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Get that popular "smashing the drum kit" sound for hot dance mixes with Propellerhead Reason


by Craig Anderton

Some dance music tracks feature a pumping, dynamic dance mix drum sound that almost sounds like the drums are breathing. This is the result of applying extreme amounts of compression to mixed drums, then triggering the compressor with an individual drum (typically snare) via sidechaining. The individual drum “smashes” the drum mix when it hits, but otherwise leaves the drum mix alone. It's a pretty cool effect, and this article tells you how to achieve it.

Here's an audio example; the first half bypasses the squashing effect, while the second half uses the squashing technique described in this article.


Reason Pumping Online Example.mp3 (377 KB)


Begin by setting up your basic signal path (Fig 1): Drums (e.g., ReDrums) stereo out > RV-7 Reverb in > RV-7 Reverb out > MClass Compressor in > MClass Compressor out > Line Mixer1 in > Line Mixer master out to Mix channel.



Fig. 1: This patch sets up the basic drum sound, which in this case goes through reverb and compression.


Next, set up your sidechaining for the individual drum you want to have squash the mix (Fig. 2; the patch cords set up previously are not shown for clarity). Send ReDrum’s snare solo outs to the Spider Audio Splitter in. Send one Splitter Out to Line Mixer 2 in, so we can mix the snare audio back in with the drums. Send another Splitter out to the MClass Compressor Sidechain In so the snare provides the sidechain signal.


Fig. 2: This sets up the sidechain connections for the patch.


Now hit the Tab key to flip the rack around. For the maximum effect, turn the MClass compressor Ratio to at least 16:1 and Release to maximum, Input Gain to +4.5, and Threshold and Attack to minimum (Fig. 3).



Fig. 3: Suggested settings for the reverb and compression effects.


When the snare hits, the gain reduction meter should go way down. Adding reverb emphasizes the pumping effect; the control settings shown are a good starting point. Adjust the Line Mixer channel 1 and 2 controls for the desired blend of mixed drums and the individual snare sound, respectively

Note that turning the MClass Compressor Input Gain above +4.5dB makes the sound even more rude, and reducing its Release time limits the pumping effect to a smaller “window” of the drum sound.


CraigGuitarVertical.jpgCraig Anderton is Editor in Chief of Harmony Central and Executive Editor of Electronic Musician magazine. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

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