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Microphone Month 5

How to single out drums in a guitar, bass, and drum submix for clarity.

Q: Recently, I had to record a live band with three guitars, (two acoustic/electric, bass, drums and three vocalists. Due to the band’s physical location on stage and a limited number of inputs in the recording console, I had to submix drums, bass, and one electric guitar through a secondary console and send it in stereo to the recording console. Also, since the electric guitar had a solo to play, all of the instruments are panned close to center. The problem is that the drums are getting buried in mixdown. Is there some way to EQ or compress the submix to bring the sound of the drums forward?

A: Applying either EQ or compression won’t work. In fact, it would have the effect of burying the drums even further, since the bass and guitar would also be hyped or dulled concurrently with any boosts or cuts. Compression will raise overall instrument levels with the inevitable effect of reducing some of the drum’s transients, further clouding the issue as it were. The answer is the Sony Oxford Transient Modulator plug-in, which acts to dramatically accentuate or attenuate transients. If you don’t have the Trans Mod, you can download a demo from the Sony Oxford website. (Be warned, once you use it, you’ll have to own it.) The Transient Modulator can be used very effectively on either a full mix or a single instrument – and its affects on the dynamic profile of the sound are program-dependant. For example, some of the controls will not be immediately familiar, such as Deadband, Rise Time, Overshoot, and Recovery. Even the Ratio control doesn’t act as you would expect in a regular compressor. So, in order for this tech tip to have value, we’re going to break it up into a series. First we’ll start with the controls. Once you have an understanding of the controls, we’ll come back to the question above and discuss settings, so stay tuned!

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