The thing that makes the disco tick – part 1

Back when I was a rock kid, all the best bands had their own Keith Moon / Ginger baker, James Brown had his funky version, and in the 80’s Roland tried to synthesize it…

Yep, that’s it, the simple kick drum is what sets the pace and get you dancing, and no matter how catchy the hook if you kick doesn’t cut it, no ones gonna be dancing folks!

So what makes a great dancefloor kick? Does it change? How do make one for your track? Hopefully by the end of this series you’ll be able to answer these yourself…

The internet is awash with packs of kicks you can download for free or buy, surely there can’t be that many variations? 808, 909, synthesized, the list goes on. To be honest most of them I’ve ever found aren’t worth the effort to insert them into a drum machine, they just don’t just the proverbial mustard for today’s dance music. The problem being, electronic music is technology driven and hence last weeks sounds often jus aren’t crisp, loud, full enough for today’s music. Producers are continually striving to attain that perfect sound we hear in our minds… one day we may get there!

So how do you get the right kick for your masterpeice?

As we’ve discussed before the frequency spectrum is the key once again here, and will depend on the style of track been made. Drum n bass kick sits a lot higher in the frequency than house etc. I’m going to be discussing relative to the Tech-House genre.

For me its a two stage process of getting the kick. I start off with an initial kick for the type of track or vibe I’m after, that I’ll drop into my drum machine of choice, currently Ableton’s Impulse unit. I’ll then continue to construct the track through its various stages until I have a laid out mix. This is where the fun begins!

Your track is mixed out, you’ve A-B tested it with a commercial release and the kick just doesn’t match up.

There are couple of things to consider here –

The mix and sidechaining

You will most likely have competing frequencies around where the kick is, so without sidechaining you will struggle to get the kick to push through the mix. Check our earlier tutorial on this to ensure youve got your DAW set up correctly.

The Kick

To achieve the presence necessary, your kick will need to have

40- 150hz – low end beef

550-800hz gives a nice thump through the mix

2-6khz – for that top click you need

These frequencies will vary depending on the tonality of your kick. Which needs to be matched to the key of your track for optimum sound. Something many people I dont think consider.

I also find its good to remove a small slice of frequencies around the 250hz mark, this removes some muddiness and helps give definition.

It good idea to get a folder of good basic kicks that are pretty close, in different tones and phattness n frequency range that you can drop into your track to get you going initially.

It is good to consider your sub bass riff and frequency when working on the kick.. Again have a generic working protype to hand to get you going.

Part two I’m going to look at the processing I would do to the kick… RSS or look back soon peps!

Heres a video post from Mike Chav that should help till I get video sorted ;p

http://vimeo.com/3768862

interesting points … I’ll discuss through next time

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