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).