When choosing the right kick drum for your track sometimes you get lucky by randomly picking a sample that immediately sits well with the bass and other rhythmic elements in the mix. But more often than not, various equalizers, compressors, and other processing tools can’t help you to achieve the desired low-end mix. The good news is that you can change the tuning of most drum samples. In this tutorial, we will go through this process.
Tune it up
A good starting point that can help you determine the base key of the kick is a spectrum analyzer like SPAN by Voxengo. First and foremost, I will find a sample of a proper sounding kick and import it into a project. I have already made a basic setup with the bass and a couple of other rhythm elements.
Now let’s hear how the unprocessed kick sample sounds. Firstly with the bass and then with the bass and rhythm together.
~Unprocessed Kick Drum and Bass
~Unprocessed Kick Drum, Bass, and Rhythm
It is clear that that the mix between the kick drum and other elements is not good. The kick has punch and some decent low end, but it is totally not sitting right in the mix. In order to fix this, I will open a new instance of Battery 4 by Native Instruments and just drag and drop our sample into a new cell. The part of the interface that is marked red will be the section that I will pay attention to while tuning the kick drum.
The Amount parameter actually sets the degree to which the envelope affects the pitch. The Decay parameter edits the time needed for the envelope to go from its initial level. To Pitch parameter will translate the input velocity to semitones (with an underlying minimum value of 0 st., and a maximum value of +12 st.). To tune the kick drum properly from this point, I would advise you to trust your ears and your speakers. Checking the spectrum analyzer too often could just confuse you, instead of helping you. So after experimenting with the values of the 3 parameters I have described in the upper section, our kick, together with the bass, sounds like this:
~Tuned Kick Drum and Bass
Tweaking the Kick to Perfection
I would say that we are on the right path now, but I am still not totally satisfied with how it sounds. For this reason, I will process it further with a built-in equalizer and compressor found in Battery 4. There is too much energy in the low mid part of the frequency spectrum so I will attenuate it for a couple of decibels. Furthermore, I will use the compressor to make a final polish.
Finally, let us hear how the tuned kicks sound with the bass and other elements in the mix.
~Tuned and Processed Kick Drum and Bass
~Tuned and Processed Kick Drum, Bass and Rhythm