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How to Fix Weak Toms

Dec 25, 2019

Tom recordings can often feel weak due to poor recording spaces and microphone placements. We offer 4 tips for remedying this issue.

How to Fix Weak Toms

Toms that feel weak can be caused by poor recording techniques, a bad room, and inappropriate mic selection. Luckily, there are many mixing techniques you can use to save poor tom recordings. Use the following 4 tips to dial in professional sounding toms.

1. Shape Transients

A tom that feels flat, deflated, and “boomy” can be fixed with a transient shaper like Smack Attack. Turn up the attack knob to add more transient attack to your toms, and reduce the sustain knob to provide your toms with a gentle squeeze.

If the issue with your toms is that they’re piercing through the mix and sticking out like a sore thumb, try reducing the level of the attack knob and increasing the level of the sustain knob. Transient shapers are an exceptional choice for dynamic recordings, such as the snare track of a jazz drummer, because they don’t rely on a threshold level in the way that compressors do.

2. Thicken with Saturation

Cheap toms can sound like plastic toys and lack the rich, full-bodied tone of top-of-the-line toms. You can convert weak toms into usable ones through the use of saturation. Tape saturation, in particular, does an excellent job of providing toms additional harmonic content.

J37 Tape includes three oxide tape formulas, each with their own frequency response and harmonic distortion behavior. The best thing about tape machine plugins is that they’re easy to use. Turn up the input level for more saturation, or down for less saturation. J37 Tape can distort and compress the upper harmonic structure of your toms, resulting in bigger, fatter tones. If the subtlety of J37 isn’t enough for your needs, try using Abbey Road Saturator for more harmonic flavor.

3. Sculpt with EQ

Once you’ve saturated your toms, you may need to carve away some unnecessary frequency content using an EQ. Applying saturation can be a somewhat messy and uncontrolled process, so by following your saturator with an EQ like the EQP-1A, you’re able to properly control it.

You can reduce “mud” by applying a gradual high-pass filter to your toms around 40-60 Hz using H-EQ. Avoid using a harsh slope if you want to keep your toms sounding natural.

The 100-300 Hz range of a tom is where you’re able to draw out more of its “round” characteristic, sometimes also referred to as “body.” Apply a boost with a bell filter using a wide bandwidth in this frequency range to design a tom that is felt, just as much as it is heard. The tuning and timbre of each tom will call for a boost in a different spot, so make sure to put your critical listening skills to use.

4. Add Subharmonic Content

Saturation and EQ are both useful mixing techniques, but they only work if the frequency range you’re affecting is already populated with frequency content. If you’re working with a very poor tom recording that completely lacks frequency content below 100 Hz, you can use a subharmonic generator like Submarine to synthesize additional low-end frequency content.

Submarine is relatively easy to navigate, but a pro tip you may want to use involves turning up the drive knob to glue the synthesized subharmonic content together with the upper-frequency content of your toms. It’s also a good idea to adjust the dynamics knob to strike a balance between heavily compressed sub transients and longer sustained sub notes.

Want more quick mix fixes? Get tips on fixing a thin snare drum.

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