Sunday, February 6, 2011

Equalizing And Processing Kick Drums

Equalizing and processing kicks is very important because it sets the tone for the rest of your track, having it setup correctly makes the kick almost like a reference for all other instruments and percussion you add. Kicks are often over compressed and processed when desiring that "pumping" sound in turn eating up a lot of the headroom, clipping, sounding muddy and cursing the rest of the music making process. Production IS reduction and you will be cutting frequencies 90% of the time and boosting frequencies 10% of the time ever so slightly with an EQ and multi-band compression.

Choosing a kick drum is very straightforward, choose one you like. Depending on the kind of track you want to create you may want a punchy one or a kick thats very round with a long decay. Its up to you! Although I wouldn't really use hardstyle kick for a minimal house track unless its a fill or something but there are no rules in dance music.

Kick drums have 3 components; the sub bass that you feel in the clubs, the mid that punches you and the click that should be self explanatory. Browse your favorite kick library and you will hear these 3 components. pick a kick and plop in in your DAW, in this case I use Ableton.
In the case of Ableton live, I recommend right clicking on the clip in arrangement view and clicking on "show fades". This feature prevents inter sample clicks by fading a sample (bottom of picture above). You will want the click to be present in the sample so move the red line over so the whole kick is there in all its glory.
To buy yourself a lot of headroom, I make a fine cut around 150Hz like in the image above right away, this takes away a frequency that is not very relevant in clubs. This wont take away too much but will give you a but of play later when you add the bass, this EQ cut will not be absolute and I will generally move it it around and compromise with the tight bass and kick im looking for.

I always place is shallow curve like the image above to my kicks EQ. This is in place to add room for snares, claps, leads and bass fundamentals, think of it as a placeholder for something else, its not much of a obtrusive change in the sound. Remember, its not about how instruments sound together not how they sound by themselves, everything has to have its own place. Keep your tracks at a low volume or you ears will get tired and start to play tricks on you. Ever make something late at night that sounds great then you listen to it the next day and sounds way off? Yea our ears get bored and make up things like harmonics, perceived loudness  and the likes.

Once you have something you are happy with, check the levels. Since the track will be based around the kick in many ways you will want it around  -3.00db to -2.00db giving you ample head room to work with, never clip on the master buss. Keep things nice and clear with their own space with the kick all sounding great.
If you are missing a click in your fundamental kick you can add one by jacking a click from another kick like the image above. Mixing kicks together to create new ones is the way to do it. It Requires some EQing and level adjustments but the end result is boom. =]

If you have your kicks set up this way and build your track around it you will have an easier time mastering and making the track louder in the end. You NEVER want an effect working hard on a sound thats loud, make their job easy by keeping sounds low in the beginning and pumping them up afterwards.


  1. Im going to show this to my friend. he is into mixing and stuff. thanks

  2. why does this all make sense to me!! the kicks are gonna sound nice tonight

  3. Cool, thanks for the tips on the music.

  4. wich library is using here or wich tool Brent
    I've been looking for but have not found any of good bass and kicks, can you tell me wich i can be use.
    Thanks in advance

  5. it's all about the thump! thank man.