Hey everyone. This is Part II of my EZDrummer/Reaper guide. In the first part, I showed you how to set up EZdrummer and Reaper so you could edit the drums and get a better sound. In this section, I'll show you all the techniques I use to get a better drum sound. In all of my editing and processing, I only ever use these techniques.
Step 1: Routing.
Routing, like I touched on in Pt I, is how you tell what audio to go where. Routing is very convenient and it can make mixing and processing VERY easy and hands on. A very easy and simple use of routing is to make a Folder, and route all the tracks to go to the folder only, and not the master track. This way, you can bring the entire drum section up at the same time without having to individually boost each track. Here's how you do it: First, go into the Routing Matrix, located on the bottom of the Reaper screen.
You can pretty easily send audio from one track to another with this tool. What we want to do now is take our drum tracks, and route them to the Drum folder, and NOT to the Master Bus. This way we get complete control over the drum sound through the drum folder, and nothing gets through to the master bus. To do that, click on stuff until it looks like this:
Step 2: EQ
This is perhaps the easiest to to learn, and the most difficult to master. This is where you will train your ear, and this is where you will get endlessly frustrated. Here's the built in EQ in Reaper. I like it a lot.
That's a general EQ curve for a kick drum I might use. Boost at 60Hz, cut at 400Hz, boost at 3KHz, and boost at 10KHz.
Some other general EQ suggestions:
Snare- High pass at 100Hz ( gets rid of any mud ), boost at 250Hz ( adds body, punch ), cut at 800Hz ( gets out of the way of the guitar ), boost at 3KHz ( adds attack ), boost at 8-15KHz ( adds life, air )
Toms- Same as bass drum, but boost at 110Hz instead of 50, and highpass at 70Hz
Cymbals- Highpass at 500Hz
Step 3: Reverb
Since we killed all of the nice room sound we had to begin with, its time to add some reverb after the fact. A very good free plug in is Anwida Soft's DX Reverb Lite. Totally free and it sounds good. It doesn't have many features, but hey, can't complain for free, right?
You can add the Reverb plug in to each track individually. However, that can get cumbersome and annoying, as well as wasting valuable PC resources. What I do is set up a "Reverb" track. Add the track to the Drum folder, and set the routing up like so:
That's what I send to the reverb bus. You can only send snare if you want, or nothing at all. Or you can add the kick drum. It's your choice, do what sounds best to you.
Set up the reverb effect like this:
Mix needs to be 100%. You can set everything else however you want it. Now you can control the reverb level for all the drums with the handy "Reverb" track.
Step 4: Parallel Compression
This is a VERY powerful effect. This is where the HUGE attack comes from ( aside from great samples of course ). Parallel compression is where you have a dry track and a compressed track running side by side. Like reverb, you can set a compressor on each track and adjust the Wet/Dry in there, OR you can just create a compressor bus. Some people make a compressor bus for the entire drum set. I prefer to make a compressor bus for each individual drum groups. I NEVER EVER EVER EVER compress cymbals. I HATE how that sounds.
Here's how I set up a kick drum parallel compressor:
The routing is in place, sweet. Now I add the ReaComp effect.
ReaComp is a NICE compressor. I enjoy it quite a bit. Now, to get it set up, you'll want to put these settings in place:
Set the threshold to where you want it. The lower the threshold, the more exaggerated the effect will be. I set the ratio to 8:1, the attack slow, and the release fast. The fast attack allows only the attack to come through, and then the compressor kicks in and makes the rest of the hit quieter. This allows you to control how loud the initial attack is, while using the original tracks to control the actual body and sustain of the note.
This is what my parallel compressor track looks like while its running:
This is only for the kick track. I do a separate track for snare and toms as well. Another cool benefit of this, depending on how you set the release, is that this can be used to automatically back the kick drum out of the mix a little bit for extremely fast double bass, or quiet the snare drum for blast beats, making it sound a little more realistic.
Step 5: Sample Replacement
Sample replacement is great. Unfortunately, EZdrummer doesn't provide a ton samples for you to use. If you want a sound that isn't available with the stock sounds, well, you're out of luck... unless you have a sample replacement plug in. Luckily for us Reaper has a sample replacement plug in called "ReaSamplomatic5000". Cute name. But it works pretty well, for a free plug in.
First you set the routing up. You want to get the MIDI signal from the "MIDI Drums" plug in. And you want to send the audio to the Drums folder.
The important thing here is that the MIDI is sending.
Now we'll set up the effect.
In EZdrummer, the kick drum is note 35 and 36. So I set it up to read from notes 35 to 36. For snare, its 38. If you're programming the other drums I'm sure you know the MIDI number codes. I have the whole kit memorized.
A little trick with EZDrummer to get a more consistent kick sound is to set up two instances of the VSTi. Use one for the kick drum, and one for everything else. Turn humanizer off on the kick drum, but turn it on for everything else. It looks like this:
If you don't, the bass drum sounds like a tire or a spattering noise when you do anything decently fast on it.
Annnnnd that's my guide! Everything I do with drum processing involves one of these techniques.
For comparison, here is totally raw EZdrummer: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=442291&songID=6761111
And here is my processed version: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=442291&songID=6746055