When it comes to kicks, it’s all about choosing the right sounding ones at the very start!! There’s so many great sample packs out there at the moment, you should be able to find kicks that don’t need lots of compression or processing.
“Pick a great sounding sample at the start and you’ll only need to do some gentle EQ’in to get it working.”
Make sure that whatever you pick can be heard all the way down! If it can’t, get a synth out and add a sine wave (tuned to the kick) underneath from about 80hz down to 40hz to add the extra weight.
But even after finding the perfect kick, you’ll sometimes find yourself looking for that little bit extra to make there presence in the mix felt.
There’s an endless list of techniques that can be used to help with a struggling kick drum. But here’s some quick, easy and simple tricks that I’ve used over the years during mixing to help increase a kicks presence and clarity:
Some midrange thump is always nice in a kick, it’s this frequency range that will make it sound loud and give it some punch! Make a copy of your kick on a new track (alternatively, you can send the kicks full signal to an aux channel) and compress the shit out of it. A ratio up around 7:1 to 10:1, with a fast attack and release is a good place to start and tweak from there. Taking off somewhere between 5 and 10db in gain reduction should get you the sound you want. There’s no EQ’in needed, you should be able to achieve the desired effect with just the compressor.
Now make another copy and compress (starting settings the same as before), but this time you want to be taking off between 20 and 30db in gain reduction. Next, use an EQ to scoop out the midrange, roughly between 600hz and 2k. What your aiming for with this third kick is a tick and a thud quality to the sound.
Now mix the two new kicks, the thump and tick, along with a subby sine wave if needed, back in with the original kick. You could try grouping all the drums on a buss, then compress together, add some “glue”.
Get them balanced and sitting right in the mix, and you’ll have a kick that really punches through and let’s you know whats’s going on down there!
A Few Last Points:
- Sometimes the most important frequencies for a kick are up in the 3k to 5k region. It’s this area that stands out to our ears, helps us find the kick amongst the other layers, what’s sometimes called Attack. Also, be very detailed and thorough from 180hz down to 120hz. It’s an important area and needs proper attention.
- Really think hard about how you use compression, and what it does to a sound. Personally, I don’t think compression “makes things better”. I look at compression as having two jobs:
- Increasing a signals overall level, by managing peaks and hot spots
- As a creative effect
Use it when it’s needed, not because you can!! Your final mixdowns will thank you for it…