Open the next exercise in Soundation, and you'll once again find three tracks from In Your Eyes.
The mixed-down drum kit played by Manú Katché, labeled ‘Kit.’
The “mix minus” track, which for this exercise is the full mix, minus the drums – everything but the kit, labeled ‘Mix-Kit.’
The ‘Mix’ - a final mix of the tune using the tracks available here. It places the drum kit at a level suitable for the tune, the genre, the radio, and a competitive shuffled playlist. Your mission: use the other tracks to match this reference mix.
We are again using just a carefully selected portion of the tune, one that represents the full variety of mix interactions: the first verse, pre-chorus, and chorus. We recommend again that you follow this approach to balancing the kit within the mix.
Balancing the Kit
Listen to the entire reference mix and acclimate yourself to the relative level of all of the tracks: vocal, kick, snare, bass, piano, guitar, and the rest. Focus in particular on how the kit sits in the mix with the rest of the band, spelling time, and grooving hard. Not too loud, not too soft. Again, that’s the trick! What counts as too loud, and what is too soft? The next steps bring some aural perspective to the challenge.
Mute the reference mix and pull up the other two tracks. Raise the ‘Mix-Kit’ track until the level in your monitors (loudspeakers or headphones) feels about the same as the reference mix was during Step One. Then raise the drum track, ‘Kit’ to taste. Find a level you like.
Keep wrestling with the ‘Kit’ level. You’ll find it helpful to push the level up until it is clear to you that it is too loud. Next, gradually back off until you know the level is too weak. Then repeat, pushing the fader up and pulling it back down to define the range of level that seems valid. Above your top fader level is definitely too hot. Below is too cold. But in between? What to do?
Mute the ‘Kit’ and ‘Mix-Kit’ tracks and unmute the ‘Mix’ track. Have a listen for the whole duration of the track with renewed focus on the level of Manu’s kit compared to the rest of the track.
Iterate back through Steps Three and Four, patiently and deliberately, and resist the urge to toggle quickly back and forth between the reference mix and yours. Your goal is to narrow that fader range between too loud and too soft and heighten your sensitivity to level. By doing this, you are learning to balance drums within a mix.
Module 5 Exercises
- Balance Exercise 1: Lead Vocals
- Balance Exercise 2: Drum Kit
- Balance Exercise 3: Bass
- Balance Exercise 4: Stems