Getting the Best Kick Sound

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    It starts with the drummer. He has to have a great kick drum, properly tuned, with good quality heads. Then it becomes all about the mic'ing, and damping. But that's not where it ends! You need to eq properly. "Good" kick sound is subjective. I work with many people who believe a good kick is a very dead thud with no ringing overtones. I do not understand this at all. It should have PUNCH with a hint of MUSICAL overtones.

    No way do I claim to know what gets the "best"kick sound. But I can get good kick sound, if the drummer is good.

    Otherwise, it's a total crapshoot.
  2. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge

    There is no substitue for a good sounding drum. Drum tuning is incredibly imortant to getting a good sound. Unless contra-indicated, I mix the kick and snare a little hot as that is what I want to hear. Obviously the style has a bearing on that., as does the quality of the drummer...
  3. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    the best... for what?..for who?

    IME alone, there were hundred ways of do it..
    One distinctive setup I remember was put an expensive AKG C12 mic close infront of the kick in studio. Other time we put a Genelec Nearfield monitor speaker infront of the kick act as a mic !
    Some might find 'em as 'vandal', but the result - as I remember it - were good.
    There's no just one way to capture the bass drum IMHO.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  4. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    That's not true.

    In my VAST drum sample libraries, some sampled drums have MANY velocity levels. In fact, I can easily alter a drum trigger track to have even more dynamics than what was originally played.

    With MIDI, a particular sound could have 128 dynamic levels. Add in some varying degrees of randomness, or multi-samples at the same velocity (so no same sample is played twice in succession). It depends on the sophistication of the library. And, it can be done "live".
  5. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Agree with @Stick_Player . As much that it's 'only' sample sounds that might not be preferred by some people, with excellent programmed preparation, it can be so realistic sounding more than what they guessed
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  6. somegeezer


    Oct 1, 2009
    As someone who uses drum programming for his own studio projects, I completely agree.
    and the randomness is called round robin, where it will cycle through more than one sample. It's something that is used a lot in sample libraries, precisely because it brings in more realism.
  7. I mix in a 200 seat black box theatre. There the kick rings fairly clean acoustically. All I do is mic it (in front) through a Shure 52A and send it through the subs only to just fatten it up a little, and everyone (including me) seems to love it. Kick is REALLY easy to over do.
  8. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Look over at the keyboard player - they probably have all kinds of samples instruments. Each key has several velocities recorded, and many at the same velocity that round robin. If you're an old band and you got a Hammond or Late model, or some modern synths, they have no key velocity. It's all about the player and how they work the controls and volume pedal if they have one.

    The most dynamic players I've ever heard play edrums.

    No biggy you don't believe, it is happening anyway.
  9. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    +1 and if you use Kontakt, and have a sample live that doesn't have enough velocity layers (Likes it old, or taken from a recording) you can add some realistic round robin with

    It's very good especially with samples you really like but you'd like some more playability.
  10. Find the mic that likes the drum.

    During my years working for a live-audio production provider I generally carried two each of:

    Shure B52, Beyer M88, Audix D6, and ADG D112, and this list is ordered "most-often" to "least-often" in the likelihood that they got used. It depends on the drum and the sound you're going for. A front-head with a coffee-can-sized hole cut and the mic on a short stand with the mic's diaphragm on roughly the same plane as the surface of the drum-head "usually" worked best. Channel-strip EQs often saw some low-mid cut somewhere between 120 and 400hz.
  11. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    I understand sampling and velocity sensitive triggers, randomization, etc. I have an audio degree, and midi was part of that. I just think it's ridiculous to suggest someone spend a few thousand bucks to get a decent kick sound when mic placement and eq will get you there for free.

    Sent from my iPad using TalkBass
  12. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    I checked the OP first post and his original question is:
    "What are some of the experiences you've had with getting a good kick sound?"

    So anything we discuss here, from mic selection, mic placement, eq, triggered sample and all - are still contextual.
  13. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    As a soundman I make certain to use EQ in a very purposeful way to get every instrument to sit well in the mix. This is not an easy task for the inexperienced because you always have to keep in mind how to EQ an instrument as a solo channel while knowing what that will sound like when the other instruments are added. If your board is limited with regard to EQ'ing the low end of each channel, it may be useful to have an dedicated EQ for each instrument. Having the on-amp ability to parametric EQ the bass is especially useful. Also take advantage of the low frequency cut switch on most boards.

    The best way to get a great kick drum sound is to decide ahead of time how it will blend in with the bass. Both the bass and kick want to occupy the same low frequencies and there needs to be some give and take between them to keep them from fighting one another. In general, the genre of music will determine how to finesse the low end of each channel. Punk will sound different from jazz which will sound different from country or heavy metal.

    As an example, I like to EQ classic rock with the kick drum occupying the lowest frequency with the bass taking up more space just above it. To accomplish this, boost the kick @ 40 Hz and cut it @ 100 Hz. Do the opposite with the bass. Also make sure none of the other instruments are putting out any real volume below 100 Hz. This is especially important for the rhythm instruments such as guitar or keys. The other part of this process is to make sure the kick and bass aren't interfering with the other instruments so you will have to do some creative cutting to the mids in particular. Give and take is what makes this all work.

    As has already been said, this assumes you have a good sounding and well tuned drum to start with and a decent microphone. Likewise, experimenting with the placement of the microphone is very important since this will greatly affect the sound coming in to the board.

    Finally, a compressor used on both the kick and bass will keep their levels balanced with respect to each other and this also has a profound impact on the quality of the sound. I always use a dual channel comp in the inserts of my kick and bass channels. I consider them crucial.
  14. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    As many others have said, you need good source material (the drum set) and a knowledge of the genre, then go from there. I use to play in a band that was going for a late 50's / early-mid 60's sound but playing a variety of material (40's-80's). Soundmen could generally handle my bass but they had a hard time with our drummer (smallish kit, lively kick, wonderful snare). They thought too "modern" when all they needed to do was take a step back and simplify. Our fix was to have our own soundman who knew what our sound concept was.
  15. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Egads - Cut the bass at 100hz?

    IDK, practice of shoving in blankets/pillows into the drum. Bass drum heads reflect sound and have sympathetic vibration ... all the damping and processing end up not much more than a thump. Many disco/pop recordings are filled with blanket damped drums. I love a good drum sound that sounds like drums. Granted in some music, it just doesn't matter. It doesn't need to be for every song or style, but man when drum sound comes through stand back. Triggering is nice way of getting this. Percussion instruments like drums and piano work well with samples.
  16. Try yelling 'high-ya!' As you kick. And if you get him in the stomach there will be a nice 'uuagh' sound.
  17. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio

    drum triggers are velocity sensitive. (most? all?) They play at different volumes and some do different samples depending on how hard the drum is hit and can be pretty real sounding.
    That having been said, the bigger and better the samples, the more latency there will be.

    I would have loved for the old drummer in our band to use samples as his drums sounded bad and samples would have been an improvement. I'd hate for our new drummer to use samples as his drums sound great and I'd rather use mics.
  18. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Not true.
    better samples, higher sample rate, can have the same latency as the worse one. Only it needs smaller buffer than the worse one to be played at the same latency, which force the DAW (hardware) to work harder.
  19. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    no, he was saying the exact opposite.
  20. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    hmm, that's kinda weird, and not usually recommended; kick (like everything else) has lots if not most of its "information" well above 100Hz. as such, the point of aux-feeding subs is to add the instrument into the subs while keeping it in the tops, never to run it into the subs only.

    by "theater" do you mean a place meant to carry acoustically, to where the kick is already loud enough without the PA? i could see where a pinch of it in the subs only might serve to balance out the mids and highs coming off the drum itself, especially in an older musical style context where it isn't supposed to be punching through so much.
    bluesdogblues likes this.
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