The drum set is really composed of several different instruments, but when you combine them together and mix them as a group, you start to notice some interesting things.

As you try to EQ your kick, snare, and toms (or overheads) you will likely notice a fair amount of muddiness or a cardboard box type of sound. Depending on your room and the drums, this is most likely coming from the 400-700 Hz range.

Fortunately it’s pretty easy to clear up the overall drum sound and hear a little extra tone by simply applying a few basic filters.

There are two methods you can try when experimenting with this tip.

Method #1: EQ the drum mix group.

Most digital consoles and some analog consoles will allow you to create a sub-mix group with all the drum mic channels. (Note: this group bus needs to have an EQ option available for this tip to work.)

Once you have the drums mixed down to the sub group the way you like them, apply a parametric EQ filter with a Q of 3 and cut about -4 dB, then sweep around in the 400-700 Hz range until you hear the drums clear up in the mix or sound a little less boxy.

Apply additional filters as needed, but be careful when using too much EQ, since you are affecting the sound of the entire drum set with this method, not individual drums.

Method #2: EQ each drum mic channel.

Most analog live sound consoles will have a 3-band EQ with a sweepable mid-EQ knob (this is technically called a semi-parametric EQ). Digital consoles will likely have a full parametric EQ for each channel. Find this control for the first drum mic channel.

  1. Set the gain control for the mid filter between -3 and -6 dB and then sweep the frequency selection knob in the 400-700 Hz range.
  2. You should notice the individual drum channel clear up a little bit in the mix or you’ll hear some clearer tones from the drums.
  3. Repeat this procedure for each drum mic channel. You may find that different drums sound better with a cut around 350 Hz, others around 630 Hz, or others at 700 Hz.

The important thing here is not the exact frequency you end up at. That will vary depending on your drums, the room, and the overall mix.

The main concept is to experiment with taking out a portion of the mids in order to take out some boxiness and muddiness from the drums and make room for other instruments in the mix like guitars or piano.

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About the Author

James Wasem

James Wasem is the author of Great Church Sound: A Guide for the Volunteer. James has been designing, installing, and operating sound systems for 20+ years and he has a passion for helping church sound team volunteers deliver great sound.