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Different Methods for Adding Bottom to Kick Drums

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Techniques for Giving Your Kicks a Unique Low Sound

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Getting the kick drum to have that “right” amount of low-end isn’t always easy. To be sure, it’s a tricky thing to do, especially considering the risk of distortion that is always ever present, when the bottom level of the kick is boosted. So when the topic was raised in The BeatTips Community (TBC), there were a number helpful responses.

Here are several notable replies:

From TBC member BrandoF42088:

“Have you played around with parallel compression(NY drum trick)? This can make for some really nice sounding drums that bang…
Parallel compression is where you take take two copies of a drum signal or all the drum signals (you can do it on just the kick or your can do it on the kick and the snare and the hat Its up to you.) You leave one the 2 of the signals just clean and open not compressed at all. Then you blend it with the other signal which you compress heavily and eq to bring out the lows. With the open signal the drums sound natural and the compressed eqed signal brings out the bump.
Edit/Delete Message.”

From TBC member NCVerdict:

“Hardware compression is particularly useful if you are recording a real drummer because the volume levels fluctuate widely and you want to keep a good level for recording that doesn’t clip the inputs. In beatmaking though, the volume of your drums are already programmed into your machine before you put it into your software so getting the correct volume is just a matter of setting the correct level on your soundcard or beat machine. I think that there are some bad sounding software compressors just like I think there are some bad sounding hardware compressors. If you’re looking for a good (and relatively cheap) stereo hardware compressor, I got the FMR Audio RNC and I really like it. And if you’re looking for a “‘warm” sounding software compressor, my buddy has the one that came with his waves renaissance plug-in bundle and it sounds really good to me.


Here’s my reply:

Of course, one of the best ways to get your kick to have the low sound that you desire is to give it that sound before you actually enter the mixing phase. Although I can and do mix (and pre-mix) my own beats, my strength is in coming up with unique sounds before they even get tracked into my DAW.

once I’ve tracked my kicks into my DAW, I rarely ever have to do much to them at all, maybe a little pull up or down of the volume leveling but very little to no EQ. Reason why? I KNOW my sounds—especially my drum sounds—and especially my kicks. I’ve gone through several intricate steps to craft the no more than 10 (or so) kicks that I have and use. For instance, I’ve recorded kick hits through my analog mixing console straight to CD. I’ve also recorded kick hits to cassette tape, sampled them, than tracked them into Pro Tools, where I duplicate the hit and sample them again.

Because tweaking kicks in the mix can have a profound effect on what the overall final sonic impression of a beat (song) sounds like, I’m always focused on choosing the right kick for the right beat. For me, this saves time in the mix; moreover, it allows me to focus much more on the “color” of the non-drum sounds.

Now all the above being said, in those extremely rare times that I find that I need to do some additional EQ’ing of my kicks, it’s never a question of getting a “low sound,” it’s a question of getting a “lower” sound. If I’m making a beat and I want a low (bottom-heavy) kick, I choose that kick sound from my small arsenal of kicks. Again, I know my sounds; it’s not like I set out to find a *new* kick every time a make a beat. And in the case where I’m starting out with a low-sounding kick, (for me, it’s usually my Kick 17), it just becomes a matter of boosting the bottom. So there’s usually one of two things that I do.

(1) I just duplicate the kick, and “round out” the levels. For instance, I’ll lower the volume on one of the kicks, leaving the other as is. And sometimes, I’ll call up the 7-band EQ in Pro Tools, where I shave some of the highs off of the kick. But I never like to add much (if ANY) compression to my kicks. Being mindful that a mix engineer will most like have the beat, if and when it becomes a song, I’m only interested in representing my sound and leaving room for a more qualified mix engineer to tweak the compression. And in the case where I’m doing the final mix, I’m certainly not keen on compressing the kick UNTIL I have the vocals.

(2) I simply add a more truncated or pitched-down version of the kick I already have in the beat. Usually, until I have a rough mix of a beat, I still have the beat called up on my MPC. So if I need to add anything, I add it to the beat, NOT the Pro Tools session. After I’m satisfied with whatever additions I’ve made, I mute all the Pro Tools tracks, and I only record the additional sound.


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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album ‘The Best of Times.’ Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual