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Mixing: How To Make Fatter Drums (5 Simple Tips)

How To Make Fatter Drums

Consistently making fatter drums is what many producers strive for.

The drums are the foundation of any great electronic music track.

If your drums sound thin and weak, there’s a very good chance that will spread throughout your entire mix.

And the last thing you want is a flat and thin mix!

>> Learn how to make professional drum beats.

Many times, the secret is to fatten up your drums – giving them more punch, power, and warmth.

In this article, you will get five valuable tips on how to make fatter drums – every time.

Just follow the tips closely, especially the first one. If you get it right, the rest will come naturally.

To start, let’s learn what makes a drum sound fat.

What Makes A Drum Sound Fat?

“Hey, those drums sound so fat!”

You’ve probably said it, or at least thought it...

But what does it mean?

When you hear the term ‘fat drums’, a few things probably come to mind.

Firstly, you’re probably picturing bass-dominated drums with lots of warmth and character.

Secondly, those drums are probably loud and in-your-face like a nice, warm whisper in the ears.

Thirdly, you’re probably picturing ‘big’ drums, with lots of ringing reverbs that sound like a giant drummer plays them hard in a large space.

Use these three factors for fatter drums:

  1. Warm
  2. Loud
  3. Big

The tips we’re about to share will all play into these three areas, which all work to make your drums sound bigger and fatter.

Are you ready? Let’s dive into the five tips on how to make fatter drums.

5 Tips For Fatter Drums

Now, when you know the three factors that make up fat drums, let's walk through five tips that will make all your drums sound fat.

Let's start with our first tip, perhaps one of the most important, using the right samples.

1. Use The Right Samples

How To Make Fatter Drums Use The Right Drum Samples Ableton Ben Böhmer Pack

Using bad or the wrong samples can cause your drums to sound flat and uninspiring. If you use samples and always feel like your drums are lacking life, there’s a very good chance your drum samples can be better.

If you want fat drums, use fat samples. Even though you can make flat samples sound better with equalization and effects, you’re usually wasting a lot of time trying to improve something that’s not right to start with.

Use professionally recorded samples that sound great without any effects. When you later start your mixing process, you take them from great to amazing.

2. Equalize Your Drums

How To Make Fatter Drums Equalize Your Drums Ableton EQ

Equalization is a critical part of what makes drums sound fat. For kick drums, it’s boosting the right low frequencies while removing mud. For snares, it’s also about boosting the lower frequencies – commonly in the lower midrange.

Which frequencies should you boost or cut?

Short answer is it depends. Not only on your drum sample or sound, but also for what characteristics you’re looking for when boosting.

Check out this article on kick drum mixing techniques.

There, you will find the different kick drum frequencies to look for.

The kick drum frequencies are:

  • 25-50 Hz: Ultra-Low Bass Rumble
  • 50-80 Hz: Clearer Bass Notes
  • 80-200 Hz: Punch
  • 200-500 Hz: Boxiness and Muddiness
  • 600 Hz-1,2 kHz: Knocking Click
  • 1,2 kHz-6kHz: High Click

If you want to EQ a fatter kick drum, you might want to remove some of the high-end click and muddiness in the midrange. Instead, focus on carefully boosting the ultra-low and clearer bass notes.

Remove the bad frequencies and increase the good. That will give you a solid drum foundation that you can boost for extra fatness.

Pro tip: take your bass and cut the kick drum frequencies you boosted, to give your kick room to breathe. Read this article for more tips on how to EQ kick and bass. Also, use sidechain.

3. Use Saturation

How To Make Fatter Drums Use Saturation Ableton

Saturation is a vital audio effect for fattening up your drums. It works by mildly clipping your sound, adding distortion and pleasant harmonics. Think of it as pushing a speaker a bit too hard.

When you use mild saturation on your kick, snare and even hi-hats, you fatten the sound up by adding more frequencies and boosting volume. The result is a louder, warmer, fatter, and more pleasant sound.

However, adding saturation is not always the right thing to do. If you feel that your drums get pushed too hard with saturation, you’re probably better off using an equalizer or other effect.

When making your drum sound fat, a little goes a long way. Try using a tiny bit on your drum bus or a few selected instruments. Use your ears and use saturation with care.

4. Limiter

How To Make Fatter Drums Use Limiter Ableton

A critical part of fat drums is loudness. Fat drums almost jump out of the speakers. And for times when you want to add a bit more volume, a limiter is a fantastic tool.

Like the saturation, a little limiting goes a long way. If you use too much, your sound will lose dynamics and sound squashed. But a little bit works to raise loudness and make your listeners perceive the drums as fatter.

The Ableton stock limiter is great. You can also use Ableton's Glue Compressor.

There’s even a coloring limiter within Live 11 that adds limiting and saturation from within one plugin — highly recommended.

5. Add Reverb

How To Make Fatter Drums Add Reverb Ableton

Fat drums are big drums. And when you want to go big,  adding depth with reverb is a great way to put your drums in a larger space.

If you’re using the right samples, have boosted the right frequencies, and have added saturation, a large room or plate reverb make your fat frequencies even bigger.

However, be careful with the lower frequencies. If you’re not careful, mud can quickly build up – especially in the lower frequency range. Therefore, never use reverb on frequencies under 100 Hz if you’re making bass music.

Instead, reverb the midrange and highs. And like with most audio effects, a little goes a long way (unless you’re creating something truly unique and massive.)

Summary

Making fatter drums is like baking a cake. And in that cake, great sounding drum sounds and samples is the flour and the eggs.

Producers often get the impression that everything is fixable with a bit of equalization or EQ.

While that’s true to some extent, it’s unnecessarily time consuming and doesn’t give you the result you’re looking for.

If you want to make fat drums, always look at your samples or sound selection first. Select great, fat sounds from the start and get easier mixing and incredible final results.

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Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.

Pelle Sundin
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.

 



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