why I love to work with him.

Buck Johnson:
co-wrote the single “Just Feel Better” for Carlos Santana’s
album “All That I Am” featuring Steven Tyler of Aerosmith
keys/vocals/guitar with country act Whiskey Falls;
vocalist/keyboardist with the following artists: The Doobie
Brothers (backing vocals on “Rockin’ Down the Highway”-Live
CD-1996), Tal Bachman (backing vocals and Keys of Columbia
Records debut album -’99, Timothy B. Schmit (of The Eagles,
his solo CD 2000-backing vocals and keys), Matthew Sweet
(touring keys and backing vocals and “Best Of Matthew Sweet
CD), Shawn Mullins (touring -2000), and John Waite


Shay, I wanted to say thanks again & great job in the studio
sessions for the BFD XFL. You really did a top job covering
the various brush strokes, and a lot of composers have told
me they’ve been featured in many TV shows and movies! All
the best!

Steve Duda:
creator of the BFD Premium Drum Module, credits include:
Nine Inch Nails – Fragile – Percussion, Violin, Programming,
Choir, Chorus;
Pitchshifter – Deviant – Programming, Editing;
Pitchshifter – Bootlegged Distorted Remixed Uploaded – Producer;
Rob Zombie – American Made Music to Strip By – Remix;
Methods of Mayhem – Methods of Mayhem – Programming; A Perfect
Circle – Thirteenth Step – Digital Engineer


tried some other online drummers, you are by far the best.

Luke, Germany


process is great. The three takes is a perfect way to make
sure it works. Your tracks sound great. I was very happy
with the process.
You and Thai Long were awesome. Your professionalism and enthusiasm,
not to mention skill at your craft made this perfect.

Craig Campbell, Detroit, USA


was totally blown away by the quality of the recording. By
comparison with other drum recordings I have heard (some
of them by other online drum recording services), your unprocessed
tracks are close to the processed tracks I have heard!
Your drumming during the chorus clearly sets it aside in terms
of energy from the verse parts, something that I find important.
Your playing supports the song and even inspires me with ideas
to improve it. Upright Bass, anyone?

Henrique Pataca, Portugal


just a quick email to let you know that I’m very happy with
the drums tracks! They’re well recorded and the performances
are great! A pleasure to mix! More to come for you soon.

Gyom, Alexandria, Virginia, USA


fills and some cool grooves dude! Exactly what I was looking
for!!! All three takes sound great. I think my favourite
is track 2 but I might incorporate some bits of the other
takes into it as well.

Ramon McDrury, Sydney, Australia


Shay, the takes are perfect, exactly what I was after and
played with real passion, thanks so much!

Owen Duff, London, UK


can’t decide which version I like best, all three are great.
I think take 3 is again most powerful, straight but still
sophisticated, which I like cause I really want powerful,
driving bass and drums carrying the song but played intelligent.

Luke, Germany


You nailed it! Great work. You were right. I have ‘inevitable
glee’. You played exactly what I imagined! I’m sure putting
together a mix with your drums will be easy, but you make
it hard to decide which takes I want to use…

I just wanted to thank you both for spending the extra time to
nail down these tracks. You really nailed these tracks and inspire
me with your playing. I’m really honored to have you guys work
on this stuff and grateful.

Timothy Gillespie, New Jersey, USA


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