Mixing Cymbals – EQ and Compression

mixing-cymbals-eq-and-compressionMixing cymbal tracks is a pretty straight forward task.

You’ve got most of the cymbal sound you need from the OH (Overhead) tracks but the direct cymbal tracks can complement the OH by blending them gently.

Their use is supportive to the OH and don’t play the main role of the sound.

You just help the cymbals get a specific spot to the stereo image. Since these tracks are supportive try to tweak them along with the OH mics.

Also, feel free to check out my whole Full Signal Chains For Each Instrument Series here.

Note: As always, when I share my chains – settings I advise you to bypass the plugins to actually hear if you’re improving the sound or not. Sometimes, out of the 5-6 plugins I recommend, 3 or 4 might be enough for your mix. This entirely depends on how the track is sounding without any FX on it. I will share everything I use though, so you can experiment with everything and let your ears decide what to keep or not.

Using An Equalizer

Use a high pass filter and cut around 400Hz. Now cut around 600Hz with a Narrow to Medium Q to remove any excessive junk.

Never forget to cut around 2Khz to 5Khz since if there’s any clash in there, vocals should be the ones to win.

Now listen to the cymbals and figure out what they need. Do they need some brightness? Use a high shelf and boost a bit around 10Khz.

Too much brightness? Keep the support tracks dark enough to complement the OH. Using a low pass filter at around 12Khz can remove any annoying sizzling and excessive brightness and give some body to the sound.

Compressing Like A Gentleman

I compress similar to the OH tracks.

The general idea is to use slow attack so you won’t cut the transients of the hits.

But a limiter on the back end is a good idea in order to keep the really-really sudden peaks under control.

Don’t overuse the limiter though cause you’ll make the limiter to pump and destroy the natural feeling of the cymbal hits.

Till next time… Happy tweaking!

~ Update ~

Nowadays I feel like using more and more the Waves Vocal Rider.

waves vocal rider

Its use is to automate the volume of your track, without any manual automation by yourselves.
I really love this plugin!

Using automation to fix the recording flaws is a tedious and time consuming task and now all I do is open the plugin and it does all the hard work for me.

I know that it’s been created to use it for vocals but it works really great with OH/Cymbals too.

Where To Use It On The Signal Chain

I always use it first on the chain.

The reason I do this is cause I want the sound to act like it’s been recorded gentler, nicer and a bit more controlled in volume.

This way I can then add my compressors and help them to not work like crazy cause of the peaks are being taken care of the automation plugin.

Use it – Trust me! Take care guys!


That’s pretty much what I do when mixing cymbals.

The trick is to get it right at the source and save yourself time later during mixing. The end result will be much easier to achieve and will sound a lot better in the end.

If the above guidelines helped you, could you please share the love for the guide:
Mixing Cymbals – EQ and Compression.

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