How to make your kick drum punch
If you have any interest in producing music, then the first thing you need to know is that your kick drum must have punch
Think about it
How many times have you listen to a song and you feel that kick punching and banging on the speakers
So this got me thinking?
How do I make my kick drum punch?
As a result of this, I went into spy mode and did a lot of research, watching YouTube videos and getting info from some of the leaders in the industry
Which is why I decided to write this article
In this article, I will be showing you tips and tactics that you can use to make sure that your kick drum sounds so much better and punch
1. Choose the right kick sample
This is obviously the first and most important step you need to take
Because when you choose the right kick sample, you already have an advantage when it comes to tweaking it and making it sound better
Think of it like this
Let’s say you want to make an awesome fruit salad
You have to get the right fruits and ingredients right?
No matter how awesome you are, if you pick the wrong ingredients, that fruit salad is going to come out as total crap
Same way it is with getting your kick to sound better
You want to make sure that you pick the right kick sample so that when it comes to tweaking it, you already have the basics down and working
Here are some things to look out for when choosing a kick sample
Is it tuned to the right key?
Does it have the right low end and high end?
How about the middle? Are the frequencies right?
The effectiveness of your kick starts at the sample so you want to make sure you get that right
2. Use the right EQ to tighten and fatten the kick
Next, you want to sprinkle the magic dust and use EQ to add some thickness to the kick
I call EQ, the perfect and ultimate for getting your kick drums to sound good
So if the kick lacks some low end spice, then you know that you need to look for the dominant sub resonance in the 45hz - 100hz region
Here are some tips to help you when EQing your kicks
Always make sure you filter for clarity. What this means is that if you are using a high pass filter, this will basically clean up the low end of your kick drum perfectly
Make sure the low end has thump. This will mean using a low shelving boost around the 80hz to 100hz
Get rid of any “boominess”. You want to make sure that you get rid of any boom in your kick as this clouds up the clarity of the kick. It is normally a good idea to cut around 200 to 250hz as this removes any muddiness in your kicks
Cut out the boxines. Also you want to make sure you cut out the boxiness which normally resides in the area around 300 - 600 Hz
Bring out the beater. What good is a drum kick that has all boom and no snap? This is why you want to make sure you also enhance the beater. It is usually found around the 2 - 4khz area
Finally you want to filter the high end. If you have a lot of bleed from your cymbals or snare, then you want to make sure you filter the high end. This will mean using a low pass filter in the area of 10khz to get rid of that high end you really don’t need in your kick drum
Here is a handy Kick Drum EQ Frequency guide to use whenever you want to apply EQ to your kicks
50Hz - 100Hz - This adds bottom to your sounds
100Hz to 250Hz - This adds roundness to your kicks giving it presence and making it full
250Hz - 800Hz - This is the muddiness area that makes your kicks sound cloudy
5KHz - 8KHz - This adds high end presence and shine to your kicks
8KHz - 12KHz - This adds hiss to your kicks
3. Use compression to make the kick punchy
If EQ is the king when it comes to mixing, the compression is definitely the queen
And nothing makes your kick to have more punch than compression
By using compression, you aim to add some transient and punch to your kicks
For this you want to makes sure you use compressors such as the SSL Compressor and the Distressor.
This you can get for free by simply visiting this page and downloading for free
Here are some tips to use when applying compression to your kicks
Start with a slow attack and a fast release in the 4:1 to 8:1 ratio. This will give it that needed punch and spice
Use a limiter to catch the remaining sudden peaks. This is because limiters usually have a very fast attack and ratio of more than 10:1. A good example of a limiter is the Waves L1 which you can get from here.
Note: You want to make sure you use side-chain compression to give space to your kicks.
The advantage of this is that by side-chaining your kicks to the bass and other instruments in your mix, it will give your kick space and allow it to cut through before going back to unity
This helps in allowing the kick to come through in the mix and giving it space to breath and really get that punch
Here is a cool YouTube video that explains the concept of side-chaining more in depth
4. Make sure your kick drum is in mono
To really get the punch that you need from your kick drums, you want to make sure that it is in mono
This is because when used in mono, it allows the EQ and compression to cut through the mix giving it a better chance of sounding better
Majority of the time, most drum samples usually come in stereo.
You want to make sure that you take time and switch it to mono before you start to mix on it
5. Push the mid frequencies
One mistake that I see a lot of people making is that they actually think that the kick drum is all about the low end
This is not really true
To get your kick drum to have that punch, you need to be also tweak and push the mid frequencies
Using the fletcher munson curves, you know that the perceived loudness of any sound depends on the mid frequencies.
Therefore you want to make sure that you are pushing the right mid frequencies when mixing
One other important thing to note is that the low end usually has a lot of energy, and there is only so much pushing you can do there before it starts to become muddy
But if you focus some energy on the mid frequencies, you can increase the loudness without increasing the level too much
6. Make sure you use saturation
Saturation is another important technique that you can use to add harmonics to your drum kick.
What saturation does is that it adds grit and gives your kick more personality which makes it more distinguishable in an audio mix
What you can do is to consider running a parallel channel of saturated kick drum and then add it to your original sound.
This will ensure that you do not completely destroy your original sound but instead you add penetration and loudness to it
If you really want to take your kick drum sound to another level and give it that banging sound, then you really need to apply triggering to it
So what is Triggering?
This is simply taking another drum sound and then adding it to the original sound
This is because most times when you try to equalize and saturate the sound, the original sound is just not powerful enough
This is where triggering comes in
Most times I like to use the Steven Slate Trigger due to its wide range of great samples and drum samples and also the fact that you can add to the original sound while keeping both sounds completely in phase.
Here is a cool YouTube video showing you how this works
How to automate your Kick Drum Mixing
Finally when mixing your kicks, you can automate the volume or automate the EQ setting between the different parts of the song
Most times what I do is that I automate the kick drum on double pedal sections where it’s sounding too much in your face and the bass can go out of control
So this helps regulate and keeps the drum volume in check and allows it to also flow properly with the overall mix of the song
Alright… so this is what I usually do whenever I am mixing and want my kick drums to have that punch sound