Q: Can I use drum machine channel as drum bus?

Production newbie here and I hope this is the right forum to ask this question, here goes…
I use FL Studio and Arturia’s Spark (amazing) drums vst which allow me to control every parameter of the sequence, includes eq, compression, etc. My question is do I need to separate the different channels of the drums into FL mixer and then create a “drum bus” or should I use one channel from the vst?

Generally, we would choose the option that offers us the most flexibility when it comes to mixing. So having separate all your drum elements separate would be a better move. That way you can process the kick and the snare and other kit pieces separately before recombining them into a drum buss.

There are times, though, that you might want to just record the drums in its entirety such as if you just wanted to get a simple sketch in, or if it was a temp that you were planning on replacing anyway, or maybe you just wanted a drum groove you could flip and mangle and resample.

Simon’s answer sums it up well but I’ll add some details.

  1. You can certainly use all your drums on a single track if you want, it’s just not as flexible. If you choose to do this, at least mix in the same session as your composition so if you need to change levels or per hit EQ you can do it within the plugin.

  2. Separating the drums allows you to treat them separately, and allows you to use effects outside of the drum plugin itself. For example, I like a different amount of reverb on Bass, Snare, and Cymbals (ranging from none to some and then more.)

  3. Separating the drums gives you a ton of flexibility when you mix. If I notice a certain drum hit is too repetitive, I’ll LFO automate a few parameters on it to give it more life. Volume, Frequency, Pitch. I use slow LFOs that are out of sync with each other, or separate random LFOs for each. I do this subtlely enough you wouldn’t notice it outright, but it adds variation for the ear to reduce a fatiguing repetive element.

I also use Smack Attack sometimes on individual drum sounds, to make the transient more or less pronounced.

If you’re new to mixing, by all means keep your drums simple until you are more comfortable. But as soon as you’re ready for it, you’ll find splitting them up to be incredibly powerful… especially considering the importance of drums in most songs!

Hey guys and thanks for commenting. Both answers sum it well. The drum mixing process, in this case, was set inside the vst mixer so when I channel out it basically functions as an external drum bus.

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