The kick drum is an important part of the majority of musical genres. It’s what separates a professional mix from an amateur one. And when you truly want your audience to feel the impact, there’s no alternative to properly setting the EQ on your kick drum. Make your drums sound infinitely better. Check out the steps to EQ a kick drum without the use of a super expensive plugins.
Why is it so important? Well, you spend hours, often weeks and day working on the perfect mix; adding compressors, tweaking EQ’s, and trying virtually anything to make sure the perfect kick drum boost there. You go back and give it a listen only to realize it’s nothing like what you expected, but just a dull, blurred, and lifeless tune that doesn’t properly represent your hard work.
When you don’t mix with purpose, the low ends sound muddy, there’s not enough punch from the kick drum, not to mention the obvious lack of clarity. The key to success is to find a working process in mixing, then using the same tactic in every aspect of the mic.
Let’s cut to the chase and discuss how to EQ a kick drum to take your mixing to the next level.
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Step 1: Locate
The primary thing to consider while setting up the EQ of the kick drum is the relationship between the bass and the kick drum. You want to achieve a balanced, punchy, and full kick drum tune.
When you decide where each element fits best, the EQ can be used to help the elements co-exist and complement each other. In simpler terms, reduce the bass when you accentuate the kick drum, and vice versa. Keep in mind, you’re trying to fix a frequency range for each element. This is termed as range allocation.
Your first job is to locate where the energy is the strongest on the kick. You can either do it with your eyes or ears. The second option is better. Begin by soloing the bass and kick and bypassing the plugin(s) you’re using (if any). Now, just listen. Observe which one is prominent in the upper bass range (near 100 to 200 Hz) and which one has more in the sub bass range (near 50 Hz). You should get a clear idea of where the bass and kick drum should be placed on the frequency spectrum. The selection will vary depending on track genre, so keep an ear out for the slightest discrepancies.
If you want to see the results, use a spectrum analyzed to check where the bass channels are most prominent vs the kick drum.
With that said, you can definitely mix the two approaches in needed. Start with your ears and then let your eyes take over to check the work.
Step 2: Carve
After finding where the bass and kick will live, the next step in how to EQ a kick drum is to craving a shape for the kick. You need to find out two things for this: what’s lacking, and what is causing this?
After you’ve determined where the kick drum has to be placed in the frequency spectrum, time to shape it with the EQ. An EQ plugin enables you to cut and boost frequencies to achieve the sweet sound spot for every element. The EQ greatly highlights the frequencies, making the kick drum sound 10 times better. Plus, you can simply cut to decreased the frequencies obstructing the way.
For instance, you would ideally want to cut down on the frequencies causing issues for the bass, right? Let’s go back to step 1 and try to remember where you placed the bass in the frequency spectrum.
Room needs to be made in the mix for the bass to sit, which also means cutting the kick frequencies blocking the way. Assuming you determined your bass is going to exist in the 120 to 240 Hz zone of the spectrum. This means that you should make a significant incision on the kick drum truck near the 120-240 Hz range. A precise cut of about one to three dBs should be more than enough room for the bass track, and that too without affecting the kick drum’s sound in the total mix.
And that’s it; you’ve established where the bass and kick drum will sit in the frequency mix. Now you can shape the kick drum sound much more efficiently.
Now that you’ve removed what was in the way, give the kick and good listen and ask yourself, “Does it need anything? If yes, what?”
If your kick isn’t properly cutting through the mix, a good EQ trick is to slightly boost the upper-mids. Don’t shy away from being a tad bit aggressive with it to find the correct frequency. Determine the frequency that offers the tone/shape you had envisioned. Adjust the gain’s level to bring it to a pleasing stance.
Step 3: Slot
The final step, slotting, is associated with carving a space for your kick drums.
Some people call this “frequency slotting.” Go to other sections of the mix featuring lower frequencies and make a slot in the mix for the kick drum. It’s crucial to cut two to three dBs, if not more of any other kick or bass parts in the primary frequency range of the kick. Your goal is to reduce any existing low end parts which could pose an interference to the kick drum’s power.
Once the space has been created for the kick drum to live in, it will be accentuated in the mix.
Get a steady process going; know how to EQ a kick drum your way and you can try some other things to take your mixing game to the next level. In any of the processes, the important factor is finding out what works for you and sticking to it. Setting the correct EQ has wonderful effects on the finished results, so give it a try.