Kick Drum Dynamics

Particularly with contemporary and rock 'n' roll music, there's usually the desire for a solid "thump," but one with a crisp attack and overall good definition. The thing to avoid is a boxy, hollow or boomy sonic quality. Correctly applying signal processing in the form of equalization (EQ), gating and compression can help improve the raw unprocessed signal coming from the mic(s).

Processor settings will vary based on the actual drum, as well as how it's tuned, mic type/design/brand, and mic placement. That said, here are some general guidelines to get this "processing process" off to the right start, beginning with EQ:

 

1. Use a wide filter and cut between 200 Hz and 2 kHz, which is the frequency range where the boxy sound characteristic comes from. Decreasing these frequencies also helps in creating a nice "hole" where other instruments can fit into the overall mix.

2. Use a narrow filter to boost the 2 kHz and 4 kHz range. This is the heart of the attack sound. Be careful not to overdo it, however, or it can result in a “click” signature that's not desired in most musical styles outside of crazed metal bands.

3. Use another narrow filter to boost the 40 Hz to 80 Hz range. It will enhance the thump; dial in the desired amount based on personal taste and musical style.

4. Set the hi-cut filter in the 10 kHz range to keep out extra noise.

GATING

Gates are employed primarily to tighten things up and to limit stray noise that may enter the mic. General guidelines:

1. Use a very fast attack time; the goal is for the gate to open very quickly (2 milliseconds recommended as a starting point).

2. Adjust the threshold so the gate comes and goes at a desired level – neither too strong or too weak.

3. Hold the gate open for a little bit, but not too long (15 ms recommended as a starting point).

4. The release setting can be a bit longer (150 ms recommended as a starting point).

 

COMPRESSION

Compression helps with evening out the overall level of the kick drum while also affording protection from overdriving the sound system. General guidelines:

1. Don’t set the attack too fast or it will crush the initial attack sound (50 ms recommended as a starting point).

2. Adjust the threshold so the compression kicks in at the desired level.

3. Hold for a shorter period of time (10 ms recommended as a starting point).

4. Set release time to allow for recovery (150 ms recommended as a starting point).

5. To retain the strength of the sound in the overall mix, use a 4:1 ratio and employ make-up gain (recommend 4 dB as a starting point).

How does a Sound Tech Practice?

Practice for Sound Techs: 3 Best Multitrack Recorders for Church

 

How does your sound tech practice?

Your vocalists practice, your guitar player practices, your drummer well… he may practice, but how does your sound guy or lady, practice?

Assuming that you have a 5-piece band – there are at least 15 hours of practice that the entire band has put in.  This is assuming a 2-hour band rehearsal and that each musician practiced 1 hour on their own during the week.

I believe that is an extremely conservative estimate. Those 15+ hours can be wasted by a bad mix during the worship service.

So how does your sound guy practice? 

Some would argue that in the above scenario, the sound guy did get in 2 hourw of practice with the band. 

But really was it practice? 

Sure, the sound guy was able to mess with the faders, play with some eq, maybe dial in a little compression.

More than likely, this was mixed with taking care of the band’s needs.  It was also pretty fragmented.  He could have been in the middle of trying to set the gate on the kick drum and the band stops.

A friend of mine jokingly refers to the stop button.  You are right in the middle of dialing in something and the band stops and leaves your hanging.  So, what is the solution? 

Enter Virtual sound check.

Today most digital boards have a multitrack digital out.  The most common form is USB. 

With inexpensive, or free software, you can record 32 or more tracks of live audio to a computer.  Waves Tracks Live, for example, offers a free version that is fully functional (you can pay $99 and get phone support and priority updates).

Once you have recorded the band, then you can flip the inputs on your console to digital in and playback the multi-track recording. 

It is just like the band is there live.

Now you can take your time, mute everything but the kick drum, and really hear the changes that your compression settings are making on that input. 

You can also replay a section as many times as you would like and listen to how it sounds as you change your settings.  You can do this with all of the channels.

You can turn everything back on and play with your overall mix.

No more having the musicians wait around or play individually as you tweak the sound.

There are also devices on the market that are stand alone, purpose-built.  They do not need a computer to operate and you do not have to mess with any software. The advantage of a stand-alone device is that you have little to no set up and no computer to lug around. 

There are many multitrack recorders that can do a virtual sound check. 

The following are three of the best fit units for the worship market:

  • JoeCo has Blackbox
  • Cymatic has Utrack 32
  • NemoSyn has Ndrive

JoeCo blackbox comes in 3 flavors, Analog, Madi and Dante.  
You hook up a hard drive to the usb on the blackbox and you can record full uncompressed wav files. Physically a single rack mount unit, the Black box is geared towards the professional user and requires an interface if you only have usb out on your console.

Being rack mounted It is the most “pro version” and is great if you are on tour and want to capture audio from the show.  Your recording length in limited by the hard drive size that you connect to it.  Cost for the Madi version $3995,00 plus hard drive http://www.joeco.co.uk/BBR_models.html

The Utrack 32 by Cymatic is a purpose built card that fits in to the popular Behringer X32 digital mixing console.  
Once inserted in to the board you simply hook up a usb hard drive, download the app, connect the Ethernet port on the card to a wireless network and then you the app to control the recording and playback of your files. Cost $499.00 plus hard drive http://cymaticaudio.com/products/recorders-players/utrack-x32

Nemosyn has the Ndrive a portable usb recorded that can connect to any mixer that has a usb multitrack out.  
(Behringer, Yamaha, Soundcraft, Allen and heath and others have mixers with usb connectivity for multi-track).  There is a large record button, a large play button and a touch screen to control playback and recording.  The unit records to an onboard SD- card.  Nemosyn ships the Ndrive with a 64 gig SD card.  Cost $599.00 (includes everything needed) www.nemosyn.com

Virtual sound check is the by far the best tool a sound guy can have to hone his craft.  One of the really beautiful things is that now the sound guy and worship leader can sit together and work on the mix together. 

It is well worth the investment; with practice you can perfect your mix!

How does your audio person rehearse? Can a sound tech practice their craft? The answer is yes, and here are several of the best options in today's digital multi-track recorders.