Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

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wminor
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Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by wminor »

I've been getting really in to kick drum synthesis lately and having a great time with it, but one thing I'm struggling with is how to get deeper, darker, less aggressive kick drums without having them sound dull or a bit muffled.

When I use filters or EQ to bring down the top end I lose a lot of definition, so instead I try taming the various envelopes that are shaping the pitch and filter (if being used), but then it's hard to get a half decent transient or any punch.

What am I missing here? Any tips or tricks for doing this?

For reference, I'm listening to a lot of Rhythm & Sound, Basic Channel, etc. at the moment and a lot of their kicks are exactly the sort of thing I'm trying to get.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by TVNoel »

A few thoughts. I don't consider myself at all the expert on this, but here is what I have learned in the last couple of years:

- Make sure to filter/EQ/sidechain compress the other instruments (especially bass /pads) to make space for the kick
- Maybe a low pass filter is taking off too much of the top end. A bell EQ may give you more control. E.g. keeping some 1khz-3khz frequencies in there to get a subtle "click"
- Also a high pass filter at around 30-50hz could remove any low frequency mud
- Subtle saturation could help the kick stand out more
Last edited by TVNoel on Sat Oct 15, 2022 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by bmot »

i'm interested in this topic, I like seeing what others do for their sound design.

I can't think of much useful to say right now. Er, or maybe add a touch of reverb (experiment with different positions in the chain) - it can definitely give it a darker vibe. It would be helpful to know what you're using to create your kicks at the moment too.

Are there any sound examples of kicks you've made and would like to improve?
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by enzyme00 »

MoritzvonOswald~2.jpg
MoritzvonOswald~2.jpg (72.78 KiB) Viewed 873 times
Interesting question. That's Oswald with a Vermona DRM. That could be a good baseline to understand the sound you're looking for. Kind of dub like yeah?
Last edited by enzyme00 on Sat Oct 15, 2022 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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wminor
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by wminor »

Thanks, some good thoughts (though honestly I'm not really asking about the mixdown stage, I feel pretty good about that... really focusing on the initial sound design aspect here). I'll try to get a bit more surgical with the EQ and try some subtle saturation.

I'm using all kinds of gear. Sometimes soft synths, sometimes modular or other analog hardware. Most recently I've been using my DSI Tempest, but I've had the same problems with other gear.

I'm away from my studio right now but I'll have another attempt later and post the results here.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by wminor »

enzyme00 wrote: Sat Oct 15, 2022 3:25 pm MoritzvonOswald~2.jpgInteresting question. That's Oswald with a Vermona DRM. That could be a good baseline to understand the sound you're looking for. Kind of dub like yeah?
wow, i've seen that picture a dozen times and never noticed the DRM! Not trying to buy any new gear right now but I'll check some DRM demos and see if that's the sound I'm after... might help with getting to the bottom of how it's made.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by ATW »

Saturation can be useful, I often Pre BX for a bit of overdrive. Also would try little bit of wave folding/multiplying, to the sound or one of the envelopes. If I’m getting deeper I’ll mix 3-4 transient envelopes of varying lengths and curves in a matrix mixer, then patch to various destinations accordingly.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by wminor »

ATW wrote: Sat Oct 15, 2022 9:53 pm Saturation can be useful, I often Pre BX for a bit of overdrive. Also would try little bit of wave folding/multiplying, to the sound or one of the envelopes. If I’m getting deeper I’ll mix 3-4 transient envelopes of varying lengths and curves in a matrix mixer, then patch to various destinations accordingly.
Yeah, i’ve found mixing envelopes to be one of the key ways to get control over the transient and body of the kick. Definitely takes things to the next level.

Never thought of wave folding envelopes. Not using my modular much at the moment but will give it a try when i get back to it. What is it good for?
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by ATW »

wminor wrote: Sun Oct 16, 2022 10:43 am
ATW wrote: Sat Oct 15, 2022 9:53 pm Saturation can be useful, I often Pre BX for a bit of overdrive. Also would try little bit of wave folding/multiplying, to the sound or one of the envelopes. If I’m getting deeper I’ll mix 3-4 transient envelopes of varying lengths and curves in a matrix mixer, then patch to various destinations accordingly.
Yeah, i’ve found mixing envelopes to be one of the key ways to get control over the transient and body of the kick. Definitely takes things to the next level.

Never thought of wave folding envelopes. Not using my modular much at the moment but will give it a try when i get back to it. What is it good for?
I like it for a short exponential pitch envelope, adds a bit of texture without distorting the body of the kick. Here's an example where I mix in a folded envelope (a mult of the main pitch envelope from Maths) about halfway. Belgrad is the sound source.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by wminor »

ATW wrote: Sun Oct 16, 2022 12:57 pm
wminor wrote: Sun Oct 16, 2022 10:43 am
ATW wrote: Sat Oct 15, 2022 9:53 pm Saturation can be useful, I often Pre BX for a bit of overdrive. Also would try little bit of wave folding/multiplying, to the sound or one of the envelopes. If I’m getting deeper I’ll mix 3-4 transient envelopes of varying lengths and curves in a matrix mixer, then patch to various destinations accordingly.
Yeah, i’ve found mixing envelopes to be one of the key ways to get control over the transient and body of the kick. Definitely takes things to the next level.

Never thought of wave folding envelopes. Not using my modular much at the moment but will give it a try when i get back to it. What is it good for?
I like it for a short exponential pitch envelope, adds a bit of texture without distorting the body of the kick. Here's an example where I mix in a folded envelope (a mult of the main pitch envelope from Maths) about halfway. Belgrad is the sound source.
Nice, that makes sense and I can hear what you mean. Thanks for sharing!
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by maxl0rd »

These days people like the liveliness of analog drum machines and modular percussion, but in those days you are talking about … it was very common for all the drums to go into a sampler. So that would kind of take the edge off and make everything sound very uniform.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by Underglow »

A good LPF at/around a cutoff suitable to the source material, juiced up with some saturation. Easy peazy.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by thelowerrhythm »

What unlocked kicks for me were HPFs, which I rarely use otherwise and so I never had a lot of good ones on hand. I've had a lot of luck with the OTA filter from AI Synthesis, as the high pass is killer. I'll then roll the highs off to taste and replace them with a "beater" sound triggered from another sound source. This is how I'd build good kicks when recording acoustic kits, so it made sense as a go to in modular as well.

Most of the time I start with a Noise Reap Foundation nowadays. Hardly synthesizing it myself at this point, but that module in particular gets me really close to what I'd make on my own otherwise, and it's just an economy of time at this point. Very smart design on that one, and I think it flies way under the radar because it's not doing something flashy.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by narxistdan »

Lots of good ideas here, but I think Underglow's simple advice is probably right on.

I see you're really looking to try to get there with the sound design and not mixing, but listening to a few Rhythm & Sound tracks (King in My Empire, and Mango Drive) the most distinctive thing I hear about the kick drum is the distortion. It's so distorted it's hard to even tell what the original sound was.

I wonder if you'd be satisfied with the sounds you're already getting with some subtle (or not-so-subtle) distortion/saturation.

You wouldn't need to go as far as they did on those tracks to get a very differently shaped transient and a bunch of upper harmonics that help it cut through the mix. Overdriving a dull sound will generate different harmonics than the ones you removed with the filter to make it dull.

Also worth noting that the sound of the kicks in these finished tracks is totally interdependent with the bass sound and that the mixes are very sparse.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by wminor »

narxistdan wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 3:34 pm I see you're really looking to try to get there with the sound design and not mixing...
Yeah, that's true. There's a risk we get in to a game of semantics here about what counts as mixing and what counts as sound design, but for me, I do want to be able to design and save / sample a kick drum that at least has the essential character of what I want in the finished track. In other words, I don't want to be working with a kick drum that doesn't sound right while I'm jamming / composing, all the time thinking "it'll change later when I do the mix" - that's too distracting for me.

All of that said, you (and others above) are all right to mention saturation / overdrive / distortion. That's the one thing that I don't have as good access to inside machines such as the Tempest (at least not in a way that gives enough control). I'll try to find a way to bring that in to the process.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by Chopper »

you want to replace the punch/attack from a top/click to a more bassy one.
eqing the tops is indeed part of the solution, but as you mentioned, it dulls the kick.
compression would help. but since in this case you want the attack to be punchy, and we are talking about low frequencies, leave the compressor release as short as possible, but the attack within the 34-55 ms region. lows transients needs time to be heard. a reasonable ratio of 2:1 or 3:1, then lower the threshold until your satisfied.
that's how I do it anyway. it might give you what you're after (hopefully!)
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by TemplarK »

Think when your making the kicks like this and you can make anything.

A sine wave pure will give a duller kick than a square it will also be punchier than the square. (a Sine90%Square10% works well as rough starting point).
The amp envelope to the pitch of the sine will make sound harder and harder until it becomes a TOM

Sines have a lot less harmonics then Square waves, which i guess must have all the harmonics, so finding the right mix of Sine+Square for the kick before adding harmonics through saturation keeping the drums cleaner and less bright might be the play.
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Re: Deeper / darker kick drums without sounding dull?

Post by kwaidan »

wminor wrote: Sat Oct 15, 2022 3:26 pm
enzyme00 wrote: Sat Oct 15, 2022 3:25 pm MoritzvonOswald~2.jpgInteresting question. That's Oswald with a Vermona DRM. That could be a good baseline to understand the sound you're looking for. Kind of dub like yeah?
wow, i've seen that picture a dozen times and never noticed the DRM! Not trying to buy any new gear right now but I'll check some DRM demos and see if that's the sound I'm after... might help with getting to the bottom of how it's made.
From the picture, it looks like Oswald is externally processing the kick. You can pull a channel from the mix and process and mix it separately, or you can use a send/return cable to process the signal and return it to the mix.
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