Characteristics of Kick Drums
Perhaps the most important and fundamental element for dance music – the Kick Drum! It carries the rhythm as well as most of the low-end information and therefore can be considered the foundation of a track. This article is about the importance of this foundation and what characteristics we are looking for, as part one of a series on how to Kick & Bass.
What Kick Drums are made of
Generally speaking, Kick Drums can be divided into three parts. The click consists of high frequencies and typically very short decay, which makes it very transient and helps it cut through the mix. Transients are short peaks at the beginning of a signal.
The thump consists of mid and higher bass frequencies and really characterizes the Kick Drum tonally. It can have longer decay and distortion – the more aggressive the thumb is, the harder the Kick Drum feels.
The tail is the sub bass information and longest part. The individual mix of these three parts makes up a Kick Drum!
Typically, how these three are mixed together and how they feel depends heavily on which genre you are working on. The example in the pictures is perfect for a techno track with its very distorted thumb and long tail. If you are working on melodic house for example, you should try shorter kicks with less distorted thumbs. This will allow your bassline to have more space and generally fits the vibe:
Frequencies and Tuning
In order to have the right amount of low-end energy we have to look at the sub bass frequencies of Kick Drums. It turns out there is a certain frequency range where Kick Drums usually have their peak. That is the tune they are in! The tune is defined by the tail part of the Kick Drum and its peak can be seen on the very left of the frequency spectrum.
It is important to be in the right range here. Most commonly Kick Drums sit between 40 and 60 Hz, which means they range from E to A sharp. This is the area where the sub bass has enough energy to feel massive and powerful, while it is not too deep for speakers and the human ear.
Even though it might be difficult for us to hear the tune of a Kick Drum it is quite important to check on the tuning when choosing your Kick Drum. Best way to go is to have your Kick Drum in the tracks key. Producing in G minor? Kick in G!
But what if you are producing in, say, C sharp minor? We just learned we should have Kick Drums between E and A sharp … Luckily, using the fourth or fifth note of your keys scale for your Kick Drum also works well. For your C sharp minor track that would mean you can either use a F sharp or G sharp Kick Drum and you will be fine.
The next part of this series will be about bass rumble and the countless way to do it. Stay tuned!
written by Kos:mo for weltsound.