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i need lots of help with the kick drum

I'm a beginner. i have some idea and have read a little about dealing with the kick but id like to know much more. so i figure someone on here migt have some useful information. ill start out with some info on what I'm using.
kick drum has an evan emad bass drum head but no resonent head.
I'm using a BETA 52 and cheap cables
Mackie onyx 1640
the mic right now is pointing directly at the beater. dead center of the kick. not off axis or anything.

now for the questions. i need help making the kick stick out more in the mix. if anyone can answer at least one of these it would be greatly appreciated. all of the questions.

how should i place the mic? how far away from the head? in the center? of axis?
i can eq the kick before it goes into the computer by routing it to a sub but that beside the point.
in post production should i have seperate tracks for the click and then for the bottem end. what frequencys should i be boosting/cutting? compression? limiting?

when i play with the kick in post production i can get an alright click but the bottom end isn't punchy. its muddy an not clearly defined.
i heard tapping quuarters to the other end of the head helps.

to sum it all up how do you get a good kick sound in your recordings.

sorry if i asked too many questions. this is my first post in this site. but i figured this was better than posting 20 different topic questions


stickers Thu, 09/28/2006 - 21:27
Howdy. i'll chime in.

I just started to learn to play drums the last couple months. I'm much better at tuning and recording drums, IMO.

The other day, I decided to record my self using 3 mics. D6 on the kick. Pair of nt5s as overheads using the recorderman method.

Since this is about the kick drum i'll stick to talking about that.

My kick drum is 14X20. A small kick. I use an emad head on my beater side, the premuffle head. And I lift the front of the drum up using the spurs to make sure the drum resonants as much as possible. I dont use a pillow inside just a small towell. The tuning on both heads are relatively loose but I will make adjustments as I go on...

Anyways, I put the mic inside the hole about 6 inches away from the beater head. I listen back and think that has a lot attack and punch but no resonant. It actually had to much attack for the sound i was going for.

Sooo..I tune the beater head up a little and move the mic back so its now about 3 inches inside the resonant head hole pointing straight. I record and listen back. I think OK it has less attack and the punch is good but im still not hearing the resonant head enough so I loosen the resonant head a little and hit it till a good low low end thing happening. I pull the mic back so the diapham of the mic is aligned with the hole on the resonant head. I listen back...THATS WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT!

It may not be what YOU want for in a kick drum sound but it was the sound I wanted in my head. My point is that you have work it till its what you want. I prefer to use one kick mic for this reason.


I'll post a sample below. And remember only 3 mics used. nt5 overheads, D6 on kick

NO EQ ,COMPRESSION, OR EFFECTS are used. So dont expect magic.


Pro Audio Guest Tue, 09/19/2006 - 09:51
i recorded the drums last night with the mic about5-6 inches away from the head and it is on the right side of the drum about 3 inches from the shell facing directly towards the beater. there is a blanket in it and it muffles it kinda well. the drum is tuned and everything and sounds the best it ever sounded. all my drums sound really good right now. cause i belive that to get the best sound you have to start out with a good sound.
anyways i did the drums and im gonna do the bass and guitar tonight. the kick sounds fine right now but you can never really tell until you hear it in the mix. my main recordings are of metal music because thats what my band is but i do other genres too.
id also like to take this time to glorify the tama drum tuner. i have a slingerland drum set from the mid 70s. its old and beat up. but it sound very good now due to the tuner and good heads. if i can get good sounding drums anyone can.
thanks for the advice. ill post the song once i do the other instruments

RemyRAD Fri, 09/29/2006 - 14:41
Not bad for a beginner. And here I thought you had been making recordings for a few years? One day you will learn how to use more than 3 microphones so you can fool everybody into thinking you know what you're doing with all those thingies? The drummy thing wasn't bad either but just as it started to get good, it cut off. Lousy fadeout.

Pay no attention to the kooky broad behind the curtain
Ms. Remy Ann David

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 09/25/2006 - 21:50
Is there anyway that you could elaborate on the sub, miking technique you mentioned? i've been seaching all over for information on it. thanks

"Well, perhaps a sub kick compressed hard would do you well. Just about any speaker in an enclosure will work. I actually use a 12" subwoofer with about an 8 pound magnet on it from my car. It is deeeeeep."

amishsixstringer Tue, 09/26/2006 - 15:05
it's a very old trick to getting a low end deep bass (almost sine wave) sound. Just place a speaker (NS-10 woofers are used often) in front of the kick drum a couple inches out and wire it to an xlr plug and go right into a preamp with it. Very simple. Yamaha makes something called the subkick if you don't want to rely on your craftiness.

amishsixstringer Mon, 09/18/2006 - 15:47
Hello, I'm glad to see that your questions are intelligent and you're heading in the right direction. The thing is, the kick drum is very very hard to capture and manage. There are many many sounds that can come from one. Knowing what the song needs and achieving it can be very hard. I know the engineer at a very nice studio is having a lot of trouble right now with his setup. I will attempt to help a bit.

How far is the microhpone from the beater head? If it's really close, your bottom end will sound muddy. Try it about 6 inches away from the beater and actually put the microphone closer to the shell of the drum. (I usually end up with it about 3" away from the shell actually" and point it at the beater. If you want to get really specific, I usually try to point the exact center of the mic pickup pattern at the edge of the beater. This should get you close. The Beta 52 is a beastly mic.

Backing up, though. How is the drum tuned? What kind of beater is being used? For a little more punch, you may try tightening the beater head a bit and use either a wood or hard felt beater with a kevlar beater pad on the head itself. If you don't have one of those, find an old tom tom head and cut a baseball sized circle out of it and tape it to the head where the beater touches. I'm not a big fan of the quarter thing myself.

Next, how about dampening? Do you have anything touching the head to dampen it from resonating freely after being struck? Sometimes this is needed to get a punch sound from the drum. Start with a tee shirt and roll it up like you're about to hit someone with it and lay it down in the bottom of the drum against the head. If the results are good, but not enough, get a blanket or sweater. If it kills the sound all together go with something smaller.

Are the spurs of the drum lifting the shell off the ground? I can't stress enough how much this will effect the punch of a kick. Try to make the front end of the shell about 2 to 3 inches off of the ground. It will be better isolated from the floor and allow the drum to breathe.

I wouldn't eq the kick to tape unless you are running to a compressor first. I prefer to have eq (If I'm going to use it at all) before the compressor. Most of the time with the kickdrum, with a good player, I'll save this for plugins. There are always expections.

With EQ, it's the normal "scooped" thing for most rock kicks. If you sweep a fairly narrow band of eq somewhere between 45 and 65Hz you'll notice that at one point the drum will get really loud. It will get louder at all points, but somewhere in there it will make it really pump. You don't really need to boost here to get the bottom end like many assume. Instead, go ahead and double that number. Say, 50Hz makes the drum really bump, move to 100Hz and with a fairly narrow Q (2.4-3.0) CUT that frequency a few dB. Then double that number again (400Hz) and cut a little wider chunk out of that. Sweep around there a little too. Sometimes something else will work a little nicer. Ususally a little bit lower works (250-400hz is usually what I end up with). A lot of people will go and boost 3 or 4KHz at this point to get some snap in there. Sometimes you'll need to do that, but others you wont. FOr this reason that's the last frequency I play with. Make sure you keep puting the drum in and out of solo when making these changes. The context of the mix is MOST important ALWAYS over individual tracks.

Once you have some eq, and you're still not punching, you may try some compression. Especially if the drummer is a little bit inconsistant with his/her hits. For that punchy sound, once again, I usually start with a slightly slower than normal attack time for drums. Maybe start about about 30ms and a kind of long release time. What you're doing is letting the initial transient snap through, and then attenuating the signal where the drum is booming and keeping it attenuated until all the ring is gone. Usually a steeper ratio is involved here as well. 4-6:1 is usually pretty good and grab up to 4-6dB of reduction on the hard strikes. You might get a little pumping, but that is cool to me when looking for punch.

Again, the kick drum is a beastly thing and is hard to control, but once you understand how to get the sound that you need, it is very very fun to impress your clients or friends with. Take care and good luck!


MadMax Mon, 09/18/2006 - 17:44

Nice primer! Well phrased and detailed enough so as not to confuse.

I'll only add a couple of other "tricks" to try if what ends up on tape isn't quite what you're looking for...

Take an object, like a chair, and set it in front of the kick by a foot or two. Take several blankets (packing blankets are wonderful) and drape them over the kick and chair so as to form a "tunnel". Be sure to get the entire tunnel closed in to the floor. You want the tunnel fairly thick... (e.g. 4-5 packing blankets thick) This will add some of that bottom thump you may be missing w/o that front head.

Depending on how much gas you've got in the preamp, you can try moving that Beta 52 out towards the front of the tunnel. Depending on the shell, tuning, heads, beater, player... (Oh hell, even the phase of the moon occassionaly) not having a front resonant head can be a real bear to dial in.

The last thing you can try, is to get the low end with the Beta 52, then take an SM57 to the back (beater) side and pick up the click by pointing it at the beater and moving it in/out/around until you hear what you are looking for. (Be sure toreverse the phase of the 57)

Good luck with it! You may have to really work at it, but once you do get it dialed in, make notes.


Pro Audio Guest Mon, 09/18/2006 - 18:00
hey thanks a lot. sorry i didnt think of all those other details yo had mentioned neil. after playing around with it yesterday after i posted the thing i noticed that i think my biggest problem is the low end. i get a lot of it but its not clearly defined. i can feel it in my ears when im listening to it but i cant hear it. if that makes any sense at all. almost like there is too much low end. im gonna go try out your ideas now and ill come back with some feed back.

amishsixstringer Mon, 09/18/2006 - 19:23
Well, perhaps a sub kick compressed hard would do you well. Just about any speaker in an enclosure will work. I actually use a 12" subwoofer with about an 8 pound magnet on it from my car. It is deeeeeep. Either that or you may find that the Resonator head is what you need tuned as low as it can go.

Thanks for the props, by the way. I'm kind of a connesuer of kick drums. I love them. I find I mix them way too loud most times. You know it's too high in the mix when it's the only thing touching the L2 on the 2-bus.

Anyhow, let us know or post a sample. I'm sure people here could lend a hand.


natural Mon, 09/18/2006 - 19:31
The first responder pretty much nailed it. I especially liked the EQ approach.
To expand on a couple of points that I have found surprising over the years:
1- TUNING. In my early day's it seemed logical that if I wanted more bottom, I should tune the head lower, and to get more clik/attack I should tune the head higher. Actually, I've found that the oposite is more often true. (to a point)
*TIP* When you think you've found a good sound. Do a test with the head tuned a little lower, and then a little higher (usually a 1/4 turn of the pegs will be sufficient- this helps to get back to the previous tuning if needed) Record all 3 tests to compare.

2- DAMPING. Damping as suggested earlier works great. Interestingly, using those "professional" dead ringers/'o' rings, or other muffling that goes all around the head rarely works in the studio. It stiffles the head too much and makes it sound dull. (go ahead and try another test with and without that stuff) But the T-shirt/towel/blanket/pillow options I think work best.

3- SIZE. Also surprisingly, a 22" kick can sound much bigger and punchier than a 24" kick.

If everything comes together well, you won't need any compression. Without a 2nd head, you're going to get a good amount of bleed from the rest of the kit. Sometimes a blanket over the kick will help the bleed and not hinder your sound too much. Once you've got that nailed and can get consistant good results, then look into the double micing option mentioned above. But that's a lesson that will take you to a Whole - N'other - Level.

RemyRAD Mon, 09/18/2006 - 20:01
Obviously this is a hot topic amongst us engineers? Here are a few of my observations and techniques. I've used and own numerous "Bass drum" microphones and quite frankly I don't care for most of them. I keep coming back to the Sennheiser MD421, Shure SM57, Crown PZM.

If you want a bass drum with a better "thud" and more prominence, reverse the phase of the bass drum microphone. In phase bass drum microphones can get lost and sound flabby.

My best, biggest, baddest, fastest bass drums are 19 and 20 inch drums. The bigger drums are less "kicken' " sounding even though one might think they should have more resonance. The resonance is all wrong for the microphones. I prefer a front head with a hole in it as opposed to no front head. I like to equalize and compress before I record but not too much. I frequently gate for mix down. It takes a little of the transient out while leaving more meat. Yum

Good drums, good heads and proper tuning makes the most difference. Inconceivable variables are at work against you with anything else.

Only one hole in my head (because of brain surgery) so maybe I'm biased? Or is that only for analog??
Ms. Remy Ann David