It’s time you started focusing on adding power, punch & low-end to your kick drum. We’re feeling a bit rebellious though, so instead of the traditional compression or EQ trick, why don’t we expand our toolkit (and skill set) a bit?
The Problem With A Clicky Kick
A lot of engineers like to dial in kick drums to capture plenty of attack. With such a bottom-heavy instrument, it’s easy to see why. A clicky kick can cut through a mix with ease, with the initial attack playing nicely with other mid-range instruments. Once you reach the mix stage, the meticulously captured kick drum might not be holding its own anymore. Whether it’s a bass guitar drowning out some of the body or stacked, overdriven guitars masking it – you need to find a way to boost the punch behind that kick drum without making it sound like a glorified click track.
The Silver Lining
Luckily, a well-recorded kick can be converted to a MIDI trigger with ease. The process varies depending on the DAW you’re using, but most will have an “Audio to MIDI” feature. Logic users can follow along with Fluff as he walks through our process step-by-step. For other DAWs, a quick Google search should pull up DAW-specific processes if you’re not familiar.
While the Audio to MIDI functionality is usually pretty accurate when you’ve got defined transients (and most drum recordings do), it is important to go back and verify the accuracy of each note before moving forward. Once they’re all in the right place, it’s time to get creative.
Finding A Solution
At this point, you should have your original kick and a copy of it as a MIDI track. If you don’t, shame on you for skipping ahead. Go back a section (or just watch the video).
In order to boost the presence of our kick drum in the mix, we’re going to get creative with sub-harmonic synthesis. Sub Destroyer has been a great solution for creating bass drops, supplementing bass guitars & even for dubstep production – but have you ever considered using it on a kick?
Since we’ve got our MIDI triggers already laid out, dropping Sub Destroyer on the track is an easy way to add punch to the body, fattening up your kick, and making it sound huge. By default, the plugin is set to trigger a sine wave, which sounds extremely natural with most pre-existing kicks. Feel like getting outside of the box? Experiment with other waveforms and settings!
Dialing in Success
Once your trigger is locked & loaded – work to refine its interaction with the kick. Our goal isn’t to overpower, but to reinforce.
Some of our suggestions include:
Pitch-matching your trigger note to the kick drum
Changing the trigger length for a more natural sound (shorter triggers tend to work better)
Automate your MIDI velocities – this is especially important if your DAW doesn’t automatically do this for you
Have another creative way to add punch to a kick?
Let us know over on the Joey Sturgis Forum!