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Updated by Frontrunner Magazine on Jan 02, 2018
Headline for 5 Tricks to Blending Acoustic Drums with Electronic Drums
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5 Tricks to Blending Acoustic Drums with Electronic Drums

In music today, genres are no longer clearly defined. Maybe it's because the Internet has helped expose us to a wider variety of music, or because technology has empowered us to experiment with production techniques never before possible. As more and more musical boundaries are broken down, one of the most interesting trends has been the blending of acoustic and electronic drums. When done right, artists can get the best of both worlds: the live excitement of acoustic drums plus the textured fullness of electronic drums.

As you hone your craft on your way to becoming the next Radiohead, here are five tips to keep in mind when it comes to combining your acoustic and electronic drums.

1

Choose the right samples

Choose the right samples

One of the most important steps in producing a quality track that includes electronic drums is to make sure you're getting the right sound for the song you're trying to make. It's easy to throw on a preset and start drumming — and that may be a handy way to sketch out your idea quickly — but when it comes time to mix your song and bring out the details in each part, you'll need your electronic drums to sound unique and accurately reflect the vibe you're trying to create. Spend some time previewing a wide variety of samples for each electronic drum element before you commit to mixing down your track as a whole.

2

Give your acoustic drums character with EQ.

Give your acoustic drums character with EQ.

Generally speaking, electronic drums don't blend very well with dry, unprocessed acoustic drums — one sounds futuristic, the other reminds us of sitting in a coffee shop. As you work to give your song a cohesive sound, don't be afraid to try dramatic EQ adjustments on your acoustic drum track, cutting or boosting the low or high frequencies to see how it affects your song's overall sound. You might find that your acoustic drums benefit from a high- or low-pass filter to fit the context of your song, even if it changes the essence of the original recording.

3

Experiment with Compression and Gating

Experiment with Compression and Gating

Your overarching goal when blending acoustic and electronic drums is to make sure you create enough space and clarity in your mix to let each part shine. That's where compression and gating come in: Compression and gating are useful for creating fullness and space, respectively. For example, adding a gate on your acoustic drum track can help limit noise from toms and cymbals ringing out, whereas a compressor on electronic drums can add punch and focus in a mix. Try using side-chain compression with similar elements, like the acoustic and electronic kick drums, to minimize overlap between the two.

4

Balance the Stereo Field

Balance the Stereo Field

As you look for ways to create space in your mix, be conscious about how you pan every single drum element. You might lay a foundation with your acoustic drums — creating a nice stereo balance with your kick centered, your cymbals and toms panned according to your drum kit — then place your electronic elements in unoccupied areas of the stereo field. There are no hard and fast rules for panning, but it helps to start with the core components of your song — your main kick, snare, and hi hat line — and spread outward in the stereo field as you add more layers.

5

Fine-tune Each Drum Track Solo.

Fine-tune Each Drum Track Solo.

Sometimes acoustic and electronic drums tracks work so well together that they mask each other's individual imperfections. Remember to take a moment to solo each of your drum tracks and listen closely for minor details: maybe the electronic kick sample needs a softer attack, or the cymbal track needs EQ to remove an undesirable buzz at a specific frequency. By cleaning up the little things as you go, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches when it comes time to compress, boost, and blend all of your tracks in the mixing and mastering phases.