Tuning Your Kick Drum Samples

drums Apr 07, 2016

Tuning your drum samples is a simple and free solution for a tighter, more cohesive mix.

How does this happen? Let’s focus on the kick drum and break it down really quick.

A kick has that fat low end, usually with lots of low sub information. The low sub information gives you that nice chest thump that you’re used to. On the upper end of the frequency spectrum, there’s usually a tick/click/knock that helps make the kick known in a thick mix. In this case, we’re going to want to look at the sub end.

If I told you “It doesn’t really affect your song if your bass is out of tune”, you’d call me crazy.

When you start thinking about your kick as an extension of your bass, it helps switch your mindset from something you brush off, to something you take note of.

This is especially important for EDM style music. When you're using a sine wave style kick (like an 808), the pitch and tune of the kick is what gives it so much of its character. Tuning your kick gives bigger punch and doesn't conflict with bass lines because it's in the same key! Sometimes it’s not as easy to tell if it’s making a difference on something like a rock song with a live kick because the kick doesn’t always have as much of a “defined” note. But again, it's good to be aware of.

If you're not sure how to check what "frequency/key" your kick is hitting at, try using a spectrum analyzer like the free Voxengo Span.  You can solo out your kick and hone in on it. Look at the pic for an example. 

 In this case, the kick seems to be hitting its peak at an F# (specifically oct 2). You can tell by where your crosshairs are hitting. So if my song were in G# for example, I would bump it up 2 semitones, letting my kick hang at the root note throughout the song. Most DAWs come with a stock plugin that will let you adjust the pitch. 

The goal of this post is to mostly raise awareness, not throw you into an over-analyzing panic. If you feel your song seems to be slightly off balance or the kick doesn’t seem to “fit right” take a look at the tuning. It just might be the solution!


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.