The kick is the most important drum of the song in most genres. It is therefore good to zoom in on what makes a good kick. These are guidelines you can use when selecting the kick for your song.
- dB level: Especially for kicks, it’s important to check the dB level. The most differences in dB are usually between kicks. You may find a kick that has a ton of unnecessary low end, which will cause it to have a lot of dB. This will take a lot of space in the mix. Look for a kick that sounds loud, and does not have a lot of dB. Usually what makes them sound louder is if they have lots of mid (and even high) frequencies.
- Transients. The transient of a sample is in the first few milliseconds. If it has a loud transient, you will hear a clear direct punch. If it has a soft transient, the punch will be less, and it will sound softer. Listen closely and train your ear to hear the differences in transients. You can also increase or decrease the transients with a transient shaper plugin.
- Frequencies: The right kick already has most of the frequencies you like, so you don’t have to edit it a lot. If you find yourself trying to adjust the EQ and other effects on a kick a lot, you’re usually better off finding another kick. Don’t be too attached to one kick and try different ones, and you find that different kicks work in different situations.
You can edit the kick to fit your track a bit better, but as mentioned above, too many changes usually doesn’t work well. When editing a kick, it’s good to look at the different frequency groups, to know what to edit.
- 20Hz - 70Hz. This is the sub of the kick. It’s not punchy, because the bass sound waves are too large and slow for that. It’s not really the kick, but the sub underneath the kick, which gives weight to it. So if you feel like your kick is too thin, it may be an idea to increase this a bit. But if the sample has too much sub, or you increase it too much, it will take up unnecessary space in the mix.
- 70Hz - 200Hz. This is the low-mid, and contains the body of the kick. If you play this, you will hear a punchy hit that you can feel in your chest. This part already has some transients, so if you want to give the kick more body and punch, you can increase this a bit. You can also make some cuts here to shape the sound of the kick.
- 200-5kHz (or higher). This is the top of the kick. It depends a lot on the type of kick whether it goes up to the high frequencies. It is however important to have a little bit of top on a kick, even if it only reaches up to say 500Hz. This is what the kick will sound like through small speakers (because they don’t play bass). You can increase this a bit to make the kick punch through the mix a bit more, or lower it if you feel like the kick sounds too bright. It’s also important to listen to the genre you’re making, because genres differ a lot in how much high end the kick uses.
Kick frequencies visualized
You can also use layering to create a fuller, bigger kick. This is not always necessary. A good kick sample can also very well be used as single layer. But if you want to add some extra high-end to a kick, or an extra stomp in the mid, you can apply layering to the kick. Consider these things when layering a kick.
- Use only one sub-kick. You don’t want two different sub frequencies conflicting with each other. If you have two different subs in a kick, it can result in a too loud and muddy sub, or phasing problems. So use one kick that has a good sub, and filter the other kick as a layer from 70Hz, or higher.
- Make the layers complement each other. Only use a kick layer if you think the sum of the layers sounds better. Otherwise, stick with one layer. It can also be possible that the layer on its own sounds very thin, but combined with another layer, it sounds full.