It is not easy to make a proper sounding kick drum for genres like Trance, Techno, or Progressive House. It requires some serious time and dedication to make it sound right in the mix. For this reason in this tutorial, we decided to give you a closer look at how one such kick drum sound is made. We will be going through step by step of the process required to make a kick drum and then listen to it in context with other elements of the song.
As usual, we have previously made a project within our SoundBridge: DAW containing some rhythm elements and simple bassline. Let us hear it.
~Full Mix – Without Kick Drum
Layered Kick Drum
An excellent sounding kick drum is usually made of 2 layers, but even better-sounding kick drum is made from 3+ layers. So this will be the case in this tutorial as well.
We will begin with the 1st layer, which we will call the top kick drum. The top layer kick drum, when played solo, is the one you hear some middle and high frequencies from. For example, the attack and the punch of the kick drum can be located in this layer. Here is how the sample we have chosen sounds.
~Top Kick Drum – Unprocessed
We are moving forward to our second layer, which is called the middle kick drum. The middle layer is where the body of the kick drum comes. Its frequency range is usually located in low-mid and mid areas of the sound spectrum. In order to sound rich and full, it is desirable to have a bit of a room reverb added into it. This is just what the sample which we have chosen possesses. Again, let us hear it how it sounds.
~Mid Kick Drum – Unprocessed
The last and probably most crucial layer for our kick drum sound will be named sub kick drum. The sub frequencies are essential for a right sounding kick drum, and therefore sample chosen for this layer has to be rich in frequencies located in the lower part of the frequency spectrum. The trick for mixing all these three layers is to apply a small fade at the beginning of the sub kick drum sample. This is done because we already have a body and punch coming from the upper layers, so the punch and body of the sub kick drum would not interfere with other layers. In the picture below, pay attention to the waveform of the kick drums. You will see that the sub kick drum layer has that slight fade at the beginning of the waveform.
Finally, let us hear how it sounds.
~Sub Kick Drum – Unprocessed
Since we have chosen our samples for the kick drum and did some necessary gain and EQ mixing, it is time to hear how they sound combined.
~Full Kick Drum 1
Group track + EQ
That sounds decent, but we feel there are a couple of more processes that could be applied for this kick drum to sound even better. We will take all three kick drum layers and add them to a new group track. In that way, it will be easier to control and process them. The first plugin that we are going to use is the master EQ. In this case, we have chosen a CurveEQ by Voxengo and cut some low and low-mid frequencies, which we feel are too resonant.
~Kick Drum – Processed With CurveEQ
The next plugin which we are going to add in the kick drum group plugin chain is the Ozone 8 Exciter by Izotope. This plugin allows us to add some subtle distortion much needed to enrich the harmonic content of our kick drum. Some reasonable amount of “Retro” distortion in the low-mid frequency range is what makes the difference.
Here is how it sounds now.
~Kick Drum – Processed With Ozone 8 Exciter
At the end of the plugin chain, we will add a simple limiter to boost the overall volume of the kick drum. So this is how our fully processed kick drum sounds like now.
~Kick Drum -Fully Processed
Finally, it is time to hear how our kick drum sounds in context with other elements in the mix.
~Full Mix – With Processed Kick Drum
Feel free to download the project file here.