Put On Your Hat
The next step is to add the hats. High frequency drum elements often sound a bit dull in isolation, but for the time being resist the urge to boost the top end. Instead, gently roll off the bottom end and slowly move the EQ frequency upwards. You may need to boost the level afterwards, but you’ll be brightening the sound overall and obeying the general EQ rule of cutting wherever possible rather than boosting.
Percussive tops loops can also benefit from a bit of topping and tailing, removing the lows and rounding off the highs. Again, resist the temptation to boost the top end of all your drum elements – you’re trying to create space within which all the elements can fit, and you still have the option of coming back later to add a subtle boost to each element, or to bus the drum parts together and apply a more subtle high-end boost to the whole sub-mix.
All Together Now
So, finally, let’s bring together all the EQd elements and see what the mix sounds like as a whole. Remember, we haven’t applied any additional reverb or compression as yet (we’ll be covering how those processes relate to mixdowns in future walkthroughs).
Here’s where we started, before any EQ processing:
And here’s how the mix sounds after we’ve applied our EQ:
It’s quite obvious that the application of EQ has increased overall clarity and made the entire mix more punchy. This should also make it easier to add additional parts and make better judgements about relative levels.
EQing in this way should be the first step of most mixdowns. Be careful not to take things too far (it’s all too easy to make your track sound sterile and over-processed if you go too far) but you’ll find that you can carve out a lot of space in your mix and clean things up dramatically using EQ alone.