The kick drum is arguably the most important element in any EDM track (of any genre). If it's not punching through the mix properly, the dance floor isn't going to be jumping.
Today you're gonna learn exactly how to get your kick drum sitting properly in your mix – with plenty of punch and plenty of headroom – in under 7 minutes.
Whether you are producing Trap, Future Bass, House, Trance or Pop, and whether you use Ableton Live, Logic X or FL Studio, these techniques will work for you.
I'm also using ONLY FREE PLUGINS, so this tutorial will get your kick drums and 808's punching through your mix without breaking the bank.
Here are the free plugins I've used:
How to Make Your Kicks Hit Harder:
FIRST THING'S FIRST:
The very first thing to consider is actually choosing a really good sample that works with the rest of your track. It's the best way to get it punching through your mix. Everything else is so much easier if you pick the right sounds to begin with.
WHAT WE WANT TO ACHIEVE: PERCEIVED LOUDNESS:
Okay, guys, so the first step is to realize that it's not the peak loudness that we're trying to increase, it's actually the average loudness. Because you can't get above zero decibels. Otherwise, it starts to clip.
A QUICK TIP:
What I'm doing in Ableton is I've assigned to shortcut to my fatten chain. When I show you these tricks on a different elements, I can use the shortcut so we can A/B test the sound which is what you always want to be doing. Remember, it's not just the kick that we need to process to actually make the kick more punchy. But first we ARE going to process the kick.
1 – SATURATION:
First in our chain is saturation. Saturation is just like enhancing the frequencies that the kick drum already has. A great free plugin is Softtube's "Saturation Knob". Next I'm putting in a gain plugin, just to turn the gain down by the amount that the plugin has increased it. That's so we can actually just hear the coloration of the sound rather than increasing the volume.
2 – LAYERING:
The next thing is to layer your kicks. Now, you don't always need to do this. Remember, sound selection is really important. You might already have found a kick that you really like and you might not want to layer it. But in this instance I'm going to show you what happens if you layer a high-end kick over an 808 kick.
3 – EQ:
Okay, number three is EQ. This is where we carve out space in the other elements for our kick to punch through. Let's have a look at the frequencies out kick drum is hitting. I'm using this free plugin by Voxengo called SPAN. It's just a spectrum analyzer.
Our kick drum's fundamental frequency (which is the main frequency) is about 53 hertz. We're going to select 53 hertz on our bassline (because that's about what our kick drum is hitting), and then notch it down a few dB. It might not quite be audible, but these are very small changes that's going to help your kick punch through the mix more.
You can do that with other elements as well, just to carve out more space for that kick to really punch through your mix.
4 – LIMITING:
Okay, next is limiting. If we go to our kick, we can use a limiter just to get another dB or so out of it. We can push it up louder with a gain, and wait till we've got one or two dB gain reduction.
5 – SIDECHAIN COMPRESSION:
We're going to sidechain our bass from our kick drum or our trigger channel here. I'm using the Ableton Live sidechain compressor, but your DAW has a sidechain compressor as well. FL Studio, Logic X, they've both got sidechain compressors. We're just taking the audio from our sidechain trigger, which is playing the exact same pattern as the kick. You can take it from the kick, but I'll link to another video on why I prefer to do it this way. You can hear the kick is ducking the bassline, and allowing the kick to pop through the mix more.
6 – BUSS PROCESSING / COMPRESSION:
My sixth tip for making your kicks to hit really hard is using Buss Compression. What I'm doing is routing the bass and the kick to their own buss together, "kick & bass buss". All I'm doing is I'm adding a bit of buss compression. I'm using Ableton's Glue Compressor, but you can do this with any compressor, really. All I'm going to do is activate it, set the release to automatic, ratio to four, and then just bring down the threshold until I'm getting about two dB of gain reduction. I've got soft clip on for the reason I said earlier. And then I'm just going to do the makeup by two dB, because that's what I'm reducing the gain by, and let's compare.
There you have it guys. I really hope that you found this video useful. If you want to learn how to make a Trap beat (maybe the beat that I used in this video), hit me up in the comments below, let me know and I shall make it happen 🙂