The kick is the deep, resonant heartbeat that drives the music. It is essential that it comes through and connects the listener to the fundamental rhythms of your music. Getting the kick to sit right in your mix can be challenging, but by understanding and knowing what steps to take, you will find yourself closer to the sound you want and need. This tutorial will share five tips you can use to achieve a punchy kick on every mix.
1. Choose the right kick sample
If you are having trouble making the kick come through in the mix, make sure you’ve chosen the right kick sample. Is it tuned to the right key? (It should be tuned to the root note of the key of the song). Does it have low end? High end? The effectiveness of your kick starts at the sample. You may have to stack more than one sample to achieve the kick sound you want. Perhaps one sample will have the low end, another sample will have the mid range beater and a third sample will have the high end click.
2. Use EQ to fatten/tighten up the kick
It is rare to not have to use EQ to shape your kick, unless you’ve written your song around the kick drum. If the kick lacks low end, look for the dominant sub resonance in the 45hz-100hz region. Use an EQ to sweep in this region and find the sweet spot, boost to taste and widen the Q to keep the low end boost smooth, not sharp and pointy.
To tighten up the kick look for the beater sound in the 3-10khz range and give it a boost.
Keep in mind, fattening and tightening up a kick does not always mean boosting frequencies. Sometimes cutting the muddy, unnecessary frequencies in the 200hz-800hz can open up the low end and tighten the upper mids.
3. Use Compression to make the kick punchy
Compression is an essential tool to be used when tweaking a punchy kick. Begin with a slow attack, fast release, ratio 4:1. The kick should compress no more than 3db. Sometimes even 1db of compression is enough to make it pop out of the mix.
4. Make Sure Your Kick Sample Is In Mono
Majority of the time, drum samples come in stereo. Be sure to split them into mono. Having a kick sample in mono center is essential to make it cut through the mix. The center of your mix should always be dedicated to your kick drum, snare, bass and lead vocal
5. Use Sidechain Compression To Give Space To Your Kick
By sidechaining the kick to the bass and other instruments in your mix, it will temporarily attenuate all the sidechained instruments and allow the kick to cut through for a split second before the music goes back to unity. This step is an absolute essential step in getting the kick to come through the mix. Having the bass sidechained to the bass gives life to the mix as well. Experiment with sidechaining other instruments to the kick to see if it gives a cool pulse to the song.
If you have never used sidechain before, check out this YouTube video:
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