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How to Get More Kick Out of the Kick Drum

This is a guest post by Niklas J. Blixt –

The kick drum is one of the most important pieces of the modern drum kit, regardless of style.

Today I’ll give away some of my best tips and tricks on how to make it sound great and how to record it to sound awesome.

Get Your Head Straight

First you have to make sure that the kick sounds good on its own, long before you start to throw mics around.

The first step is to make sure that your drumheads are in good condition, they don’t need to be brand new, just in good condition. It’s also important not to overlook the resonant head.

What type of head you’re using comes down to personal preferences. I usually prefer a coated batter head, I think it gives the kick a little bit more body and warmth that I like. For the front head I usually go with the stock head that’s already there. Just make sure it’s in good condition.

Here’s a quick-starter guide to drum tuning that makes the drum sound good:

  1. Tip the kick on its side with the batter head facing up. Loosen the tension rods so that the head is completely loose.
  2. Take the palm of your hand and place it in the center of the head and press down with as much weight as you can. You should be able to rest almost your entire body weight on the head.
  3. Keep the pressure on at the center of the head. Then turn the tension rods, no more than one turn at a time then move on to the next. Until all the wrinkles along the edge of the head just disappears.
  4. Now remove your hand from the center and fine tune the head so it sounds as you want. Repeat the process on the front head. Usually you’d want to tune the resonant head slightly higher.

What About Muffling?

Personally I prefer as little muffling as possible.

If your kick rings a bit too much for your liking, try to use some soft material and put it against the resonant head. Be careful not to put to much in, just enough to take away some of the ring.

Most drumhead manufacturers have heads that changeable muffling rings or something like that. I prefer those because you can keep your kick drum pretty empty, and it’s easy to find just enough muffling. Most of the times the unwanted ring comes from the resonant head.

Especially if you’ve followed my tuning advice. Sometimes a small towel or a blanket will do the trick.

Free Range…ehm…Kick Drum

To get your kick drum to sound even better you want it to vibrate as freely as possible. The sound from the drum doesn’t come from the heads alone. No, the whole drum vibrates and creates that awesome kick drum sound.

Toms that are mounted directly on the kick actually prevent vibrations from the shell. Buy some clamps from your local music store and mount the toms on the cymbal stands instead.

Another thing you’d like to do is to lift the kick drum up from the floor.

Most kick drum pedals have a little cradle where the rim rest to lift it from the floor. You want to lift the front end of the kick up from the floor as well. Most drums have legs that are long enough to allow this. Just lengthen the legs so that you can slide your fingers in under the front end of the kick.

Kick Miking

If you’ve got all the previous steps down, miking the kick is a pretty simple task. The industry standard is to use a dynamic microphone, like the AKG D112 or the Shure Beta 52 or something similar.

I like to start with putting the mic just in front of the resonant head, maybe no more than 1/4 of an inch.

Usually I put it where the hole is in the front head, because 90% of all kick drums have a hole in the resonant head. This placement will give you a good starting point. From here you can experiment with the placement if you want another sound. Pointing it more towards where the beater hits the batter head or move it more inside the drum etc.

Sub Kick Mics

Here’s one last little trick that will take your kick drum sound to the next level. Use a sub kick mic! And I mean that regardless of what style of music you’re recording. Some people may argue that it’s unnecessary.

I beg to differ.

In my opinion a sub kick mic picks up the body of the kick more than the standard kick microphone. And I can tell you that they’ve used sub kick mic’s on more records than you think off.

A sub kick mic is basically a large diaphragm of some sort that can pick up the lowest frequencies. Usually it’s nothing other than a backwards wired speaker cone, but you can purchase ready-made subkick mics like the Yamaha subkick.

I still see people just using a speaker in the studio though. In fact I do too.

I see many people placing it very close to the resonant head.

I’ve found that if you move it away a bit it works even better, I have mine placed about a foot away from the kick almost at dead center. You don’t have to worry to much about bleed from the rest of the kit because the sub kick mic only really picks up the lowest frequencies.

And you can always just add a high-cut filter on it and you’re good.

But try experimenting with the placement of this mic to get the most bottom end. And of course always make sure it’s in phase with the other kick drum mic.

I hope that you got a kick out of reading this post 😉

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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