Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kick Drum Sound at Na

In response to my last post on New Attitude, Josh Davis asked this question:
I was curious about this at New Attitude, how did you end up getting your kick drum sound? Did you add any of the effects on the 5D, if so which ones? How did you EQ it?
Well, Josh, I don't know that there were any fancy tricks involved. But here's what we did...

I used a single mic, the AKG D112, with the mic about two inches from the front head of the drum and aimed almost directly at the beater.

With no processing at all, the kick sounded just plain old nasty.

I started by removing the muddiness around 200Hz that not only plagued the kick but the entire room. I ducked that frequency by about 6dB.

Then I tried to recapture the strike of the mallet on the drum. To do that, I pushed around 1.8kHz significantly. If my memory serves me correctly, I may have boosted it by 15dB. I also used a fairly narrow bandwidth. While extreme changes tend to not please the audio purists, sometimes I just do what works.

Finally, I tried to get the impact of the low frequencies. I boosted 60 Hz slightly and brought in the subs, which we were running off an auxiliary. Immediately the rumble factor was overwhelming and the kick lost a good deal of definition once again.

So the last step was to artificially control the duration of the rumble with a gate. I was so grateful for the on-board gates in the PM5D, which are very flexible and accurate. I adjusted the threshold, attack, and release times to taste (which is another way of saying that I don't remember what the numbers actually were).

That process took way too long during soundcheck. I was guilty of spending too much time on the kick, I must admit. I hope it didn't detract from the vocal quality.

Even with the extra time during soundcheck, I wasn't 100% thrilled with the kick sound after the first session. The FOH engineer from the sound company suggested I go easier on the low-freq boost and use the subs more.

I basically removed the 60Hz boost, pushed the subs a little harder, and gated it a little harder. That felt more comfortable and made me smile for the rest of the conference.

I'm glad you liked it too, Josh.

Did anyone who was there NOT like it? Any suggestions on how it could have been better?

Non-processing kick drum note: The sound system at Na had 12 double-18 subwoofers. A lot of the kick drum impact was due to the sheer amount of air the subwoofers moved. You just won't be able to duplicate the experience without the correct ratio of subs to room volume. In other words, don't try this at your home church if you don't have a good number of subs to push the air around.


Josh said...


Thanks for your comments. I know in my church, I've also struggled with getting the right tonality out of the kick and your comments are very helpful. Also, thanks for putting in the link to that article, it was very thought provoking and I think the writer has a point with the importance of the vocals in our mixes.

The only problem I had with the kick was that it was a bit too loud in the mix for the first few meetings. After the first few meetings it seemed like you backed off on the kick a little and it seemed to open up and clarify the mix.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question and I look forward to keeping up with your blog.

Unknown said...


As a soundman for a alternative Rock Worship Band I love to read your blogs about mixing and sound engineering. It would be awesome if you could do more of them in the future if that is possible.

Be blessed

Dave Wilcox said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Finlay. I'm glad some of this is helpful for you. With the summer here, and my workload down a bit, I hope to blog more again in the near future.