EQ and Compression: Kick Drum

:::EQ and Compression: Kick Drum tips, tricks and advice:::

If you use VST equalizers and compressors, you’ll find they come with their own presets.

Presets are great as starting points, the compressors should only need either the threshold or input changed for them to apply their magic.

VST EQ presets on the other hand will start to work straight away.

Unprocessed kick drums usually benefit from having some EQ boosts and cuts.

All of the processing tips presented in this article are ‘wisdoms’ I’ve picked up over the last few years.

Some are contradictory, but so is sound – there is truth in all of them.

If you use each tip intelligently you should be able to, using your ears, find what you are looking for.

Adding definition to your kick can be as simple as a boost at 80hz which will add ‘punch’.

To get a deeper sound without mud a 10db boost added around the 50-60hz and a cut of about 10db around the 220hz.

To create a more of a crack/slap sound, you could boost in the range between 3khz – 6khz.

Be wary though and use your ears.

When you add EQ onto your kick make sure you listen to your music.

The kick might need to be prominent or not – it’s the music that counts.

The above settings are a guide line.

Take into account that 10db is quite a high amount of boost or cut – go with the extreme and draw it down until it sits properly.

Also take into account than adding boost to the lower frequencies will take up ‘room’ in your mix.

Boosting with a low-frequency bass shelving filter can create problems as well, if a kick sounds  muffled in the first instance it will just get more muffled.

Also remember that the lower frequencies, the ones below 40hz will not register on most stereos or home music centres – in clubs you might feel it but you won’t hear it.

Also the more boost applied to the lower frequencies means that more of your headroom will be taken up.

Finding the right kick sound takes a bit of experimentation, also you’ll need to bear in mind your bass instruments sound and anything else that lives in the same area frequency wise.

Getting these instruments to mix well is one thing but perfection is getting the bass and the kick to glue is another.

:::Compression Settings:::

Using a compressor on the kick we can allow the ‘attack’ of the kick pass through and then try and control the boominess.

Threshold/Input: Adjust this to taste, remember this affects the whole sound, drag you theshold down until the compressor starts to work.

Ratio: 4:1 to 6:1 -> Anything above 8:1 starts to work as a limiter. Use your ears.

Attack: 40 to 50ms -> You can adjust this as you listen, remember a faster attack time will kill the ‘attack’ dulling the kick itself.

Release: 200ms to 300ms -> Typically the lengh of time the compressor works on your kick – you don’t want it too short but also at the same time you don’t want it to overlap onto the next time the kick sounds.

Gain: Adjust to taste, but really try and get it so that the instrument doesn’t get any louder than it’s original volume.

:::EQ Settings:::

Getting the kick to sit with your bass is what you should aim for.

glue these two instruments will give your track the cohesion it needs.

A good tip is to use the eq of your bass as a guide – if you boost in your bass at say between 100 and 250hz cut the kick in that area, this should help them gel.

To bring out the bottom end of your kick you could add a couple of db between 80hz and 100hz.

If the your kick starts to sound like a card board box  a cut between 400hz and 600hz can combat this.

Again as mentioned before to get that click/crack/slap  attack of the beater you could add a little between the 2.5 and 5khz range. This boost should also give you more presence.

:::Surgical Kick drum EQ:::

Round up of eq settings

6dB cut at 20Hz using can  clear up muddiness.

To get that ‘thud’ you can either,

Boost around the 50-60Hz or in the 100Hz range.

To boost the Attac,

Boost the 3-5kHz range.

Find the smack in the 1 to 1.5khz range.

A boost in the 6-8kHz range with bring out the beater sound of your kick

A thin cut in the 250-300Hz range will help remove mud.


It all comes down to taste and the music your working with, the above ideas and tips are just that.

Experimenting and listening are what you need to do, there are no clear right or wrong ways  to do things and there is no magical setting for any instrument.

You have to take your time a listen.

You can use the ideas above as guidelines but remember it’s not the be all and end all.

Be cool.

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