Transient Processing With Compression Get your drums to really punch

OBJECTIVE: Accentuate the attack transients of drums to give them more presence in a mix, even if you don’t have a “transient designing” processor. BACKGROUND: Although many musicians know about adding a second, compressed drum track to an uncompressed drum part for a “beefier” sound, you can also use parallel compression to make a drum track more percussive—with louder, more prominent “cracks” at the attacks of drum sounds. Note that this Power App Alley isn’t associated with a particular host; just about any will work (the screen shots show Ableton Live 8), as this technique is more about the signal processors than the host.
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OBJECTIVE: Accentuate the attack transients of drums to give them more presence in a mix, even if you don’t have a “transient designing” processor.
BACKGROUND: Although many musicians know about adding a second, compressed drum track to an uncompressed drum part for a “beefier” sound, you can also use parallel compression to make a drum track more percussive—with louder, more prominent “cracks” at the attacks of drum sounds. Note that this Power App Alley isn’t associated with a particular host; just about any will work (the screen shots show Ableton Live 8), as this technique is more about the signal processors than the host.

STEPS

1. Clone the drum part so it exists in two tracks. Solo the cloned track, which will become the “transient processor” track.

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2. Add a compressor to the second track.

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3. Use the compressor’s attack time to let through transients while suppressing everything else. Typical settings: Attack = 150–200ms, Release 10ms, Threshold -50dB, Ratio 4:1, hard knee.

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4. Insert EQ after the compressor.

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5. If desired, boost the highs somewhat to emphasize the transient attack (be careful not to make the sound too bright). For example, add a fairly broad upper midrange boost; the screen shot shows a high frequency shelf [1] combined with a lowpass filter [2].

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6. Enable both tracks, and set the second track’s fader to minimum. Slowly bring up the second track’s level until you hear just the right amount of additional transients.

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TIPS

-In Step 3, if the compressor has a lookahead function, turn it off. You want the compressor to miss the transients.
-To hear the sound of acoustic drums with and without the transient processing track mixed in, go to www.eqmag.com.
-If your host doesn’t have good path delay compensation, insert the same effects in both tracks, but disable—not just bypass—the main track effects. For example, set the compressor threshold to 0 and ratio to 1:1; for EQ, set all boost/cut settings to flat. Having the same effects will (at least in theory!) cause the same amount of path delay.