Layering Your Own Kick Drums

Layering sounds together to make your ideal instruments is something that is becoming more and more common in todays’ music production, and the kick drum is one of the best examples of why it works so well.

[aside title=”Designer Drums!“] Taking elements of a few sounds and blending them together to make something completely new is a great way to get the right sounds for your mix![/aside] Just like perfecting the perfect food recipe, it all comes down to making best selections with your initial ingredients (in this case sounds) and then the best decisions as to how they will be processed. The ultimate goal is the same, too. Allow the best traits of each individual element to shine through in the mix, combining to be something greater than each was on it’s own. And the personal goal for most producers is to not only make a sound that others are not using, but a sound that cuts through the mix and makes a big impact on their listeners.

Now it doesn’t matter much which specific approach you take, whether you make your own samples that you then process and layer together, or if you use samples made by someone else. The important thing is to select each sound on specific traits. For this example I have sought out three kick drums that I thought would be easy to isolate characteristics necessary for creating a high, mid and low sound to layer together for the right kind of kick drum for a particular song. With some songs, this simply is not necessary. But the process is something all good producers should know for those times when something is not cutting it in a mix.

The steps shown here are just one of many, many ways to accomplish the same kind of results. You may not have the same DAW or plugins featured in this lesson, but you can easily accomplish the same things with the programs you usually use. Let’s get started.

To begin with, here are the three kick drums I will be manipulating and layering. As you can here, all three are perfectly fine on their own. But each one contains a certain sound that can be blended together to make an entirely new sound.

[audio:|titles=High Kick Raw] [audio:|titles=Mid Kick Raw] [audio:|titles=Low Kick Raw]

Now here are the three sounds after begin processed into a high, a mid and a low end sound ready to be layered.

[audio:|titles=High Kick Processed] [audio:|titles=Mid Kick Processed] [audio:|titles=Low Kick Processed]

First I wanted to focus the frequencies of each sound. For this I chose a Multi-Pressor, which is a multi channel compressor. An easy tool to split up sounds in various ways, primarily by accentuating and attenuating certain frequency ranges through compression, bypassing and soloing. You can do this any number of ways if you do not have a tool like this, including through EQ manipulation.

The next step is EQ tweaking. Each one needs to serve a different purpose, but still blend well together. The high kick element, needs to have the low end and much of the mids removed, and so on.

Each of the three sounds is then routed to the same bus. On this strip I have placed a compressor to help gel things together a bit and an EQ to finish the shaping of the kick overall. Below is the finished layered kick drum.

[audio:|titles=Layered Kick Drum]

Everything beyond this is really just personal decoration to your sound. So if you want a little saturation, distortion, noise, etc you can easily add to either an individual sound or the entire kick drum. Both are perfectly fine, as there are no rules. If it sounds good, use it! Below is an example of wheat this kick would sound like alongside other instruments, if there was no more processing done. As with all my tutorials, the sounds you hear are not processed beyond what I have shared and are not meant to be anything spectacular in nature, Just something to get the idea across.

[audio:|titles=Layered Kick Drum with Mix]

I hope you have enjoyed this Trance music production tutorial on how to layer kick drums. We will cover other ways to layer your drums in future installments here. In the meantime, why don’t you share some of the sounds you’ve layered by joining us on Facebook and joining in the fun. You can also send us a direct message requisition tutorials, or volunteer to submit one of your own to the site. Thanks for stopping by!


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