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In setting up an electronic drum kit; what sort of volume differences should I apply to each component?

When using earphones I tend to have everything cranked up to the max, but on amping up, it's clear that some components should be louder than others to sound more like an acoustic kit. I figured to start off with all cymbals at max, but then what do you recommend?

I've searched for a basic relationship table for drum components, with no luck. I guess what I'm looking for is something along the lines of; cymbals 90%/ Snare 70%/ toms 50% etc.

  • A basic rule of mixing is to never have ANYTHING at max. – Laurence Payne Jun 11 '15 at 10:49
  • Succinct, and very helpful! – Rob Thomas Jun 11 '15 at 12:43
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    @RobThomas: Is it? Instead of having everything on max, you put everything on 70%. Sounds like you still have the same problem as before, not knowing what the relative levels should be... – Meaningful Username Jun 11 '15 at 14:40
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Having learned to play the drums "the hard way" (i.e. autodidact + electronic kit first; acoustic only really after a few years), I urge you to figure out the volume differences between instruments on an acoustic kit first, especially between different instrument families (snare, bass, toms, crash, ride, hats, etc). Try to setup your electronic instruments to match their acoustic counterparts as closely as possible. That way you will get a much greater sense of playing dynamics (relation between your movements and the volume they create) in the long run.

This is of special importance if you spend most (I'd say more than half) of your time playing an electric kit. Come to think of it, this whole dynamics thing was actually the hardest part of re-learning drums on an acoustic kit.

EDIT:

Considering the audio mix only, I'd go for different sound characteristics over volumes. All modern e-drums worth their value have a decent sound library to pick from for every instrument. Leveraging that, you can achieve a clean mix with little to no volume differences (though they still should be considered, if only for above reasons).

Look for highly distinguishable sounds for every instrument family. It won't matter if all your crash cymbals have the same overtones, or your toms have the same type of shell (they all differ in size and, thus, pitch). Just make sure snare really sets itself apart from toms as well as your ride ain't just a larger crash. For example, Roland's V-Drums classify their sound samples by materials or musical styles. Pick some wildly different sounds initially and work your way from there.

  • I'd love to do that, unfortunately I don't have access to an acoustic kit (hence, I spend ALL my my time on an e-kit). – Rob Thomas Jun 11 '15 at 12:43
  • That's unfortunate. You might run into playing dynamic/volume troubles, should you transition to acoustic down the line. At least crank up the base volume of your kit to unpleasant levels, so you don't take to playing too hard. This is what happened to me, practicing on electric only. – Patrick Nemenz Jun 12 '15 at 8:25
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When I produce a track I have my snare drum slightly higher than the kick and then build the other elements around that. Hats much lower, tom/bongos at similar volume to main kick, as with cymbals.

It boils down to personal preference, but the most important element with electronic kits is to ensure the spectrum doesnt get muddy with hits striking the same frequencies.

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I would say it is all down to personal preference because essentially you could hit different components softer with an acoustic kit to get the effect you describe, unfortunately you don't get that privilege with an electronic kit (to a certain extent). Just play about with it; Record some flows and riffs and if one component is drowning stuff out, dampen it down a bit. You will eventually get a happy medium.

I would personally crank up the toms and bass drum as with metal the double kick is very poignant. Plus I tend to hit toms a lot harder than cymbals but I suspect an electronic pad wont react in the same way as a tom head when beaten harder, so compensating for that would benefit you in that case.

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