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Recording “That” Bass Drum Sound…

From inSync reader Dave B. Comes the following:

“… I’m trying to duplicate the popular sound of the bass drum in most of today’s mixes. I have a Pearl BLX (all birch) kit, and the bass drum is really warm and punchy. I’m using an AKG D112 bass drum mic. I’m trying to be able to have some punch audible but enough higher frequencies to get a little of the slap of the beater so that at a low level in the mix, the bass drum will still be prominent without being too boomy. This is obviously difficult since I can’t describe the sound I’m looking for…”

Thanks for the question, Dave! Maybe in the future we’ll have an inSync Summit on drum miking/recording techniques; in the meantime, here are a few things you can try:

  1. First, and probably most obvious is to experiment with mic placement. Try to get as close to the sound you want with the mic before you add any EQ. Take a look at where the drum beater is contacting the head, and mic to capture that attack. How far in or out of the drum you place the mic will have a large effect on the tone you capture. Further out will give you a more “resonant” or “woody” tone, while closer up should give you more attack, with less of the drum’s shell.

  2. Try miking from the beater side of the drum in addition to your normal kick drum mic placement (assuming you are currently miking from in front of or inside the drum). This should give you more attack. A few caveats: Watch for phase problems, be careful with mic placement and pickup pattern to avoid getting too much of the underside of the snare, and be sure that the kick pedal is squeak free!

  3. Try using a different beater. One made of a harder material may give you more slap. We’ve even heard of drummers and engineers taping hard materials to the kick drum head where the beater strikes it to emphasize the “click” and beater attack.

  4. Take a look at your musical arrangement. Are there other instruments in the kick drum’s frequency range that are masking it, diminishing its punch? Getting a kick drum and a bass guitar or bass synth to “sit” together in a mix is a real art. Maybe the problem is not in your kick, but in the bass EQ?

  5. When all else fails, try adding a little EQ. A parametric (or console EQ with sweepable mids) works well for this application, but a graphic can work fine. Boost the gain on the EQ, listen to the kick, and slowly sweep the EQ frequency until you find the frequency you want to bring out. Next, adjust the EQ gain to your taste. In addition to boosting some frequencies, you might want to experiment with cutting some of the boomier frequencies out to clear the top end a bit.

  6. As you are trying various things, work at the “low level” volume that you mention in your question. If the kick sounds good to you at low levels, it will probably sound even better when it is wound up a bit.

Good luck!

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