How do you find the perfect kick for your track? This post will take you through some of the common problems, giving to techniques and examples of what you should and shouldn’t do. Read on…
Often producers start out dropping their favorite sounding kick into the drum machine of DAW sequencer and then start making a track, then get to what they think is the end of the process only to find during A-B comparisons either it doesn’t measure up or the sound overall just isn’t cutting it somehow.
In modern electronic music you can no longer do that. The kick takes up a range of frequencies and you need to consider where in the whole spectrum your kick is going to sit in relation to the rest of the tracks elements. It’s a balancing act – one that you need to consider before you step on the tightrope… ideally.
For example, if your making progressive house the kick needs to punch through the mix across a wide band of frequencies. In drum and bass, the kick has little below 100hz with the hit mainly in the mids. Disco has quite light organic sounding kicks with not a lot of high mid range frequencies. Techno opens itself to a multitude of kicks, often using classic sounds such as the Beltram kick, with slower techno sometimes having only a deep sub for a kick giving plenty of room for groove in the percussion.
Here is a S.N.U.S remix of Mark Ronson’s – Somebody to Love me. In a disco edit style with quite a light kick, some sub but it doesnt smack you in the face like the kick you would use on a prog house track. The track instrumentation is quite full so this also lends of either alot of side chain or a light kick.
Here is an example of a funky/tech house track under my Dark Room Robot alias. This track main riff has alot of low mid bass, so the kick is positioned a lot lower. I also use regular hits of sub so the kick isn’t heavy in those frequencies. The punch is high up above the bass riff, so you hear it.
So when you start off, define your track parameters, think about the style and where in the frequency range the latest tracks are hitting. Are they subby or high frequency hitting? Do they dominate the mix? Where are your other key sounds going to be positioned in the frequency range?
When you have figured this, select an appropriate kick to build your track around. Don’t worry this can be time consuming when you first start but it’s time well spent. As you do it more you will instinctively know what to go for. A great tool to help you is to drop your track into your DAW and use a spectrum analyser and filter on the master. Listen to the track and using the filter isolate the parts you want to hear, and consequently see what frequencies they are operating.
Click the link below for a really cool interactive musical frequency chart. This will visually let you see what instruments and sounds sit in the mix.
P.s. the awesome image at the top was borrowed from this site Vivaboo – which has some other rather cool art shots. go check it out.