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Before you start any mixing on your drums, check the phase!

May 3, 2012

For the home studio enthusiast like myself, the main bulk of our recording is done on USB/Firewire interfaces which typically have very limited options to shape the sound on the way in. I own two Firestudio Projects which are literally just eight mic pres built into a single rack space with gain pots for each channel. When recording a complex instrument such as drums, the necessity for a phase switch on our mic pres is gone, which means we can’t get the drums entirely in phase on the way in.

We might think that the drums sounded great during the recording session, and so we typically just get stuck in and add EQ, compression and reverb when we mix without first checking whether our drums are in phase or not. This is a crucial step so that right from the get-go we’re getting great sounds. In Pro Tools, a lot of plugins have a phase switch, in my case I used the “trim” plugin because it was the simplest.

Solo the drum track you’re checking whilst always having the overheads on, play the track and click the phase switch in and out. Decide which one has more low end and focus to the sound, then move on to the next drum. Continue this process until you have no more drums to check. For the tracks that didn’t need the phase reversed, take this plugin off the inserts as it’ll eat up CPU.

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