Today I came across this article at Sound On Sound which threw up a couple of really interesting points that could be really helpful to new engineers working on getting a good drum sound. The article specifically looks at the kick drum, how to EQ the kick channel. Particularly, using dynamics (compression and/or a gate) can be difficult to get right and can actually do more harm than good.
I’m not at all saying that I would do everything in this article every time it comes to processing a kick drum, I just think that there are several points that could be of value.
In particular, I agree with saying that just dialling in tons of low end with EQ might make it sound really beefy, but the majority of ipod headphones and car radios etc won’t stand a chance at reproducing such low frequencies. Not only that, but you’re adding in loads of low frequency energy to your mix which takes up a lot of headroom. You might be better off aiming for a more mid-y and punchy sound.
Anyway, check out the article but do take it with a pinch of salt, there is a lot of info on envelope-shaping and multipressing there. Don’t take too much notice of those, great things to try out if you’ve got the hardware or plugins necessary, but by no means essential to a great sounding kick drum. You should be able to do just fine with properly EQ-ing the channel, and using the right dynamics.
Surprisingly, the article only really mentions gates at the end of the ‘Enveloper techniques’ paragraph. I find them to be much more useful than envelope shaping, and you can do almost as much with a gate and compressor as with an envelope shaper anyway.
There will be a series coming up on drums, EQing them and and when to use dynamics, but I hoped this might give you a few things to think about in the meantime if you’re already building a mix.
[image via Paul Graham Raven]