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Fix It In The Mix

Lesson 3 of 17

Kick Drum Techniques

Kurt Ballou

Fix It In The Mix

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

3. Kick Drum Techniques

Lesson Info

Kick Drum Techniques

We're going to start building this thing just build it up from the ground up just kind of going sequentially through the tracks starting with the bass drum so we have we have to kick tracks here let's uh let's go look at the the original kick tracks kind of zoom in on those little buddies and uh there's a separate left and right track so it's little ones go sequentially we'll listen to the left the left kick for a sec turn up in here a little bit so this sounds like all right, so this sounds like uh it sounds gated to me so that the track that was delivered actually let's listen a a little more active area for a second yeah, so that the snare is causing the gate on the left kick to open up so I'm leaving in that case I'm going to guess that um this was not recorded with any sort of split snake. So I probably went from the stage right to the p a and then they found a way like with direct outs or something like that from from the channels of the p a they found a way to send those channel...

s to a recorder and that poses an additional hurdle for us because now we're not getting the dry you know as as you know, we're not getting a single directly from the microphone we're getting the signal after the front of house engineer has done their thing to it and so what might have been done to optimize the sound for that particular p a system might actually be bad for the recording so or might require some addition? Burke so I think that will probably end up either re gating or editing this left kick track to remove a bunch of the snare hits it should be pretty easy just to kind of go through this and using we use the tab the transient feature and then hit the hit the letter b which is to separate region and uh kind of good it'll take a few minutes um and I've actually ready done this I'm not gonna go through the whole track, but we'll just find the leading edge of the kick track and then um you kind of left kicks before that now just kind of edit out all the stuff that isn't that isn't kick um uh you know, throw, throw some fades and they're so there's no no digital clicks and uh get rid of our get rid of our sneer so we'll do something like that for the whole track so we get a cleaner left kick sound yeah, no no sneers leaking through there and then um let's hear the right kick? Yeah it's actually a bit sharper sounds on the left kick I find that the harder you hit a kick drum the brighter of deaths eso he's probably hitting his right kick a little bit harder than the left which would make sense so what? We're going to want to do some stuff to totally match the left and right kicks but it looks like that looks like the right kick is gated as well but the gating seems to be especially as you look at it visually the gating seems to be a bit more reliable than the left track the couple spots maybe maybe here yeah, you know, so we might we might add it off some little little things here and there um just to clean up that that that right? Because once we start like compressing this thing we don't really want to get an intermittent bottom snare signal like leaking through the kick mike that could be that could be distracting. Uh so um let's see, once once we've done that we want to kind of look at the dynamics just well, we'll just kind of visually inspect the dynamics of the kick track first and we can see that you know what? Let's check of this first passage here. Okay, so he's got as he's as he's playing faster you know, these first four hits are they're probably, you know, a muse my gavel probably uh uh he's probably sticking the beater of of the of the kick pedal right into the head and then there's that the data so that's like you know quick hits so he's bouncing the beater off ahead when you bounce a beater off a bass drum head you get you allow the head to resonate whereas when you stick a beater into the head naturally dampens the head so there's like with the softer faster hits there's going to be naturally mohr residence to that so we're gonna look at how we can address that uh we definitely want to least raise the level and we couldn't do that really quickly by using cliff game so separate separate region um using well tab tab a transient over to this soft kick tattoo trains you to the next hard kick and hit be two separate region and then use clip gain to boost that up so let's check that out now so tonally obviously it's um it's not the same on going try to address that but there's a bit of a deceased at least level wise it's a uh it's a bit similar so yeah let's let's try using this little plug in that I like called uh jst trance if I wait do we have that? Oh yeah, there is a transfer so joey sturgis tones makes this thing it's pretty rad it's it's sort of reminds me of s p l's transient designer there's also I think ways makes one called trans acts and sony makes one called visit inflater I think I could be wrong about that but there's our soft sauna it's not sunny anymore this is this is one that I like because it's it's multi band so we have separate control of how an envelope follower works in the um in the low low mid mid and trouble vance and what what an envelope follower is it's it's not like I'm like a compressor or expander but can be used in lieu of one if you want what it is is um it's something that follows the transient of so okay so like let me zoom in on a kick here get this thing out of the way for a second you know, this is the uh this is that this is a transient right so it has it has it has a shape so an envelope follower will follow the basic shape of this thing and can then modify that shape and convey give that shape more sustained or can give that shape mohr attack so what we're going to do is where we see um I should get a little loop going here um some I'm gonna I'm gonna turn on um turn on some automation on this thing let's start with it bypassed and and um and my master bypass into the automation for this thing and then set it so just those two funky little funky lips quieter hits are um so this thing's only gonna turn on for those hits so watch watch the bypass button okay, so now we can start um seen what we can do about those two hits to adjust they're transient response to make them sound more similar to the hard right kick hits all right, so it doesn't sound the same but we're getting closer let's see um let's just er disable automation for a second go backto listen to how it wass so you know it's not it's, not totally there but you know, it's getting there and I'm just I'm not going to repeat that for the whole track but basically in my lower session down here the green tracks I've done that for the whole for the whole song wherever the kicks air a bit softer I've used clip gain and trans if I to kind of bring up the level, bring up the attack and reduce the sustained uh all right, so the next thing we can do is let's listen, tio uh double a double kick section and uh here's one here so it sounds a bit sense about popcorn he actually know what will my eyes will clip game this just a little bit um just so we can level it out a skosh all right now loop it again no I'm gonna go ahead and well now I'm not gonna bother it'll take too much time but we can also use transit fire for the office that region like like this second a last right kick hit this guy seems a bit bright to me so we can you know do a similar thing we did with transit fire earlier where we're reducing sustained we can also reduce attack to the bright pans you know for the super hard hits so well you know you could do that too like you know even it out actually you know what I always do it let's just do it it'll be fun alright, so um let's add add some stuff to the automation and, uh see trouble attack in mid attack we can add and then um so let's turn it on for that last hit way going you know what instead of instead of going through all that automation I think I'm just gonna like do do some like setting demonstrations so I can uh oh that'll be a little quicker so you can see what I'm gonna do here so it's only you know that's only listen to the right kick for a second, all right? I think that will help you can also use transit five for level control too if you need some additional additional control so here it without this automation yeah that that second last right hit is pretty pretty sharp so with the automation you know it's still sharp but it's it's a bit more controlled and we're goingto use some multi being compression later on to control this even a bit more all right so let's go back to listening to the left and right uh kick here so there's definitely a different tone to the left and the right so what can we do to address that well there's this there's this plugging that I really love called fab filter pro que tu so let's open up in instance of that on the left kick and you know it's it's just a great um super versatile plug plug antique you but one of the neat features that it has is called match so weak can use it to matt try to mash the tone ality of the right and left kicks together and the way that we do that is we'll open up a send just pick any old sandal choose bus eleven on the right, kick a let's, get it up and make it pre fader and then in the plug in for kick left um let's set our key input to that same bus so now we're sending a single fromthe right kick into this plug and it's on the left kick and uh let's look at the queue match now kind of I always forget exactly the order than any depressed the buttons on this thing so forgive me if this is clunky so it's doing like a spectral analysis comparing the sound of the left kick to the right kick and then trying to determine like what it could do with various points in order to match the sound of the left on the right so I think we have something here yeah, we've created this crazy looking egg curve um and let's hear how it sounds all right, I'm gonna go into um sh wears it um switch my soul a maid sola moto x or so we can we can quickly toggle between left and right to see how the sound matches between the two so here's the right use the left I think kiki match might be doing a bit too much so I'm gonna try I'm gonna try man surround from the settings so that's not perfect but let's let's hear how it how it changed just by bypassing that cube so definitely better it's closer it's not exact but you know it's not an exact science if we wanted it exactly would just trigger all these things oh, I should mention too just a little aside here that some of these techniques I'm using like even if you decide not teo keep the sounds that we modify a lot of times and you decide that you know, like triggering the drums replacing with with samples would be would be a better solution a lot of times what we do here will make it easier to replace the drums if that's a technique that you that you choose to use so like in the case of that overhead like if you want to like trigger snare off the overhead the stuff that I do here might actually help you trigger this near more easily. All right, so um yeah so let's let's assign mentioned earlier let's let's we'll keep it on the same passage here and now let's add, uh, fat filter pro multi band which is um which is a pretty cool um multi band compressor that lets you add a whole I'm actually not sure what the limit is maybe six bands or something like that um where you can, um you know, you make make your own multi ban compressor where you can compress different bands of the frequency spectrum independently of each other. So here's the right kick, you know it's still a bit peaky in the high mid so wouldn't try control that a bit with pro and b one thing that's really nice about all the fab filter stuff for a bunch of the fat filter stuff is it gives you this sort of real time analyzer a spectrograph underneath your regular plug and so you can see what's actually happening in the frequency spectrum and helps you more quickly identify what are problematic frequency so I can see right away where there really stab the stuff is on this kick so I'm here like data detected tattoo, which is sort of like a natural swing of the drummer has so hopefully we can contain all those peaks let's, let's hear it with you know this quickie quickie set up it's a little bit dollar now, but we have level control right on each each band so we can control the output of each band kind of equalized used uses this kind of make basic equalizer to compensate for the game reduction that we're doing teach band you can also follow that man all right? That sounds pretty cool let's add another band down at the bottom to kind of tighten up the residence. I'm going to slow the kick the attack and release on this thing so that during during fast double bass sections there's not too much buildup of bottom end and the tone of the kick is a bit thin so we can even start start pushing it the tone in the right direction with the just the game controls here all right it's easy to get lost in that I won't spend too much time I spent a lot of time at home doing this so pull pull this pull up my final version of this later um so you know, once once we've done once we've done that teo both of the kick drum tracks to try to get their dynamics and in control then you know we might as well just go ahead and bounce them down to one tracks of them we can do the remainder of our processing to the kick as a whole so that being the case let's go down to let's let's just say that I already bound them together and we're going to go down now tio the kick track that I've already edited run trance fi on and bounced together just switch that at the consul here and so let's hear that same familiar area with with what I came up with actually you know what? Step you through one thing at a time so here's here's what it was um just bounced down so not perfect but it's certainly more usable than it was in the beginning um and I felt like they still needed to be some or level control, so I added yet another instance of pro m b another quick aside, what my overall kind of recording philosophize is that like, I want to hear a band when I'm when I'm listening to a record or watching a video I don't necessarily want to hear the sound of a recording of the sound of a mix and one of the ways that I found could be effective on effective way to do that is to not pushed things too hard at anyone stage. So when I meet queuing or compressing or something like that I'll give it like a little nudge at several different stages as opposed to doing a whole bunch of game reduction all at one stage and I find it that ultimately becomes more transparent when it gets to the final mix phase and then some I consider my goal when someone puts on a record you know not not to say like, oh yeah he's like compressing the hell out of the snare there or you know where he is, you know, doing this or that or you know, whatever like I just want people to hear the song people hear the band so you know, I have already used pro m b on each kick track individually by using very gently so now let me use it yet again on the sum of the two kick tracks and gently again this one doing a bit more of, uh using prom be for a bit more of its que um functionality so let's, check out what I did here, okay still it's still a bit all over the place but it's more contained than it wass the next plug and I decide to use on the kick is this this cool one the drum forge makes called the ethics site which is again you guys know you should know by now that I love multi band stuff um multi bans fund and multi bank get you in trouble it has to be used sparingly but it's fun and this one is a multi band exciter and defects site it adds a bit of sort of harmonic saturation and whatever else exciting means and there's there's some kind of different precepts that it has um for rock kick indy kicked metal kick and clearly this is a metal kicks were in use the metal kick kick setting unless we want to go eat gm I think all that all of these things really mean is that it? It adjusts where the crossover points are between the bass low mid high man and trouble bands so that this bypass now but let's hear what that's doing obviously it makes a powder which is good cause louder is always better right but uh you know it's just kind of like adding some excitement and aggression and a bit of class to the whole thing it just feels less aside from being loud actually let me just turn it down for seconds we can kind of pair it with equal volumes itjust feels classier may yes it's starting to feel a bit more mixed um and then uh go go back and then finally I'm using this new this new plug in that brain works just put out called bx console, which is a model of the console that they have in their studio on dh. I typically wouldn't use this if I was making this at home, but because I mix on a console at home, but here at the creative live studio, we're just mixing inside pro tools so amusing bx consul sort of simulate what I would do with my out of the box type stuff, so I don't really need to talk about this at length, but this is a really nice sounding plug in that has gating compression and q and a bit of sort of saturation consul emulation all all built into it that that I found makes mixing in the box, which really isn't my forte a bit a bit easier and feel a bit more natural to me, the the interface of it takes a little bit of getting used to there's a lot of it was a lot of controls packed into a small area, but we don't need to talk a whole lot about this just, uh, consider this thing like hurts mix so let's see what that's doing actually sounded a bit rumbly to me, I might wantto engage the high pass filter the high pass filter on this thing's a bit, eyes pretty gentle, so let's control a bit of that rumble I can't really tell in these monitors and here I'm not accustomed to listening to him but uh does feel a bit a bit rumbly anyway so that's uh that's pretty much what I wanted to talk about with oh, they're one one final final thing to talk about regarding kick and that's that's reverb I mean, I know a lot of times we don't put a bunch of reverb on bass drums but in the case of a live recording you might want to add a little bit just give it some sort of width in a sense of realism so let's uh let's see what that sounds like uh yeah, you know, like when you go into a rock club and here a ban sound checking and stuff and the drummer starts playing bass drum you're not hearing like a super dry close mike bass drum sound your hearing in the room so let's put a little bit of reverb on a kick to make it sound like it's coming from the room all right, so I think uh at the end of what I wanted to talk about about bass drums could go back to the slides for a second just to kind of review um this is all the stuff that we did to the kick way edited all the kicks removed all the sloppy gating we used clip gain and jst as trans if I to sort of level off the kick dynamics and some of the tonal variances within the kick track we use, we use fat filled pra que tu tu e q match the left and right kicks together, and we used fab filter prom be to contain some of the bright peaks and to help tighten up some of the resident rumble in the faster sections we took each of those individual kicks, bounced them down to a mono track. We didn't have to do that. We could have just bust them together and then process the bus as as one. You know, I just decided, in this case, to bounce them down. No one tracks host because most people are accustomed dealing with a single kick track, you know, whether it be a single base or or a double pedal on a single single bass drum. So it's just a little bit more resource efficient to just manage one one kick track. Yeah, uh, dfx site for dimension and attack. And then the brain works be ex consul, just as the sort of simulation of what I would be doing with a console at home.

Class Description

The best way to get a great recording is to start with great source material, but that’s not always possible. Occasionally you are stuck with a less-than-perfect recording and the only thing you can do is to try and clean it up. 

Lucky for you, there are reliable techniques for restoring poorly recorded audio, and Kurt Ballou will teach you everything you need to know in Fix it in the Mix. 

While replacing drums with samples and reamping guitars are often effective ways to rebuild a sub-par recording, they are time-consuming and can diminish the uniqueness of the original recording. 

Fix it in the Mix will explore organic approaches to recovering and enhancing the natural tones from the original performances. Kurt will use recordings from real-world scenarios and walk you through, in detail, the audio restoration process. 

In Fix it in the Mix, Kurt will show you how to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions to audio restoration problems every engineer has faced. 



An absolutely fantastic course for anyone who is new (or even experienced) on how to use very innovative techniques to help bring some life to an otherwise poorly recorded demo. Thank you Kurt!


another fantastic course in the creative live audio section, kurt kills it,!! thank you!

Ashton Thebault

Definitely some handy tips in here that are useful for mixing live music, poorly recorded tracks and anything else that couldn't be rectified during recording. Kurt gave some tips I had never thought of and there were some valuable insights that came out from his discussions with people in the room. Very valuable if you deal with any sub-standard recordings and if you just want to get some tips.