Production Tips: Widen Your Drum Beats, Kicks & Snares.

What’s the difference between a solid drum beat, and a flimsy drum beat? Many times, the difference is the mix. A good drum mix requires an evenly balanced stereo field & soundstage. Many amateur productions have narrow, almost mono, drum mixes. These narrow drum mixes throw off a song’s overall balance where instrument tracks sound too wide in comparison. An effective way to remedy the problem is to apply a few widening tricks to the kick & snare mix:

1) Starting with the kick, create a stereo field by layering the main kick with an secondary background kick. The aim here is to create ambience with the newly added background kick. A surefire method for creating ambience is to route the background kick through a short room reverb (stereo). Below, in Ableton Live, the main kick is sequenced on channel 5, with the background kick on channel 4.

Also, you can route the background kick through a low pass filter which can remove unwanted highs created from the reverb, or - depending on the reverb - you can damp the high frequencies using the reverb settings. In the diagram below, in the settings for channel 4, a high cut filter has been enabled within the reverb to knock out the high frequencies. By triggering the ambient background kick in time with the main kick, you’re able to maintain the original timbre & feel while also widening the kick’s field & depth. Take care, when layering bass drum samples, not to cause frequency conflicts. If the layered kick is out of tune or out of phase with the main kick, you produce a beat that’s flat, or attenuated. You can receive invaluable advice on this avoiding those conflicts by subscribing to our free email tips.

2) When making a beat, keep in mind that your snare tracks can be widened by layering stereo claps & snaps on top of main snare hits. To avoid monotony in your beats, experiment with alternating 2 or more clap/snap combinations throughout the song. At left, you can see the beat uses a snare on track 3, layered with more treble percussion on track 2. Moreover, the sample on track 2 switches up on the second back beat.

3) Additionally, more stereo width can be obtained by layering two different groups of claps/snaps in time together while panning each group separately, hard left & hard right. If you look at the pan settings on track 2 and 3, you’ll see that they’re panned to opposite sides. You can use these tricks to produce beats with any DAW sequencer including FL Studio, Cubase, Nuendo or ACID.

Securing a solid kick & snare foundation from the very start of your beat production allows for more creative flexibility when mixing in hats, shakers, & cymbals later on. Getting into the habit of widening your kicks and snares will inspire you to experiment with the stereo field, creating a wider mix for the rest of your beat, and ultimately making your songs shine. - MB

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