How can I get a good kick drum sound?
March 6, 2005 12:30 AM   Subscribe

I have a Shure Beta 52 and a really good preamp. The kick drum sounds OK "I guess" live. When I put the mic in front of the kick drum, it sounds like poo - soft weak poo that can't be turned up without distorting either. I want a tight sound that hits your heart. Good lord, this is a vague question - but give me your magic bullet!
posted by mildred-pitt to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
Response by poster: Um, so how do I get a good kick drum sound on my recordings?
posted by mildred-pitt at 12:33 AM on March 6, 2005

Do you have an example of the sound you're getting available for download anywhere? I use a beta 52 and some compression. Where are you placing the mic? Does the kick drum have a sound hole? Center or off-center?
posted by adamkempa at 12:56 AM on March 6, 2005

Compression helps. And definitely try moving the mic around.
posted by rooftop secrets at 2:46 AM on March 6, 2005

Put the mic inside the drum and you'll get less poo-sound.
posted by noius at 3:55 AM on March 6, 2005

Best answer: First off, make sure the sound of the drum live is exactly what you want, and as best as it can be. Dampen the head with some tape to make sure you don't have any ringing, and use a a wooden beater to get a good click. Tune the head, too.

Then, put a mic halfway inside the head, pointing at the beater. Move it slightly to the side until you get the best sound.

Once recorded, compression is the key to shaping the sound: A slow attack to let the "click" of the beater through, and then a decent ratio (10:1) to bring the "boom" out. Tweak the release to match the sound you're after. This will help you turn the kick up too.

Also, add some EQ: a low cut filter at 20Hz will remove any muddiness and play with a peak filter at around 60-70Hz to add or remove some body.

You can also think about layering sounds - use a sub-bass sine wave underneath the kick, side-chain gated so it's only audible when the kick is, to add some subsonic "oomf". Layer two kicks - match up a sampled kick underneath your recorded one.

Remember also that your kick has to be considered within the mix. When you solo the kit, it may sound wooly, but if your bass guitar is on the money, it'll help the kick much like the layering trick above. Keep the fundamental frequencies clear with some judicious eq'ing and you should be well on your way to the perfect kick sound.
posted by benzo8 at 4:09 AM on March 6, 2005

Recording the kick is difficult. A Beta 52 is not the optimal mic for this. The sound presure level in there is very high; higher than almost any other rock instrument.

Try something like an AKG D-112 or the mic my band's drummer swears by, the Electrovoice RE-20. Then follow benzo8's recipe.
posted by omnidrew at 6:57 AM on March 6, 2005

The RE-20 is by far the best one to use.
posted by noius at 7:09 AM on March 6, 2005

IANARE (I am not a recording engineer), just a drummer. I Think benzo8 gives some good advice, and I'd like to second his sentiment that you have to improve the sound of the kick drum itself before you start messing with the mics and compression. A kick drum that sounds "okay" is never going to sound great on a recording. A mic is just going to capture what you place in front of it. Improve the kick drum or borrow somebody else's for the recording.

Case in point: I've got an amazing sounding 1967 Ludwig kit. My band went into the studio recently and the producer and engineer were having trouble making my kick drum sound good. They tried all kinds of different mic placements and it just wasn't happening. We eventually swapped my kick drum with another 1967 Ludwig kick that just happened to be in the studio. That kick drum blew mine away.
posted by fletchmuy at 8:33 AM on March 6, 2005

IANARE, just a bass guitarist, but I sat in with a death metal band whose drummer used triggered samples for his (double-pedal) kick drum sound. It's probably more $$$ and hassle than you're willing to deal with, but it's gotto be an unbeatable setup for a great, *consistant* sound.
posted by LordSludge at 10:08 AM on March 6, 2005

Response by poster: Awesome advice!

I'm going to try all the techniques...

I have a feeling the drum may need to be tuned- and when it is I'm going to add some compression.

Adding a triggered sample is an interesting idea- we have some electronics that would do just that... so I'm gonna try that as well. But - I was hoping to get a better sound before that anyway.
posted by mildred-pitt at 10:43 AM on March 6, 2005

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