Last updated on April 10, 2018 by Rob Mayzes

Let’s face it…

The kick plays a vital part in most genres.

Sometimes you have to make it sound aggressive and punchy…

Other times, wide and fat…

Whatever genre you’re working with, getting the kick right is a vital element of creating a professional, radio-ready sound.

So, if you want to learn how to eq kick drum like a pro, watch now, because you’re about the learn the simple 3 steps technique for kick drum EQ that works in ANY genre, and with any kick.

 

Let’s face it, the kick plays a vital part in most genres. Whatever genre you are working with, getting the kick right is an important step in getting the good mix. So if you want to learn how to EQ kick drum like a pro, keep watching, because in this video, you are going to learn the simple 3 step technique for kick drum EQ that works with any kick drum and in any genre. Follow some of the other advice you hear online for mixing kick drums and your kick could end up sounding flat as a pancake. But first be sure to grab my free drum mixing cheat sheet that will help you to get the drums right every single time to go through kick and also snare, [inaudible 00:00:35] overheads, everything, it’s completely free, there’s a link in the description or on the screen now. So let’s dive right in.

So, those three steps for EQ and kick drum are search, shape and slot, the three Ss, remember that, search, shape, slot. Now, let’s start with step 1 which is search. Now, when it comes to EQ and kick drum, the main thing that we are considering is the relationship between the kick and the bass. So here we’ve got a bass part with this EQ and then we’ve got a kick here. And what you will notice straightaway is that I’ve got a very different EQ curve on each of these and they kind of complement each other; where I am boosting the bass, I am cutting the kick; and where the kick has presence around here, I am reducing the bass. So this is what we are trying to do is allocate a certain frequency range, a range of the frequency spectrum that we are going to give to the bass and a different range that we are going to give to the kick. Now, this is called range allocation. I’ve got a video about this if you search range allocation, this is also the same track I used before for my bass EQ video; so if you want to learn more about mixing and how I came to this decision, then go and check the output. What we are focusing on here is the kick. So that first step is to figure out where is it most prominent on the kick. And there are two ways to do this, you can do it with your ears, and you can do it with your eyes. Now, I much prefer doing this with my ears, I think that’s by far the best way to do this. So let’s start with that approach.

I am going to start by bypassing everything on the kick and the snare. Let’s just listen to the track first.

[Music Being Played 00:02:16]

And now let’s solo the kick and the bass.

[Music Being Played 00:02:27]

So already, listening to this is quite clear to me, what frequency range each part should sit in. Now, I want you to figure this out for yourself. I am not going to give you the answer here. I am going to play this again and what I want you to listen for is which one is going to have the prominence in the sub bass, that low end of the spectrum, maybe around 50 hertz and which one is going to have more prominence in that kind of upper bass range, maybe around 100 to 200 hertz because they are the two obvious sections. I normally have in my head this kind of crossover point that’s around 80 to 100 hertz. And in some genres, the kick will be prominent below 80 and the bass will be prominent above. In other genres, it’s the other way around. If you look at something like metal or a lot of rock music, the bass is providing that low end foundation and the kick is more about the beta. Now, with this track, I already know which way around it’s going to be, but have a listen now and see if you can decide just from using your ears which is going to be more prominent in the sub bass range below 80 hertz and which is going to be more prominent in that upper bass range above 80 hertz.

[Music Being Played 00:03:37]

Okay, have you decided? Well, here’s what I am thinking: the kick is very, very deep. First of all, this is a sample, it’s not an acoustics drum kit, but the same process applies to mixing acoustic drums; whereas the bass guitar is quite aggressive, it’s got a lot of grit, it’s got a lot of growl to it, and that’s more characteristic of the low end mid range, we don’t have a lot of really kind of sub bass content in that bass guitar, whereas the kick has got loads of punch and bottom. So, to me it’s clear, the kick needs to have more energy around probably 60 hertz and the bass is probably going to have way more energy around 100. So that’s approach number 1.

Now, let’s take approach number 2, and this is to use your eyes and you can combine the two of these, maybe you start with your ears and then you check it with your eyes. If you are really struggling, then you can use your eyes just to fall back. But you just want some kind of spectrum analyzer, the FabFilter EQ has it built-in and we can actually just look at where the bass and where the kick are most prominent. So we will have the kick on the right and then let’s load up the bass on the left here, and let’s just compare the two graphs.

[Music Being Played 00:04:43]

And bring them in…

[Music Being Played 00:04:53]

So, with the bass, you can see that there’s a lot going on around this, a 100 to 200 range.

[Music Being Played 00:05:02]

So there is stuff going on here around 50 but it’s mostly around 100, and on the kick…

[Music Being Played 00:05:12]

We’ve got a very specific area here around 50 to 55, somewhere around there. So that backs up our decision. We started with our ears and now we are using our eyes to confirm that decision. So that’s step 1, search. Step 2 is shape. So what you can see here is how I’ve shaped this kick drum. I’ve got a high pass filter, tapering off the low end; and I’ve got a bit of a dip here; and that’s it, it didn’t need else. So why do you think I’ve done that? Why do you think I’ve added a cut here at 187, quite a broad cut and left this alone, whereas on the bass I’ve done the opposite, I’ve boosted here? And that’s because the bass has got the priority in this range, between a 100 and 200. We’ve kind of allocated that in our head. So now, we want to move the kick out of the way of the bass. So that’s the first thing. Listen before and after, so this is without any EQ…

[Music Being Played 00:06:21]

So, it’s pretty subtle, but what I am hearing is that low end just becomes a bit more clean. Suddenly there’s a bit more separation between the kick and the bass because they are not [inaudible 00:06:29] for that same space.

Now, in this step, you would normally shape the tone as well. So let’s say on the kick drum, in the context of the mix, you decide it needs more beta or more low end.

[Music Being Played 00:06:48]

And it is getting lost in the mix a bit. So maybe let’s find an area in this upper mid range where we can just get a bit of that beta sound. Now, I am going to start just by boosting quite aggressively and I am going to move this around until I start to notice the kick sticking out a bit more. And we are going to just turn the channel up a bit here as well so that we can really hear what’s going on in the kick.

[Music Being Played 00:07:23]

So there, that’s like a very obvious kind of click that’s starting to come out. We can just leave that where it is and now just adjust the gain.

[Music Being Played 00:07:52]

So that definitely helps it cut through a bit more and now we can just adjust the level until we are happy with the volume in the mix.

[Music Being Played 00:08:09]

And there we go, so that’s step 2, shape. Consider the bass and how we can get the kick out of the way of the bass and then do any other tonal shaping you need to do whether that’s removing some boxiness, whether that’s enhancing this beta sound, whatever you need to do – just make sure you have an intention first, you listen to the mix, think, it’s lacking there so it needs this, and then figure out how to do that.

And now moving onto the final step, step 3, which is slot. Now, this is the act of creating space for the kick drum. We are creating a slot in the mix for that kick. A lot of people refer to this as frequency slotting. I also call it range allocation because we are just allocating this range to the kick. So, around here, around 50-55 is where we are most prominent, the only thing that’s going to be fighting the kick for space in the mix in this track is the bass drum. So, what you can see I’ve done here is just scooped some of that out around 65 and we can move that around a bit just so it’s a bit closer. And also just taping off that low end there on the bass guitar so that now the bass is prominent here, the kick is prominent here and we’ve got a good relationship going on.

So that’s it, three steps – search, find the area on your frequency spectrum that you are going to allocate to the kick. Then step 2, shape, get the tone on the kick drum that you want. What’s missing and what does it need? Change the tone and then maybe create some space for the bass guitar. And finally, step 3 is slot, and that’s where you want to go to other things in the mix like the bass, like other kick parts, other low end parts that might be interfering and create a slot for the kick drum in the mix.

So now I’ve just got some bonus tips for you so you can take your kick drums to the next level, because what you see here is I’ve got quite a bit more processing on that kick drum. So tip number 1 is try adding harmonics if you need to. So I’ve got two instances of RBass here, I am actually adding some more energy around 77 hertz just to really beef up on that low end; and also some energy around 256 to help bring that kick up a bit more. So this is without these…

[Music Being Played 00:10:13]

And this is with these…

[Music Being Played 00:10:20]

So, as you can hear, that’s changing the tone quite a lot. Let’s listen it in the mix.

[Music Being Played 00:10:32]

And without…

[Music Being Played 00:10:37]

Sounds kind of thin and wimpy, and then when we bring that back in…

[Music Being Played 00:10:49]

So RBass is one of those specialized plug-ins that I don’t find myself using a lot, it’s not expensive; but sometimes when it works, it just really works, and it’s very good for creative mixing like that.

And then next tip here I’ve got some compression and with any kick drum, you are going to want some pretty heavy compression to see 20 to 1 ratio.

[Music Being Played 00:11:29]

And with…

[Music Being Played 00:11:31]

So that’s adding a lot of energy, a bit of punch.

And finally another tip, saturation, so again, this kick was just not really cutting through the mix that well, so I am just adding some drive here and with Saturn I can just saturate this top end above 160 hertz. So I am not saturating any of that bottom end, we are leaving all of that clean and untouched, we are just saturating that top end to help this kick drum stick out a bit more with speakers and also just come through that mix. So this is without…

[Music Being Played 00:12:01]

And with…

[Music Being Played 00:12:04]

Without…

[Music Being Played 00:12:07]

And with…

[Music Being Played 00:12:20]

So that really helps it cut through.

Now, three more tips unrelated to plug-in usage and arguably these are the three most important things you can do on a kick drum, and number 1 is getting a good sound at the source, having a good source to work with, whether that means spending lots of time recording a real kick drum or if that means spending lots of time on your sample choice using the right sample for the trap, choosing a sample that complements the bass guitar and the rest of the mix [inaudible 00:12:45] the context and spend loads of time on that phase; because if you start with a good sample, I wouldn’t have needed a lot of this processing; if the sample is better, it would have just fit right away, instead I had to kind of shape it to what I wanted but starting with the right sample you can bypass all of this.

Now, the second tip is that if you are using real kick drums, if you are using an acoustic kick, try blending in a sample or even replacing it with a sample, because in a home studio environment, drums are really hard to record. Kick drum, not so much, because you are putting that mic right up in the kick drum a lot of the time, so the acoustics aren’t going to have that big of an impact, but just blending in a sample with that kick is a really easy way to take your kick drum to the next level and make them sound really professional.

And finally, essential tip number 3 is before you even consider adding plug-ins, really spend some time on the volume balance. And you can see how I’ve been moving this fader around quite a lot. And this is something that you are going to be addressing throughout the mixing process but spend lots of time in the first place getting a really good volume balance. This applies for everything. And then if at any point you find that the bass or the low end, just in general, of the mix is too loud, before you start applying EQ to your mix bus or multiband compression, all that kind of stuff, try just turning down the kick or turning down the bass and spend loads of time addressing this volume balance. Now that we’ve played around with some plug-ins, I need to go back and address that again. I really need to spend some time making sure this sits well in the mix. So just 3 extra tips there. Before you even start mixing, get those three things right.

So there you go, a simple 3-step technique for EQ and kick drum. Now, the kick drum is just one part of the drum kit and if the kick drum sounds awesome but the rest of the click doesn’t sound so good, then the entire mix is going to suffer. So you need to make sure you get all of these elements right, because they work together. So, to help you with that we put together a free drum mixing cheat sheet and if you want to learn how to mix drums like a pro and getting them right every single time, be sure to grab this cheat sheet, reference it, use it when you are mixing or just use it as a way to actually apply all of the stuff you’ve learned here. So it’s completely free, there’s a link in the description below or on screen now. And now I want to hear from you. What do you think is the most important part of the drum kit? Is it the kick or is it the snare? Leave a comment below. That’s all for me, I will see you same time, same place next week, and remember create regardless.

 

Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.

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