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The Wonderful World of Dynamics Processing
July 20, 2016
Using MIDI Drums vs. Using Audio Drum Samples (Part 2)
July 30, 2016

Best Ways to Tune Kick Drums (Part 1)

The best way to tune kick drum is to use mixing plugins to save time while rendering the best quality kick drum sound for your mix.

Modern pop, dubstep, chillstep, house, trance, and just about every genre that comes to mind all uses accurately tuned kick drums. Some music goes much deeper into tuning than others, but all genres share a basic level of tuning and tonal accuracy. No matter what music you are producing it is imperative that your kick drum is tuned to the key of the project. If you are not tuning your kick drums, your music productions are suffering!

Before diving into the mixing plugins that can and should be used to tune kick drums, and other drum layers as well, we have to cover the basics of how to efficiently produce drums for all styles of music. Let us be clear when we say that:

Tuning your kick drum is not a mixing related task! Tuning your kick drums is a compositional must!

Though you will be using, or can be using, mixing plugins to save time in the tuning, processing, to render the best possible kick drum sound, there are other more “professional” ways to tune kick drums. Do not wait to fix your kick drum tuning “in the mix,” The tuning of the drums should be part of the sound design and compositional phase of the process.

The reason for tuning kick drums, and all drums for that matter, before getting anywhere close to the mix is to have all the drum layers in tune with the instruments. If the drums are in another key the composition is going to sound strange as the layers stack up. If your ear is not yet hearing these small but paramount dissonances, that is where you need to start! Tuning your ear by taking the time to tune the drums (while the instrument layers and playing) will help you immeasurably as a composer and music producer.


Step 1: Determine The Key Of Your Song

Without knowing the key of the song, it is impossible to tune the kick drum to the fundamental frequency of the track. If your music production is in the key of G major and your kick is tuned to the key of C# you are going to have a dissonance of tones in your song. No matter what you do in the mixing or mastering stage of your music production, there is no way to fix a kick that is out of key with the rest of your song. If your kick drum is not tuned, you will negatively affect the: bass line, instrument chords, other melodic elements, vocals, and the overall flow and feeling of the composition.


Step 2: Selecting The Best Mixing Plugin For The Job

Every DAW comes stock with native plugins for pitch correction. Logic X uses a mixing plugin called pitch correction. This mixing plugin can easily and quickly change the pitch of any audio ran through it.

Once your kick drum has is tuned to the key of the song you can “bounce the audio in place” and presto chango your kick drum is now in the key of your music production, and everything sounds great!


Step 3: Auditioning Different Mixing Plugins To Hear The Differences

The best ways to tune your kick drum will all depend on the mixing plugins you have loaded in your DAW. If you are working with native mixing plug-ins, you will effectively be able to tune your kick drum. Now, if you have purchased any third party mixing plugins to help you tune your kick drum more effectively, then you will most likely see and hear that process will be a bit more involved, but will also sound better.


If you are using audio kick drum samples and do not want to mess with sample editors or MIDI generators to do your editing, then mixing plug-ins for pitch correction are the best ways to tune your kick drums.

In the next article, the hot topic will be using MIDI drums vs. pitch-correcting audio samples of drums. Stay tuned as this short three article series should get you on the fast track to understanding and implanting the best ways to tune your kick drum!


As Always,

Stay Passionate Music Producers and Never Stop Making Art!

Written by: Kriss Walas

A Licensed Continuum Music Studio Blog Creative Work

© Copyright 2016 Kriss Walas and Continuum Music Studio.

All Rights Reserved

Kriss Walas
Kriss Walas
Kriss Walas is a constantly expanding musician, composer, music producer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer, writer, DJ, artist manager, CEO, record label owner, Reiki practitioner, meditation enthusiast, avid learner, and spiritual activist. Now, at age 31 Kriss has committed himself to living through heart and only spending his time on endeavors he is passionate about. It is for this reason he is proud to be working with the amazingly passionate and talented artists, partners, and educators who are affiliated with The Continuum Music Studio and The Music and Recording Arts Academy.