How to Mix Your Drums: The Kick - Keep It Sample

The kick is one of the main parts of a track, especially in electronic music.

For this reason, you have to give it the right space in your mix.

To help you understand how to manage it, I wrote down what are the spectral areas that make it up:

 

  • Sub-frequencies area (< 30Hz).

30Hz - Kick sub-frequencies area

  • Low-frequencies area (30-100Hz) : it’s the body, the main part of the kick.
30-100Hz - Kick low-frequencies area
  • Mid-low frequencies area (200-350Hz):  if the kick sounds too muddy, you could try to remove some frequencies in this part.
200-350Hz - Kick mid-low frequencies area
  • Mid-high frequencies area (5000-15000Hz): this is the part responsible for the attack of the kick.
5000-15000Hz - Kick mid-high frequencies area
  • High-frequencies area (15000-20000Hz): often, this part is considered “in excess” and removed.
15000-20000Hz - Kick high-frequencies area
Now I’ll show you what’s the procedure I follow to mix my kicks.

This is the effects chain I use most of the times:

EQ ➡️ COMPRESSOR ➡️ EQ
KIS - kick chain EQ - COMPRESSOR - EQ

EQ - REMOVING EXCESS FREQUENCIES

I insert a high-pass filter at around 20Hz – 30Hz, and a low-pass filter at around 15kHz – 20kHz.

This way I remove unnecessary frequencies, which could create problems in the later stages of my mix.
Kick high-pass filter 20Hz-30Hz and low-pass filter 15Khz-20Khz

COMPRESSOR

I compress the kick by 3 dB to 8 dB with a ratio around 4:1.
Compressor - gain 3dB - 8dB - ratio 4.1
I set the attack time between 10-25 milliseconds.
Compressor attack time 10-25 ms
Then, I play around with the release time and find what sounds better, depending on the sample I’m using.
Compressor Release Time
Sometimes I also use the “Dry Gain” knob, which controls how much dry (uncompressed) input signal is added to the output.
Compressor Dry Gain Knob
ATTENTION: Make sure that the compressor is back to 0 dB before the other kick plays.

EQ - BOOSTING

I tend not to boost the kick too much.

However, if necessary, I do it in these specific areas:

50Hz to add low-frequencies.

100Hz to increase the punchiness.
Kick EQ boost - 50Hz and 100Hz
Keep in mind that the boost I apply never exceed 4/5 dB.

These are the plug-ins I used:

FabFilter Pro-Q 2

FabFilter Pro-C 2

To conclude this post, below, I’ve collected some tips I found around the net.

They’re really useful to fix some of the most common problems during a mix:

 

  • Kick sounds thin: If it sounds thin, it's lacking low frequencies. Make sure the HPF isn't set too high. Use a bell filter to boost the lower frequencies a bit, between 40Hz and 100Hz, to give it more low-end.

kick sounds thin

  • Kick sounds hollow: If it sounds hollow, it's missing some body. Boost frequencies between 200Hz and 1kHz with a bell filter to give it more substance.
kick sounds hollow
  • Kick sounds too bassy: If it sounds too bassy, – you guessed it – it has too much bass. Make sure that you’ve set an HPF to determine the lowest frequency. Use a low shelf filter under 120Hz to decrease the volume of the bass frequencies.
kick sounds too bassy
  • Kick sounds too harsh: If it sounds too harsh, its high frequencies are too loud. Use a high shelf filter above 8kHz to decrease the volume of the harsh frequencies. Or use a bell filter to decrease frequencies around 10kHz to get rid of the harsh sound, but maintain the highest frequencies.
kick sounds too harsh
  • Kick sounds muffled: If it sounds muffled, it's lacking high frequencies. Make sure you haven’t set the LPF too low. Use a bell filter to boost frequencies between 6kHz and 20kHz. Or use a high shelf filter to boost frequencies above 6kHz.
kick sounds muffled
  • Kick sounds weak and lacks punch: If it sounds weak and lacks punch, make sure you've set the attack time of the compressor right after the attack time of the kick, this is often somewhere between 12 and 25 milliseconds. You can also boost frequencies with a bell filter around 100Hz to enhance the punching impact of the kick.
kick sounds weak
  • Kick sounds too distant: If it sounds too distant, it's most likely lacking mid-high frequencies. Use a bell filter to boost frequencies between 500Hz and 5kHz to bring the kick more to the front of the mix.
kick sounds too distant
  • Kick does not cut through the mix: Have all synths, instruments, vocals, and sound effects be side-chain compressed by the kick. Every time the kick sounds, the other elements get compressed (and softer).


📥 If you have any questions feel free to contact me at lorenzo@keep-it-sample.com.

DrumsKickMixing tips