Create Better-Sounding Kicks for EDM

Let’s take a wimpy analog kick, and turn it into a powerhouse

Sometimes I like big, nasty kicks…and sometimes I like everything about an analog drum kit except the kick, so let’s take a wimpy analog kick and give it a dose of steroids. The secret to this technique is sending the kick to a bus or other track, then in that bus or track, inserting saturation-based processing followed by a sharp low pass filter (48 dB/octave is good), set to a very low frequency. This particular example uses Cakewalk by BandLab’s Tube processor and QuadCurve EQ (set to compact mode), but of course, similar processors in other host programs work just as well. Mix this distorted/lowpass-filtered sound behind the main kick.

Killer EDM kicks comparison

The audio demo plays two measures of a “stock” TR-808 drum loop, then two measures of the same loop with the killer kick processing, then repeats the same four measures for comparison. Of course, you need to hear this on a system that can reproduce bass adequately—airplane earbuds are definitely not recommended! (Come to think of it, they should probably never be recommended for anything…but I digress.)

You might wonder if the main reason for the increase in bass is the lowpass filtering, but after the initial set of 8 measures, there are two measures of the kick through lowpass filtering and then two measures of the kick with the Tube distortion added in—you’ll hear that the distortion is definitely the “secret ingredient.” And now, you can really get your…uh…kicks.