Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

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Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by Lampmeister » Thu 19 Jul, 2007 8:49 pm

Hey people,

I recently read online someplace Mark P. saying where he got his drum hits from - some crazy vinyl diggers in the UK who can spot a hi-hat sample from 1000yards away and apparently supply hits to many of the US sample CD makers/compilers/sellers/producers.

Anyone know who these people are, whether they have a website, any contact details, etc....? It's just that 99% of the stuff Time & Space sell is crap and not what I'm looking for.

Much appreciated y'all!
"Music is continuous, only listening is intermittent." - John Cage.

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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by mark p » Fri 20 Jul, 2007 4:50 am

The guys i was refering to are Julian and Simon from the Creators, i started collecting drum breaks when i bought my first sampler back in 1990, the West country wasnt great for digging but you could find stuff, i used to make trips to Bristol aslo. Then everywhere i would go touring wise i would go digging, States was amazing, you could never get away with the extra baggage weights i was trying to get away with back then! Round about 1996/7 ish via a friend in Cornwall called Dj dren (Runs 33 Throwdown) i met The creators they had both been digging along time and were really deep into it, they turned me on to alot of records, i also in return turned them on to things like tape ekos and crusty old effects and managed to get them a Joe Meek compressor, (got paid in records). Guys like Julian go on digging trips across Europe and anywhere really trying to source fresh music to sample, as they also produce they have a great ear for a good sample or drum break. Julian would have crates full of drum breaks when i went there and i would just sit there for hours playing through stuff and then go home with no money in my account.
Its the whole hiphop digging ethic thing, striving for new fresh music to inspire you and give you music a stand out factor. A lot of the producers i love are into digging, Danny breaks for example, with his Drum and bass, as he was digging for records he was finding fresh drums and diff samples and vibes to incoprorate in to his music which led him to start to try and re - create the sci fi that he was buying on vinyl, which was the same thing i was doing buying old synths and tape ekos ect. Most hiphop producers dig all the time.
There are lots of dealers selling samples on the web with clips, there are also people selling drum breaks that have clips.
I basically use a fresh drum beat everytime i use a track, the trick to making them sound good is a whole other mission.
Heres some basic tips -
Buy a good record deck and phono stage - Make sure you have a stylus that you use for just sampling.
Sample at high sample rates - unless you want it to sound old school 12bit or whatever - But you can still do that afterwards.
Emu sp12 or mpc 60s or the later ones are great for punchyness and timing.
Layering kiks and snares and hihats and percussion - Ie if the kik you have sampled is punchy but has no weight layer a kik that has weight or a 808 or a 50hz tone. If a snare has snap but no warmth layer a warmer snare and eq out the highs on it ect ect.
Get a good compressor.
Use reverbs sometimes diff lengths and diff verbs for hihat snare and kik. The can be length is really important and also the length of the snare/kik/hat is really important. Use adsr's tp shape or a really good gate.
Parellel compression or effects. Send the snare to a bus and compress the f%ck out of it and mix it in, or distort it and mix that in or bit crush it and mix that in ect ect.
Dont just eq frequency's into drums try taking frequency's out.

This Julians online shop -

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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by Lampmeister » Fri 20 Jul, 2007 2:40 pm

That is absolutely brilliant of you Mark, you are a gent and a scholar. If you're ever in or around Chippenham (god help you) then feel free to drop into my little studio for a cuppa. If you feel like leaving the odd Odyssey or EMS Synthi around I'll try not to complain...

I'm currently making my Beats in Reason 3 (surprisingly good when connected up properly), Live 6 and a Yamaha A5000 but if Dave B could find me an MPC60 for £50.....(!!!!!)

Anyway, I've been collecting together some production tips from various places as part of my ongoing reserach, so if anyone is interested I've pasted them below. They're of varying quality so don't shoot the messenger boy. :-)

One final question (for now), I've been experimenting a lot with sidechain compression lately, it's dead easy to set up in Reason and I have 6 channels of outboard s'chainable comps. Do you use sidechain compression much - either eq'ing the s'chain inputs or for ducking - and in what circumstances do you tend to use this?

Enough geekiness for one day, regards from the semi-sub-aqua south-west.

David K.
I assume that we all know that the range of what most humans can hear runs from 20 hz to 20khz, so from 20 to 20,000 frequencies per second is all the human ear can deal with.

Those lower frequencies around 20 to hmmm about 100 maybe 200 are felt, just as much as they are heard. Ever wonder why that is so? Why does your shirt and chest rattle in the night club when the bass and kick are pounding away? Those low frequecies are full of energy, and that energy can actually attempt to move what it is trying to go through.

Sound is energy, plain and simple, just like a vehicle driving down the road at 60 mph, put an object in front of it, and both sound and the vehicle are going to attempt to plow through it. The lighter the vehicle and the higher the frequency, the less energy either have when impacting the wall, therefore the less ability they will have to move what they are hitting. Some are so lightweight they just bounce right back the other direction until they hit something the in the other direction.

So, this means the low frequencies are full of energy and the higher ones are just a bunch of lightwieghts bouncing all over the place. Now take this one step further.

Let's say you made a track with a thunderous bass, man it just vibrates the crap out of your shirt and is cool as hell, but then you have the amp from hell to drive that track. Next thing you do is burn the CD and run out to your car, but it sounds like crap. My god how can this be? You just created the next million seller and your car stereo is ruining it.

Well in your studio at 100 watts there is plenty of energy for all of your little freq buddies to play and be happy, but pop it into the car stereo with maybe 20 watts and there just isnt enough juice to go around. Somebody is not going to be heard. So the big energy robbing heavy hitters get their way and the little bounce off the wall wimps get left in the dust. It is only going to sound like one big bass/mudd line.

Ok so now we know that the lower freq's need to be restrained just a little, so we put some roll off below 50. (Side note, personal choice on where to roll it off) Now that lets the weaklings play along side the heavy hitters down at the bottom, but wait, it still sounds like mud. Damn it, what is going wrong here.

Now we have to think about other things and this is where it can get even more complicated. Let's say for arguments sake that you have 10 instruments playing in your track. Every instrument is going to have, what I like to think of as, its dominant frequecncy range. And some of this I am going "off the cuff" because I can never remember the ranges of all of these instruments, so I always go back and check my notes.

Bass and kick are going to be in that low high energy group from 20 to about 200, but then they are going to have harmonics that reach out beyond that, maybe even up into the 4000 freqs or more.

Keyboards are going to be in that 400 up to 3000 with harmonics beyond that.

Snares ride in the 400-1000 depending on tuning with harmonics

Vocals same thing and on and on.

Now you can see that things start to build up in the middle, somewhere between 400 to 8000 and all the stuff beyond are generally the harmonics all of these intruments produce.

It is in that 400 to 8000 range that you have to carve out little nitches for all of those instruments that sit there. If they all try to occupy the same place at the same time, then someone is going to lose and it all sounds like a muddy mess.

If you didn't capture the perfect sound that sits just right, EQ becomes your trusty fix. This is your swiss knife to carve up that precious little space of frequency spectrum and hand it out to each instrument. With EQ you are giving each instrument, the boundaries where it is allowed to play and be heard. No more, no less.

So exlcuding the kick and bass which you held back at below 50 hz you have, not including the snare, toms and cymbals, about 5 instruments that you really need to deal with. Those 5 have to be carved up into frequency nitches to allow them to be heard.

This doesnt mean that you take instrument 1 and roll it off at 300 and 600 and instrument 2 at 600 and 1000 etc. If you did that it would sound like a bad AM radio. It means you use cuts and boosts to give each one its prominent space. What one gets the other doesn't and vice versa and in the end you have 10 instruments all happily being heard.

I hope others jump in and offer some opinions. And I hope the newcomers understand that using EQ is not something you use, "just because", but a tool to carve out niches for all of your instruments to sit inside the limited frequency spectrum of 20 hz to 20 khz. Of course panning, volume and reverb can even play into this, but for now we are only thinking about frequencies.

To understand EQ and its intricacies you need hands-on experience, but to help you get started, here's a table of general uses and the different ranges that EQ can affect. As every sound is different, though, these are necessarily very general guidelines...

Kick Drum

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Try a small boost around 5-7kHz to add some high end.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom to the sound
100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness Area
5-8kHz ~ Adds high end prescence
8-12kHz ~ Adds Hiss


Try a small boost around 60-120Hz if the sound is a little too wimpy. Try boosting around 6kHz for that 'snappy' sound.

100-250Hz ~ Fills out the sound
6-8kHz ~ Adds prescence

Hi hats or cymbals

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. To add some brightness try a small boost around 3kHz.

250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness


Try boosting around 60Hz to add more body. Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz.If more presence is needed, boost around 6kHz.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom end
100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness Area
800-1kHz ~ Adds beef to small speakers
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8kHz ~ Adds high-end presence
8-12kHz ~ Adds hiss


This is a difficult one, as it depends on the mic used to record the vocal. However...Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the mic and song.Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

100-250Hz ~ Adds 'up-frontness'
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8kHz ~ Adds sibilance and clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness


Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom
100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250-1kHz ~ Muddiness area
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8Khz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds hiss

Electric guitars

Again this depends on the mix and the recording. Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the song and sound. Try boosting around 3kHz to add some edge to the sound, or cut to add some transparency. Try boosting around 6kHz to add presence. Try boosting around 10kHz to add brightness.

100-250Hz ~ Adds body
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6Khz ~ Cuts through the mix
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8=12kHz ~ Adds hiss

Acoustic guitar

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off between 100-300Hz. Apply small amounts of cut around 1-3kHz to push the image higher. Apply small amounts of boost around 5kHz to add some presence.

100-250Hz ~ Adds body
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness


These depend entirely on the mix and the sound used.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom end
100-250Hz ~ Adds body
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6hHz ~ Sounds crunchy
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness



1. Increase to add more fullness to lowest frequency instruments like foot, toms, and the bass.
2. Reduce to decrease the "boom" of the bass and will increase overtones and the recognition of bass line in the mix. This is most often used on bass lines in Rap and R&B.


Increase to add a harder bass sound to lowest frequency instruments.
Increase to add fullness to guitars, snare.
Increase to add warmth to piano and horns.
Reduce to remove boom on guitars & increase clarity.


1. Increase to add fullness to vocals.
2. Increase to add fullness to snare and guitar (harder sound).
3. Reduce to decrease muddiness of vocals or mid-range instruments.
4. Reduce to decrease gong sound of cymbals.


1. Increase to add clarity to bass lines especially when speakers are at low volume.
2. Reduce to decrease "cardboard" sound of lower drums (foot and toms).
3. Reduce to decrease ambiance on cymbals.


1. Increase for clarity and "punch" of bass.
2. Reduce to remove "cheap" sound of guitars


1. Increase for "clarity" and "pluck" of bass.
2. Reduce to remove dullness of guitars.


1. Increase for more "pluck" of bass.
2. Increase for more attack of electric / acoustic guitar.
3. Increase for more attack on low piano parts.
4. Increase for more clarity / hardness on voice.
5. Reduce to increase breathy, soft sound on background vocals.
6. Reduce to disguise out-of-tune vocals / guitars


1. Increase for vocal presence.
2. Increase low frequency drum attack (foot/toms).
3. Increase for more "finger sound" on bass.
4. Increase attack of piano, acoustic guitar and brightness on guitars.
5. Reduce to make background parts more distant.
6. Reduce to soften "thin" guitar.


1. Increase to add attack on low frequency drums (more metallic sound).
2. Increase to add attack to percussion instruments.
3. Increase on dull singer.
4. Increase for more "finger sound" on acoustic bass.
5. Reduce to decrease "s" sound on singers.
6. Increase to add sharpness to synthesizers, rock guitars, acoustic guitar and piano.


1. Increase to brighten vocals.
2. Increase for "light brightness" in acoustic guitar and piano.
3. Increase for hardness on cymbals.
4. Reduce to decrease "s" sound on singers.


1. Increase to brighten vocals (breath sound).
2. Increase to brighten cymbals, string instruments and flutes.
3. Increase to make sampled synthesizer sound more real.

Low Bass: anything less than 50Hz

This range is often known as the sub bass and is most commonly taken up by the lowest part of the kick drum and bass guitar, although at these frequencies it's almost impossible to determine any pitch. Sub bass is one of the reasons why 12" vinyl became available: low frequencies require wider grooves than high frequencies - without rolling off everything below 50Hz you couldn't fit a full track onto a 7" vinyl record. However we do NOT recommend applying any form of boost around this area without the use of very high quality studio monitors (not home monitors - there is a vast difference between home nearfield and studio farfield monitors costing anywhere between £5,000 and £20,000). Boosting blindly in this area without a valid reference point can and will permanently damage most speakers, even PA systems. You have been warned!

Bass: 50-250Hz

This is the range you're adjusting when applying the bass boost on most home stereos, although most bass signals in modern music tracks lie around the 90-200Hz area with a small boost in the upper ranges to add some presence or clarity.

Muddiness/irritational area: 200-800Hz

The main culprit area for muddy sounding mixes, hence the term 'irritational area'. Most frequencies around here can cause psycho-acoustic problems: if too many sounds in a mix are dominating this area, a track can quickly become annoying, resulting in a rush to finish mixing it as you get bored or irritated by the sound of it.

Mid-range: 800-6kHz

Human hearing is extremely sensitive at these frequencies, and even a minute boost around here will result in a huge change in the sound - almost the same as if you boosted around 10db at any other range. This is because our voices are centred in this area, so it's the frequency range we hear more than any other. Most telephones work at 3kHz, because at this frequency speech is most intelligible. This frequency also covers TV stations, radio, and electric power tools. If you have to apply any boosting in this area, be very cautious, especially on vocals. We're particularly sensitive to how the human voice sounds and its frequency coverage.

High Range: 6-8kHz

This is the range you adjust when applying the treble boost on your home stereo. This area is slightly boosted to make sounds artificially brighter (although this artificial boost is what we now call 'lifelike') when mastering a track before burning it to CD.

Hi-High Range: 8-20kHz

This area is taken up by the higher frequencies of cymbals and hi-hats, but boosting around this range, particularly around 12kHz can make a recording sound more high quality than it actually is, and it's a technique commonly used by the recording industry to fool people into thinking that certain CDs are more hi-fidelity than they'd otherwise sound. However, boosting in this area also requires a lot of care - it can easily pronounce any background hiss, and using too much will result in a mix becoming irritating.

Okay when thinking about mixing and EQ never lose sight of the purpose--which is to create an intelligible mix with clarity and power. Myself I have an approach that may be a little bit more radical but has served me fairly well.

First off I'm a big believer in using shelf filters to nip and tuck sounds. I use a LOT of high pass filtering to roll off bass frequencies on almost every instrument. For all practical purposes I filter everything in some way or another.

I usually run a high pass filter to eliminate anything below 100hz on guitar, snare, toms and so forth. For cymbals I usually start the cutoff around 500hz. Vocals about 150hz or so. The reason I do this is I only want the bass and kick drum occupying the space below 100hz to allow for a powerful, yet uncluttered, low end.

Suprisingly this technique works really good for getting that low end down. When I am done with a mix I usually run another highpass filter over the whole mix around 55-60hz to eliminate a lot of frequencies that you can't really hear or feel--and aren't reproduced on most stereo systems. This low end mush can really sap a power amp and speaker of its ability to pump. Once cleaned up it is amazing how punchy your tracks will be, without any apparent loss of low end.

I do a similar thing with a low pass filter on most of the instruments as well to eliminate any extraneous high frequences. I usually start rolling off guitar around 8khz gently, the kick drum around 6khz, toms around 10khz and snare around 12khz. The only things I want to inhabit the area above 10khz are cymbals, high hats--and most importantly--the "air" of the vocals.

It is amazing how much vocals can cut thru a mix and still keeping a high sheen on the overall mix using this method. Your seperation is often enhanced as well. And you don't have to resort to awful harmonic exciters like BBE and Aphex... which are usually poorly used and can sound very sour to me.

After I have filtered my frequencies I actually begin to EQ things. Now I have a few rules of my own when it comes to using EQ that keep things under control. Once again, these are just guideline rules that I occasionally break but I have found that they are applicable for me 90% of the time:

1.) Always use a parametric EQ. Graphic EQ's are for wusses.

2.) When boosting Q must be wider (less than) than 2.

3.) When cutting Q should be narrow--from 1.5 or greater.

4.) No cut or boost may be greater than 6db +/- in any case (occasionally broken for cutting).

5.) 75% of my boosts are less than 2 db. 90% are less than 4 db of boost.

6.) Never cut more than 8db of anything unless notching out specific small frequencies.

7.) It is okay to occaionally "pile on" a wide Q boost or cut with another narrower boost/cut if you need a radical increase in that particular frequency (this makes it sound more natural and less like a resonant peak).

Okay, when I am using EQ--which I admit I do a lot of *subtle* EQing--I always aim at doing one of two things:

1.) Remove the 'bad' qualities of the sound such as rattles, hums, hiss, muddy frequency areas and so on.

2.) If there are no bad qualities that need to go, then accentuate the positive elements.

After I have taken care of those problems I then move on to actually mixing the instruments together. I always ask myself "where does this particular track live?" and aim towards cutting other tracks that intrude on that area by a few db's. The idea is to cut away parts of interfering signals to allow certain instruments to shine in particular bandwidths. This is my general schema (these are relative and only guidelines--individual mixes/use may vary):

80hz - rumble of the bass
100hz - thump of the kick
200hz - bottom of the guitar
250hz - warmth of the vocal
350hz - bang of the snare
400hz - body of the bass
500hz - clang of the high hat
600hz - clang of the cymbals
800hz - ping of ride cymbal
1000hz - meat of the guitar
1200hz - body of the snare
1400hz - meat of the vocal
1600hz - snap of the kick/plectrum on guitar (attack)
2500hz - wires and snap of snare
3000hz - presence of the vocal
4000hz - ring of ride cymbal/top end of bass guitar
6000hz - sizzle of the high hat
7000hz - sizzle of the cymbals
8000hz - top end of the kick
9000hz - brightness on snare and cymbals
10000hz - brightness on vocal
12000hz - air on vocal
14000hz - air on cymbals

Generally I want each listed element to be the "star" of that particular frequency range--anything that is near that range that is stealing the thunder of the instrument gets a gentle 1-3db cut across a fairly wide bandwidth. For example, almost universally you have to cut guitar at 3khz to make room for the vocal--especially at high gain settings with tons of harmonics. Lower the guitar a bit in that region and POP... the vocals come out.

I realize my method is a LONG one that takes some time, but results in superior mixes for me. I like to feel that the entire frequency spectrum is represented by something unique in each area to allow the full instrumentation to shine through. I also make ample use of panning to get clarity and seperation and sometimes take that into consideration--especially when two elements are in the same frequency band. It is good to have one or both panned differently from one another. A perfect example is the ride cymbal and top end of the bass: the bass will be coming at you down the center and the ride cymbal should be off a ways R or L--thus avoiding conflict.

Hopefully this helps. I didn't give away too many of my good secrets.

I think these EQ charts will be really helpful to the beginners, and even good for cats futher down the line.

I think one thing I didn't see was HOW to start putting this EQ on, and I wanted to chat about that.

Feel free to disagree, but I think a great technique is really learning about Q, and jacking notches to ID spots for EQ pushes. In my experience, if you are using a chart like this, or even better your EARS, using notches is the hot ****.

Say you are ****ing with a snare sound. Jack a tight Q in that area around 120-200 to find where you gotta add to hear some balls on it - TURN THE NOTCH UP ALL THE WAY AT FIRST TO ID AREA. Even a total beginner will hear certain spots where the sound sounds better, then pull back the level to where it blends naturally.

You can use the same techinque on the "REDUCTIONS". TURN UP THE NOTCHS ALL THE WAY at first to ID where it sounds like **** the most. **** these charts on some things, every sound is different. And as these are very good charts to get started, the best **** is to use your ears and good monitors to add to what sounds good, and pulls back what tastes like ****.

Generally, remember the GIGO rule. Garbage in, Garbage out. If you start with really crappy sounds, crappy vocalists, crappy bass sounds, bad A/Ds, etc, etc you'll generally end up with crap at the end of the day. A good engineer or good home studio ***** even can make a bad record sound a little better, but in the end starting with good **** generally is what makes something really hot.

I just wanted to add some more to this, because there is another factor involved with this when you're mixing/eq-ing, and thats compression.

When mixing you're typically going to have quite a few compressors running (i.e. for drums, bass, vox) maybe on every track, plus many people will have a limiter running on the output of the main stereo bus.

All of this can add alot of complexity to eq-ing, because by boosting certain frequencies alot you can end up reducing the percieved volume of a track all together because the compressors will be interacting with your EQ settings.

A good example is with a bass drum. If you have some compression on the bass drum track and then you start boosting 90Hz, you may begin to find that the sound seems quieter or less "full" because you have boosted the transient peak of the sound and the compressor is now working harder.

Of course, it all depends upon the type of sound you are working with.

One guideline I would like to offer, is that it is better to remove unwanted frequencies with EQ and then raise the overall level of the track rather than just boost the frequencies you want. Doing this will reduce the problems you get when EQ interacts with compression. It will also give you more control over the sound and make your mixes clearer and less muddy.

If you are trying to get distinct sounds from the kick and bass then play around and try cutting one in a narrow freq at the lower end while slightly boosting the other in that same range. If the kick is a real sample then the beater will come out at a higher freq. Try sweeping above 1000 to find the sweet spot.

It is hard to give specifics because of the tuning that the kick might be centered around. Just play with it.

The last resort might be a little panning off the center, one to the left with the other to the right, but then if this is going to end up on a mono system then that is a little useless.

Someone mentioned compression, a little trick, but one that is hard with a lot of software based recording software is using sidechain. By doing that the bass or kick drives the compressor and thus lowers the apparent level of the other. There are ways to use sidechain in software based programs, but it is difficult to explain since every program handles it differently.

Most of us have been familiar with EQs since long before we ever started recording audio in our home studios. The presence of EQs on home and car stereos has made it seem like we have a grasp on what they do and how to use them to improve the sound of our recordings. However, applying EQ appropriately to a stereo mix and using EQ to add definition and clarity in a multitrack recording are indeed, two different things entirely. In order to achieve the latter, you must gain a working knowledge of EQ Theory.

How many times have you mixed your latest number one hit only to find that the vocals seem buried in the mix? To bring them out more, you just need to turn them up a little, right? Well, not necessarily. In fact, doing this most often just places that vocal "on top” of your mix. The result sounds like two completely separate recording playing at the same time; one of the band, and one of the vocals. How do you get the vocals to sit "in” the mix without fighting with other tracks? How do you get that bass guitar to still be nice and bottom heavy and still hear the kick drum punching through? How do you make that sax solo pop out front without piercing your ear drums? You guessed it. EQ.

Proper use of compression, panning and levels all contribute to this goal as well, but EQ will provide much of the groundwork for what we’re trying to achieve.

EQ Theory

First, it's important to understand that your mix (or any recorded sound) is nothing more than a bunch of frequencies that hit various amplitudes over the course of a timeline. The human ear is capable of hearing frequencies in the range from about 20Hz up to about 20,000Hz (20k). Everything audible in a recording falls somewhere in this range or thereabouts and a given instrument (or any other sound) will occupy certain frequencies more dominantly than others. For example, a hi-hat cymbal would have significant amplitude (volume) between around 3k to 5k and would have virtually no amplitude at 30Hz. Likewise, a bass guitar will have a lot of amplitude around 80Hz and next to none at 10k. So, if you apply this theory across all of the tracks in your mix, you can imagine how each track (instrument, voice) will primarily occupy a certain range of frequencies. Most any track will have a dominant frequency range that constitutes the "meat" of the sound. They will also occupy other frequencies in less significant amplitudes that make up some of the characteristics of the sound. For example, the "boom" of a kick drum might be around 60Hz while the "attack" might be around 2k. So, when you mix, you're not just mixing several instruments together. Your mixing the frequency ranges of multiple sound sources. Many of these sound sources will occupy overlapping frequency ranges. If two sounds are trying to occupy the same frequency at similar amplitudes, they will fight with each other creating a muddy sound and losing definition from both sound sources.

Imagine you’re in line to get into a concert. There are ten lines all running side by side and at the front of each line is the ticket-taker and a turnstile. As long as everyone goes one at a time, the lines continue to move nicely. But what if the guy behind you tries to go through the turnstile at the same time as you? If you let him pass, no problem. But if you both try to push through the turnstile with the same strength at the same time, you both end up stuck in the turnstile, detained by security and missing the opening song of the show! This is not unlike what happens in your mix when two sounds (tracks) are competing for the same frequencies. They jumble themselves together and you never hear either of them clearly. Think of your mix as 180,000 lines (20Hz to 20Khz) to get into your ears.

Notching Out

Now that you have a basic understanding of EQ Theory, let’s look at how you make sure everyone is waiting for their turn in the lines; Notching Out. Let’s just jump right in to an example. My voice usually sits "primarily” around 2.1k to 2.5k. If I also have a guitar track that includes the same range, the two tracks will step on each other. The vocal doesn’t get a chance to shine through on it’s own because that guitar track is trying to force his way through the line at the same time with the same force.

This graph maps the average amplitude and frequencies of two tracks in a mix. Notice the similar amplitudes in the frequencies from around 2K to 2.5K. Which track gets heard here? This struggle causes muddiness in the mix.

To fix this, some might just turn up the vocal track. But, as I stated earlier, this won't really fix it. What will happen is that the vocal will sit "on top" of the guitar. That's not what we want. We want the vocal sit along side of the guitar. So, we notch out the guitar track for the vocals. By applying an EQ to the guitar track and reducing the volume of the frequencies in that 2.1k to 2.5k range, the vocal ends up louder than the guitar ONLY in that range. The other frequencies that the guitar occupies are left alone. So now, the guitar track and the vocal track can stay at fairly even volumes to one another without losing clarity in the vocals. Make sense?

Now, the guitar track has been "notched out" between around 2K to 2.K. This creates an opening that the vocal can sit in allowing both tracks to co-exist without fighting each other.

You can apply this concept throughout your mix to help create better definition between tracks and to allow every track to have its own place in the mix. As another example, I always roll off everything below about 80Hz on a guitar track and just let the bass fill that void. When I listen to the that guitar track by itself, it might sound a little thin, but when the bass is playing along with it, the two sit along side of each other allowing both to be heard clearly. As you apply this approach across your mix, you will begin to see how it can clean everything up by reducing the amount of overlapping frequencies from track to track.

In this mix, the guitar track has been notched out for the vocals and rolled off for the bass. The bass has been notched out for the kick drum. As a result, all four tracks have their own place in the mix and no tracks are fighting each other in the upper amplitudes.

Cutting the Notch

So, exactly how do you do this? Well, some basic understanding of how EQs work is imperative. There are a few good articles in the Recording Tips section on that, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I'll give you the basics. All you really need to do is apply an EQ to the track you wish to notch out. If the track already has an EQ on it, then you're one step ahead of the game. Select a band that is near the range you wish to notch out. Pull the gain for that band down 3 - 4 db. Set the Q or bandwidth to be around 1 octave. Different EQs use different values for this, but basically, you only want the Q about as wide as the range you wish to notch out. Then you just sweep the frequency of the band around the range you're looking to notch out until you hear that you've hit the pocket.

In this example, a paragraphic EQ is used to notch out a tight hole at 750hz and to roll off everything above 12Khz.

This can take a little ear training to recognize the difference since it can be fairly subtle. But once you find it, you should be able to hear a noticeable improvement in the clarity and definition of the track you're notching out for (this would be the vocal track in the example above).

Use Your Ears

After all, we’re working with audio here! I’m making mention of this seemingly obvious point because with the plethora of software based EQs and visual displays, it’s easy to begin "looking" at your mix instead of listening to it. Use the visual references to better understand what your doing, but listen carefully to the way you’re effecting the sound. Notching out the wrong frequencies will not only fail to accomplish our goal of creating more definition between tracks, but will also rob the track of frequencies that may be important to the character of the sound.


Ok, I’m going to shut up now and let you get back to mixing. I’m confident that once you start using these concepts and techniques in your mixes, you will notice a dramatic improvement in the sound. Your recordings will begin to "open up" and individual tracks will start to reveal themselves more clearly. Subtleties that were once buried under other tracks will come through and add character and your vocals and instrument solos will sit right "in" the mix and no longer sound "pasted on." So, listen carefully to your mix and then get in there and demand that all of those frequencies wait for their turn in line.
A very useful frequency chart can be found here:-
"Music is continuous, only listening is intermittent." - John Cage.

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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by chuckcogan » Fri 20 Jul, 2007 2:56 pm

yikes lampmeister......that was a LONG list
will read it...but not now heheh :D
peace & respect
// chuck cogan

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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by Lampmeister » Fri 20 Jul, 2007 5:47 pm

Yeah, sorry, should have warned y'all. Didn't realise how much info I'd cut 'n' pasted into my 'production techniques folder' over the last few months. Oops!

"Music is continuous, only listening is intermittent." - John Cage.

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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by mark p » Tue 31 Jul, 2007 12:24 pm

Cheers for the eq post, always good to do some homework

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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by Lampmeister » Wed 01 Aug, 2007 3:23 pm

Pleasure Sir.
"Music is continuous, only listening is intermittent." - John Cage.
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Re: Question for Mark P. - Sourcing drum hits

Post by » Fri 21 Sep, 2007 6:55 pm

'Tis threads such as this one which make me realise I'm forever destined to be someone who's glad to enjoy technology without feeling the need, or having the ability, to know how it works....
Once i master changing a plug and work out how to set the timer on the boiler, i shall indeed have conquered the technological kingdom...
and i shall also be able to make a toasted sandwich and have a warm bath.

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