Rob Coates (Producer / Mix Engineer) / Blog

How to Record and Mix A Kick Drum - Part 2

EQ: Cut some frequencies around 350 to 400 HZ to eliminate some muddiness and any boxy feel to the kick drum. You may choose to boost around 2-3.5K for a rock kick or 8-10 K for a metal kick. This will give a point and click to your kick drum, therefore making it more audible in the mix. It is imperative to not do this too much. Allow the mix engineer to shape this properly with the track when mixing. Feel free to boost around 50Hz to give the kick a little more bottom end. Again, be tasteful and give the mix engineer plenty of neutral ground to work from.

Compression: A quick attack and fast release will cause a kick and compressor to pump. Be care careful not to do this too much at all. If you are trying to control some transients, try between a fast/medium attack and fast release. This will help you clamp down on a few out of control transients. For allowing maximum transients to pass through the compressor, use a slow attack and auto or fast release. This will definitely give you kick some attack. I like using a EL-8X Compressor (Distressor) with a 10 attack and 0 release. My ratio is usually 4:1 - 6:1. I may get a gain reduction of 5 db or so. I sometimes will slam it to 10db of compression depending on the track.

Mixing: It is important to get a nice solid and steady kick drum for rock music. Ideally, I will often use a kick sample of either the drummers kick or a 3rd party sample and combine it with the real live kick drum. If you choose to do this, be sure that you check the phase of your sample to make sure that you are in alignment with the original kick. Even though there are sound replacement programs out there, I often place my samples manually by hand in Pro Tools to get the optimal results. I will upload a video later on how to do this quickly.

There are no global rules for recording! The most important part is to have fun and try new things. You never know when you might be the one to discover something new. It is generally best to allow a professional mix and mastering engineer do your post production work for the best commercial results. This is a process that takes years to learn. However, you can save LOTS of money by recording yourself!

Rock Hard!!

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How to Record and Mix A Kick Drum - Part I

Step 1: Make sure you have fresh heads on your kick drum if affordable and possible.

Step 2: Tune your kick drum to taste. A great tuning tool besides your finger and ears is the Drum Dial. Be sure to tighten the lugs from left to right with your fingers first as much as possible. Then start with the lug closest to you at 6 o clock and give it 1-1/2 turns with a drum tuner. Next, go directly across the drum to the lug across from the one at 6 o clock. This lug should roughly be around 12 o'clock. Repeat this process. Then go back and tighten the lug at 7-8 o clock going clockwise while always tuning the following lug that is across from the one you are tightening. After tuning all lugs, check pitch and continue entire process until you reach the desired sound.

Step 3: If you have a hole in your front head, stuff a small pillow or foam inside the drum against the beater head. This will give your kick a nice tightness to it. Move the pillow, blanket, or foam around for desired result. If you are recording jazz, you may want to reconsider the stuffing inside.

Step 4: If recording rock music, turn your better around to the plastic beater instead of felt. This will help the mic capture a more defined kick tone. You can also use a wooded beater if so desired.

Step 5: Recording with 1 Mic - Place a dynamic microphone inside the kick drum about half way. Point the diaphragm to face towards the beater, then turn very slightly towards the left (Floor Tom)to off center the diaphragm just a bit from the beater. This will help eliminate forceful muddiness or bass buildup and catch more tone and definition. You do not need to off center too much.

Good Mics: AKG D112, AKG D12, Audix D6, Shure Beta 52, RE 20.

Step 6: Go from the mic to a microphone preamp and eq of choice. You can choose to compress slightly to tame transients after the mic pre if you choose. Otherwise, go directly into your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) converters.

Go To Part II...