What really makes a Drake style drum sound?
It’s not really that easy to quantify, especially in one article. Even though Drake seems to have a “signature sound” it’s actually not as consistant as you may think. I mean when you go from Marvin’s Room to Hold On, We’re Going Home, you can see how much different his records can sound.
That said my goal for this post is to try and show how you can achieve a hybrid sound between artists like Drake and The Weeknd. Assuming you are looking for a lo-fi drum sound that is somewhat ambient.
In regards to the track I used for this article, you can listen to the fully mixed version here. It is a Medley that my good friend am1r put together and I was grateful to be apart of it.
What are Trying to Accomplish for the Overall Sound?
For this song in particular I needed to make the drum samples a bit heavy and Lo-Fi sounding. In order to do this I had to do a Hybrid of Layering in some samples, throughout different areas of the song, as well as alter the sound with plug-ins.
The next step was ambiance. The record was very wide open with a lot of space in regards to time and I heard a lot of pockets that could be filled up with some ambiance. Thankfully for me, am1r agreed with me.
In order to achieve the ambience in this record, I added various delays as well as reverb which seemed to fill up the space that I was looking for.
For this article I am going to be talking about the drums in the first verse.
Let’s hear the record and listen to the drums I am referring to:
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/am1r-Drake-Medley-Print.mp3|titles=Mix with Vocals]
Now let’s hear it without any vocals and without any plug-ins (RAW):
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/am1r-Drake-Medley-RAW.mp3|titles=No Vocals and unMixed]
Lastly, without any vocals but all the plug-ins engaged:
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/am1r-Drake-Medley-No-Vocals.mp3|titles=Mixed without Vocals]
So how do we go from the raw version to the mixed version?
Pro Tools Specific Plug-in
Even though you aren’t pigeon hold to only using Pro Tools for this technique, there is one plug-in that I used quite frequently in this record to help get that Low fidelity sound – Avid Lo-Fi.
Seeing as the plug-in is only created for Pro Tools, it may be harder to achieve the exact same results that I did but it isn’t impossible. If you can get your hands on a sample rate reducer plug-in and a distortion unit, you should see the same – if not similar – results that I did.
The Effects that are Used
I figured it would be most effective to go over the effects first, this way when I explain each track and I’m referencing an effect, you will already know what I am talking about. If not you can always come back to this section to refresh your memory.
For the drums in the verse, there are 4 different effects I am adding at any given moment. They are all routed through busses and are labelled as following
- Drum Verb 1
- Drum Verb 2
Let’s take a look at each effects chain
[toggle title=”Drum Verb 1
This is only being used on the verse snare, on the second half of the verse, and is meant to lengthen its tail as well as add some ambient texture to the back on the record.
[toggle title=”Drum Verb 2
This was on the snare in the verse and I actually wasn’t going for a ambient effect with this one but more of a rhythmic one. So it’s pretty loud and adds almost another instrument to the track.
I used a 1/6th and a 1/8th not delay sent to a distortion to focus it into the mid range and make it cut. From there I went to a reveb unit so that it would push it into the back.
*Click each image for full view of settings
I’m using the AIR Multi-delay for a single eigth note.
After that I want it to be wider and modulated so I decided to use the AIR Chorus plug-in. From there I want a telephone effect with some grit and distortion.
*Click each image for full view of settings
[toggle title=”V. Verb
I used the Waves IR verb to get an impulse from rhythminmind.net which simulates a TC M5000 unit and I like that it sounds really natural to my ear.
Then we have the Q10 and the C1-sc to clean up some lows and mids. Then I am going into the Lo-Fi plug-in just to dirty up the reverb a bit so it fits better with the rest of the track.
*Click each image for full view of settings
For the drums in the verse there are only five tracks. We needed to dirty them up, make them lo-fi and add a little more rhythmic elements, so let’s see how I did that.
[toggle title=”Kick 1
Kick 1 Raw
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick-1-Raw_01-01.mp3|titles=Kick 1 Raw]
Lo-Fi – I added the Lo-Fi plug-in because the kick was a bit clicky and needed to be dirtier. Reducing the sample rate quite a bit got rid of the click and adding some distortion & saturation helped in making it dirty.
Kick 1 + Lo-Fi
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick-1-Lo-Fi_01-01.mp3|titles=Kick 1 + Lo-Fi]
1/8 (Send) – I then sent it to the 1/8 note delay to give the track a bit more rhythm. The way the drums were programed allowed for an extra rhythmic element and in fact the 1/8 note timed perfectly with the other percussive sounds.
Kick 1 + Lo-Fi + 1/8 note Delay
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick-1-Lofi-and-1_8_05-01.mp3|titles=Kick 1 + Lo-Fi + 1/8 note Delay]
[toggle title=”Kick 2
Kick 2 Raw
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick-2-Raw_02-01.mp3|titles=Kick 2 Raw]
SonEq Pro – Boosting a tonne at the bottom and added100% with the Drive knob because it was thin and needed more beef. I also boosted a bit in the mid range to get it to cut.
Lo-Fi – Similar to kick 1, it was a tad clicky so the Lo-Fi helped to get rid of that and also get it a bit dirtier sounding.
Kick 2 + SonEq
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick2-SonEQ_02-01.mp3|titles=Kick 2 + SonEq]
Kick 2 + SonEq + Lo-Fi
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick-2-Son-EQ-and-Lo-Fi-_02-01.mp3|titles=Kick 2 + SonEq + Lo-Fi]
1/8 (Send) – I’m also sending this one to the 1/8th note delay and it’s strictly a rhythm play.
Kick 2 + SonEq + Lo-Fi + 1/8 note Delay
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Kick-2-Son-EQ-and-Lo-Fi-and-1_8-note_05.mp3|titles=Kick 2 + SonEq + Lo-Fi + 1/8 note Delay]
[toggle title=”Snare 1
Snare 1 Raw
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Snare-1-RAW_02.mp3|titles=Snare 1 Raw]
Lo-Fi – I added this 808 style snare to the track and it had a nice bottom end but the top was really clacky. So I wanted to get rid of the clack and make the beef shine through so I reduced the sample rate and added a fair amount of distortion
Snare 1 + Lo-Fi
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Snare-1-LoFi_02.mp3|titles=Snare 1 + Lo-Fi]
Drum Verb 1 (Send) – On the second half of the verse, Drum Verb 1 is being activated to make the snare a bit more ambient. Each section of this song is slightly different so I had to some how alter the mood for each section and adding reverb to the snare helped.
Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + Drum Verb 1
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Snare-1-LoFi-Drum-Verb-1_01.mp3|titles=Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + Drum Verb 1]
Drum Verb 2 (send) – I also Drum Verb 2 to the snare on the second half of the verse. This gave a little more rhythm and helped compliment the Low Percs.
Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + Drum Verb 2
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Snare-1-LoFi-Drum-Verb-2_01.mp3|titles=Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + Drum Verb 2]
1/8 (Send) – This plays throughout the entire verses and is similar to the kicks where I was trying to added a little rhythmic texture to the track
Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + 1/8 Note Delay
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Snare-1-LoFi-1_8note_01.mp3|titles=Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + 1/8 Note Delay]
Okay, so now let’s take a look at what it sounds like with all the processing and effects on at the same time.
Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + All Effects
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Snare-1-LoFi-All-Effects_01-01.mp3|titles=Snare 1 + Lo-Fi + All Effects]
[toggle title=”Perc Low
Perc Low Raw
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Perc-Low-Raw_01.mp3|titles=Perc Low Raw]
EQ 3 – This Low Perc sound already had some delays built in which where cool but it was really bass heavy so I just EQ’d the extreme bottom out
Lo-Fi – Though these percs had a nice starting point, they had to be a bit grimier. So I reduced the sample rate and added a lot of distortion. This brought back some of the lows but also really highlighted the mid range so that they could cut through.
Perc Low + EQ3
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Perc-Low-EQ3_01.mp3|titles=Perc Low + EQ3]
Perc Low + EQ3 + Lo-Fi
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Perc-Low-EQ-3-LoFi_01.mp3|titles=Perc Low + EQ3 + Lo-Fi]
[toggle title=”Open Hat
Open Hat Raw
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Open-Hat-Raw_02.mp3|titles=Open Hat Raw]
EQ3 – Just trying to take out a brittle frequency that poked out
L1 Limiter – This isn’t actually limiting the hat at all. At most it’s darkening the hat by a tiny percentage but is really just helping to turn the volume down. Why not use a fader? Good question. I wish I could go back and ask myself that very same thing.
Open Hat + EQ3
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Open-Hat-EQ3_02.mp3|titles=Open Hat + EQ3]
Open Hat + EQ3 + L1 Limiter
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Open-Hat-EQ3-L1_02.mp3|titles=Open Hat + EQ3 + L1 Limiter]
V.Verb (send) – Just adding this verb to put it into the record and so it doesn’t stick out in front of the mix.
Open Hat + EQ3 + L1 Limiter + V. Verb
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Open-Hat-EQ3-L1-vVerb_02.mp3|titles=Open Hat + EQ3 + L1 Limiter + V. Verb]
I realize that this isn’t necessarily an article for beginners but hopefully it peaks curiosity and inspires you to create your own sounds and textures.
Now there is no real way to ever know how the “Drake Sound” is achieved unless you have access to the session but suffice to say it’s deeper than a few plug-ins and sound choices.
I also realized after that I used a lot fo FREE or cheap plug-ins which I wasn’t even aware of while I was mixing the record. Hopefully that shows you that when you are reaching for a tool it should always be about the sound and never about the price of the tool.
Good Luck on your next project!