Mixing the Ride Cymbal

I’ve noticed throughout my musical travels through the years that one thing that tends to stand out in a mix above almost anything else is the ride cymbal. I’m not sure what the public’s infatuation with the ride cymbal is, but I’ve noticed it being really hot in a lot of mixes. It’s something I’ve noticed since the '80s. I understand that it brings a bit of treble relief to a mid-range heavy mix, but on a significant amount of recordings its really prevalent, almost too prevalent. Here are a few examples from an old and a modern recording.

Listen to how loud the ride cymbal is during the chorus, it almost distracts from the rest of the song. Ride starts at 1:20.

Here’s a more modern example with a similar situation. Ride kicks in at 2:38, no pun intended

I remember buying that Dokken cassette when it came out in the 7th grade. Even then that cymbal in Unchain the Night during the chorus annoyed the shit out of me. I was listening to it on the bus on some crappy headphones and I could tell. It’s a shame because the rest of the mix is great, one of the best guitar tones of all time before they went overboard on the next album.

The Marty Friedman one doesn’t sound that bad to me, but I understand what you’re saying. I think the ride cymbal’s place on the frequency spectrum isn’t quite as occupied as the other elements of the kit like you said, cutting through a mix no problem.

Well in both your examples it sounds to me like the ride bell is played. When a drummer chooses to hit the bell instead of the bow, he usually does it to emphasize something and he wants it to stick out, so the way it sounds makes sense to me. It would be different if the ride pattern would imply a long series of bell hits, but in both examples they are just here for a short period of time.

Along the same line, I am amazed at the quantity of reverb used on some 80’s mixes. I am thinking of the album Love Over Gold by Dire Straits for example. It sounds great, but when you pay attention to it, the amount of reverb is just ridiculous. That wouldn’t work on a mix nowadays, but it does in this context. Go figure…

That first song is Michael Wagener, who is pretty much the king of digital reverb. They had 15 separate mics on George Lynch’s guitar cabinet, and they used up an entire 32-track on drums. He’s not minimalist at all. If you think that mix has too much reverb, listen to this (also Wagener).

Damn that Friedman album sounds good (musically), I may have to get it. I hadn’t heard it yet, just that single.