Kick drum mixing is one of the most complicated aspects of the mixing process. To be frank, mixing the low end in itself is the greatest challenge all engineers face because low frequencies move slower than mid range and top end frequencies. This problem expands when most engineers and producers are mixing in “less than ideal” rooms. Believe it or not, most home and project studios owners are hearing more of the room than the actual representation of the mix from the monitors.
While room acoustics and design is an important topic, this is not the discussion for today. Mixing kick drums is all about the low end, or is it? Most music producers think that because the fundamental of most kick drums is between 88 and 100 Hz low-end adjustments, compression, and EQ is essential. While low-end focus and attention are imperative, it is also equally vital to focus mixing attention on the low mid range and mid range.
The Fletcher-Munson Curves exist for a reason, and these principles should be directly applied to the mixing “mindset” of kick drums, and many other low-frequency elements in the mix. To put it simply; the human ear canal resonates at 1-3k depending on a large range of variables in the external world. The human ear best translates these frequencies and therefore enhances our sensitivity to this range. Therefore, applying the following perspectives to mixing kick drums will be highly advantageous for translation.
1. Using saturation to boost the harmonics in the 2nd and 3rd positions to help a kick drum appears as more defined by the human ear.
2. Using parallel compression to increase the perceived loudness of the kick drum, in relation to, other elements in the mix
3. Layering kick drums with additional samples for “more attitude.” Triggering plugins work very well for this.
4. Using parallel EQ and focusing on the harmonics of the kick drum in the mid range.
5. Using dynamic EQ for targeted EQ boosts and cuts which will give the kick drum more movement in desired ranges and less in areas, which cloud other bass elements.
For more info on all these points, and to see some amazing plugins in action check out this video! This video covers 1176 compression, Pultec style low-end boost, dynamic EQ, parallel processing, and much more!