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Thicker, fatter, punchier drums. Help with achieving this please?

#1 User is offline   Desertrose Icon

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 10:03 PM

I'm not happy with any of my keyboard kick drum sounds.
I want to be able to achieve that nice rich thick thudding dance beat (sort of) drum sound for a track I'm messing with at the moment.
I don't want the kicking a cardboard box sound and those that kind of have the sound that I want still sound too thin - or something. Not meaty enough.
I know very little about what the right effects are to use so I just fiddle.
I've tried adding chorus as an effect (along with EQ - putting more bottom end in and lowering some of the mids) but the chorus effect (just a doubling really, nothing too extreme) seems to do what ALWAYS happens and makes the drum sound like it's pushed back in the mix.
Even when I turn the volume up it still seems like it's "in the back of the room" somehow.
Why IS that!

Can anyone help me understand how to go about this?

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 11:01 PM

Well, first let me ask: how are you tracking your stuff? As a MIDI sequence in the keyboard, or as audio tracks in a DAW? And if the latter, can you track the bass drum separately from the rest of the kit?

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 11:44 PM

Yeah, first things first, need to know what you're using for drums! Can't really tell from your post if you're able to isolate the kick track.

If you don't have the tracking/mixing choice to get the kick seperate, just make a copy of your drumloop and use EQ to isolate the low frequencies. There is very little in the low end of the drums besides the kick. Then you can treat that as your "kick" track and use some compression to get it knocking the way you want. Dance beat drums = compression.

I wouldn't be putting a chorus effect personally. Do you have a good saturation plug-in? That's one of my favorite effects for drums. Can really fatten up the sound.
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Posted 17 February 2012 - 12:08 AM

Yes I can isolate all the drum sounds so that's not a problem.
What does compression do exactly? I thought it was something that makes all the frequencies the same level in volume (see, really I know nothing)
Saturation plug in? Hmm, I'm not sure. Not heard of that before.
I use Cooledit for recording and have an additional board of effects called "Direct X" (anyone know what I'm talking about?) In it it has Cakewalk and Sony.... "stuff" but most of it I don't use because I just don't know what it all means.

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 12:26 AM

That is indeed what compression does, raises the lows, lowers the highs. But it can also shape the tone of the signal you put it on. That's why there's so many different compressors and everybody has their favorites to use on certain instruments.

Try making a copy of the kick drum track. Put a compressor on it and adjust it until you're getting that punch you want. Then blend it with the dry kick drum track (if you want) to get more of the natural sound in it.

EQ-wise to get rid of that "cardboard" sound you mentioned... try cutting around 200-400 Hz. Boost around 60-100 Hz to get a bit more beef. Try boosting a bit in the higher range too to get a bit more attack and clarity.

p.s. Saturation, I guess it would be best described as a gentle distortion. I use it almost exclusively on drums but sometimes it can really help a vocal track gain some presence in a heavy mix. It's meant to emulate the effect of recording to tape.
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Posted 17 February 2012 - 12:47 AM

View PostDesertrose, on 16 February 2012 - 10:03 PM, said:

I'm not happy with any of my keyboard kick drum sounds.
I want to be able to achieve that nice rich thick thudding dance beat (sort of) drum sound for a track I'm messing with at the moment.
....................
Can anyone help me understand how to go about this?
:blink: :wacko: :blink:
Honestly, you're the last person I'd have expected to be asking a question about drums in a mix.
Are you looking for something more punchy than what you created in your song
Crisis ?

Have you had a look at this?
Mixing drums
He talks about using EQ and compression on a Kick drum.

Also just found this youtube video. (some profanity included)
Fatter Punch Kick Drums
I would stay away from using any FX like chorus though. :(
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Posted 17 February 2012 - 02:31 AM

Man, it's like a pandora's box when you start looking at all these effects!
Thanks Mark. Looks like I was in the right ball park regarding those EQ settings (I don't "look" at the numbers when I'm fiddling, I just fiddle, lol!)
Now the compression seems like a completely different and complex animal.
Thanks Dan for those links (but agggghhh - no, that very old song of mine is shocking and not just drum wise!)
The you tube one was very interesting, but quite confusing to me - not having the exact same programs to look at.
I did think though whilst watching that that exact drum "sound" he was using, sounded like something- if I found a similar one on my keyboard, that to me sounds like crap.
Even AFTER he fiddled and made it "better".
So I'm left wondering if I really just don't have a clue as to how drum sounds should SOUND.
Perhaps I'd better pay more attention to them in future when listening to music.
Maybe mine are not quite as bad as I thought?
I am beginning to understand though just how much bass and drums compete against each other in a mix and why it's important to try and separate them to avoid total "mud" from happening down that end.
Geez, it's all so very daunting.
Thanks for some insights anyway.

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 08:18 AM

You may want to do a search for "Kick Drum" samples, a lot of sites have free file downloads if you're looking for a particular kick sound, you should be able to import the file to your daw on it's own track and edit according to your song, punching in the sampled kick over the original kick where needed.

Here's one such site, there's many more. http://www.canadianm...um_samples.html

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#9 Guest_Gravity Jim_*

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 08:42 AM

There's no way drums SHOULD sound, except the way you want them to. A lot of modern dance/pop producers are trying to make samples of real drums sound like 808 and 909 drum machines, so... there ya go. :)

While the main thing compression does is control dynamics, it is often used as a tone shaper, as FunkDaddy points out. But it helps to know what a compressor is really doing to use one well.

A compressor reduces the amount of gain in a signal above a given threshold by a given amount expressed as a ratio. (I know that sounds confusing, but it's really easy to understand.) Here's an example:

Let's say you have a kick drum sound that varies in gain from strike to strike. The softest ones are at -12 and the hardest ones are just about at 0db (this is a digital scale, BTW). You can't turn up the track because the hottest strikes will burn. So you set a compressor with a threshold of -8db, and a ratio of 4:1. What this means is that when the kick drum is softer than -8db (those -12db strikes we've got), the compressor will do nothing. But when the strike comes up above -8db, the compressor will reduce the amount of gain above the threshold by the 4:1 ratio, or to 25% of the original amount. Let's take a strike at -4db as an example. Because the compressor only affects the amount of gain above the threshold, it will cut the -4db strike (which is 4db above the threshold) by 75%, or 3 db, reducing the overall signal to -7db. The more gain above threshold, the more reduction.... on our strikes that are almost at 0 (8db above threshold), the compressor will reduce that 8db to just 2 db, bringing the whole signal down to -6.

So now you've reduced the dynamic range of your kick drum from 12db of variation (from -12 to 0) to just 6db (from -12 to -6). Now you can turn the gain on the compressor up 6db, and the whole kick drum track will become that much more present. Because it's louder, it will sound different... more low end, etc.

In pop music, we're usually trying to get the kick drum and the bass guitar to sound like one big fat instrument, and that's where most of the punch-in-the-face power of pop and rock forms comes from. Compression usually won't do this alone: you also need to do some equalization. A ton of bass and drum information lives in the range from the low-lows through the low mids, but almost all the character of an instrument is contained in the initial attack transient. For a bass, that transient is usually between 700 - 1000Hz, and the smack of a kick drum lives in a surprisingly high range, between 3000 to 4000Hz. (Up in the vocals!!)

A kind of by-the-book method of getting fat sounds from kick and bass while retaining clarity is to boost the way-lows on the kick (60-80Hz) , cut the low mids anywhere from 200Hz to 400Hz (sometimes called the mudrange... I usually start around 300hz) and boost the highs at around 3000Hz for clarity. On the bass, you go the other way; cut the lows where you boosted them on the kick (60-80Hz), boost the bass at around 120 - 150Hz, and boost the highs at around 900Hz for "click" and clarity. You don't need to boost or cut massive amounts... just a couple of db with a narrow Q setting of 2.0 or so (if you're not familiar with all these EQ terms, just spend some time with your EQ plug-ins... you'll find all these controls easily.) FunkDaddy was directing you to do the same thing... I'm just talking about how to balance that with the bass.

What you're doing here is making a nice little valley inside the kick drum sound for the bass to rest in, and accenting the attack of both instruments for max presence.

But, this is just basic starting point stuff. The drum should sound the way YOU want it to sound, "common knowledge" be damned.

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 10:21 AM

You are describing the tone of subharmonics. Look up SUB KICK TRICK on google.

First you'll need to track your kick separately and as an AUDIO TRACK NOT MIDI INFO.

Add a noise gate as an insert. Now, set the gate so that it opens only on the kick hits. Now, open up a frequency generator as an insert BEHIND the gate. Set the frequency to something you can hear really well like 400hz so that you can hear that it is working. Now lower the frequency down (Ilike to start at 41hz). Listen. Boost the Freq Generator if you need more umph.

This is a standard Dance music mix move. If you'll just Google: SUB KICK TRICK you'll find an instructional video. If the software isn't the same as what you are using, that won't matter, the same principles apply to all DAWs. If it'll work in Pro Tools it'll work in Cubase. There may be some differences but really a noise gate is a noise gate, and a freq generator is a freq generator. Now you have the recipe.

And just for the sake of clarity compression IS the sound of drums, this is why a lot of guys still love recording drums to tape. Now that being said, it doesn't mean you just automatuically slam the hell out of every drum you ever record but, compression and drums go hand in hand.
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Posted 17 February 2012 - 04:00 PM

Thank you guys!
I am sure I will be coming back here to refer to this thread as I go along.
Appreciate the links and will definitely check them all out. Seems like compression is really the key here so I will have to explore this more. Thanks for explaining more about that.
I stumbled upon some other pretty cool effects too last night - not all of which have to do with drums of course, but none the less it's interesting to delve into this world of effects just to see what they can do. I really like the stereo imager thingy!

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 11:57 AM

View PostDesertrose, on 17 February 2012 - 03:00 PM, said:

Seems like compression is really the key here so I will have to explore this more.

Parallel distortion can be really big for dance kick drums sounds. This is where you take a copy of the kick track, distort it, and blend it in with the original.

But you're stumbling into the world of audio engineering which is a big and terrible and exciting place.

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 05:26 PM

"Big and terrible" - YEAH!
Confusing and frustrating. BUT, I will keep trying. Doing a lot of experimenting here.
Just playing with EQ is daunting enough. Especially since it seems what I hear through my headphones is in complete contrast with what my speakers tell me so I'm never quite sure that what I consider a "decent" mix is going to sound like to everybody else, being that what THEY hear is largely dependent on what they are listening through.

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 05:58 PM

View PostDesertrose, on 20 February 2012 - 04:26 PM, said:

Especially since it seems what I hear through my headphones is in complete contrast with what my speakers tell me so I'm never quite sure that what I consider a "decent" mix is going to sound like to everybody else, being that what THEY hear is largely dependent on what they are listening through.

Ouch. You REALLY want something that you mostly trust to mix with. Do you at least mostly trust one of them? If not, you might consider investing some $ there...
For example, I have these and trust them pretty well except for the highest octave: http://www.bhphotovi..._Headphone.html

They sound fairly similar to my KRK V4s, and tend to translate. At work, I listen through Panasonic RP-HT360's and they tend to be a bit harsh and sibilant, so I know to be careful with that in my mixes.

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 06:15 PM

I've got a good set of Sennheiser headphones (everything sounds like magic when you listen through them :) ) and some Behringer monitors.
The monitors make everything sound bottomy despite fiddling with the settings.
I'm constantly told by my other half (who was an audio engineer, but mainly in the live arena) to NOT mix through headphones but when I'm putting a song together, naturally I will adjust things to make it more pleasant to my ears when I'm composing. But - then when I go to actually mix it through monitors what I've adjusted has to be RE- adjusted because of the discrepancy and so generally speaking I'm just trying to guess how it's going to sound when other people play it.

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 01:18 PM

View PostDesertrose, on 20 February 2012 - 05:15 PM, said:

I'm constantly told by my other half (who was an audio engineer, but mainly in the live arena) to NOT mix through headphones but when I'm putting a song together, naturally I will adjust things to make it more pleasant to my ears when I'm composing.

Why not mix through headphones?

Most people listen through headphones these days, I'll wager. It's a good idea to use both, but whichever one tends to be the most accurate and translate best would be my main device. If that's headphones, so be it. Obviously check on your speakers as well.

If everything sounds good through your headphones, I wouldn't necessarily trust them. I need an honest, detailed "look" at the mix, not a flattering one. Although you say your monitors make things "boomy"... does that mean if you play some commercial, well mixed music that you like through them, say, Poet and the Pendulum, it sounds "boomy" and bad? If so, there's clearly an issue with your monitoring there (be it the monitors or the room).

Anyway, make whatever gives you the most accurate picture (be it the 'phones or the monitors) your main mixing tool, and try to make your mixes sound as good as a commercial reference mix on both sources.

Any luck with your kick drum quest? If you post samples of what you have so far and discuss what you like and dislike about them, maybe we could help.

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 04:28 PM

View Postm24p, on 21 February 2012 - 01:18 PM, said:

View PostDesertrose, on 20 February 2012 - 05:15 PM, said:

I'm constantly told by my other half (who was an audio engineer, but mainly in the live arena) to NOT mix through headphones but when I'm putting a song together, naturally I will adjust things to make it more pleasant to my ears when I'm composing.

Why not mix through headphones?


The big one being that the stereo field is greatly enhanced and exaggerated. As well, details that you hear in headphones can very quickly be lost when the speakers aren't jammed right against your ears. And all headphones are different. A good pair of monitors, after you learn them, will give you a mix that will translate well to ALL systems. I consider myself a recording engineer worthy of a Nobel prize when I can get a mix that sounds good on my laptop.

My general recording plan, as far as listening and mixing goes, usually amounts to: track with headphones, listen/mix on headphones at medium volume, listen/mix on headphones at low volume, mix at low volume on my monitors (KRK Rokit-4's if you're wondering), mix/master at normal volume. Of course there's all kinds of tweaking going on at all stages, I'll often hear stuff in the vocals I want to fix only when I'm listening on the monitors.

It's always a good idea to have reference CD to compare your mix to (assuming you are interested in a "commercial" sort of mix). Just don't get obsessed with trying to match it identically, use it as...well...a reference lol Try and use a CD you know well in a similar genre, try to listen for what the individual instruments sound like on your speakers/monitors. But always make your song your own. Don't get hung up on trying to make it sound like the CD as you likely won't be able to without the same gear the studio had.
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Posted 21 February 2012 - 04:46 PM

Yeah! that's the thing. That's why headphones sound so "magic"!
My husband reckons to check mixes (once it's done) it's a good idea to play things on the car stereo . I suppose a bit like playing things on a laptop - yeah! If you can get it sounding decent on that! (which I don't happen to have)just to get a feel for how it's going to sound when played back on a variety of sound systems.

I've abandoned the song I was working on when I first asked the question - but I'm still on the quest to learn how to improve drum sounds in general.
It would make things easier if I stuck to one genre where I used similar sounding drums but unfortunately I'm all over the place with writing.
The information given here though has provided some insight on at least where to start.

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 04:57 PM

View PostFunkDaddy, on 21 February 2012 - 03:28 PM, said:

View Postm24p, on 21 February 2012 - 01:18 PM, said:

View PostDesertrose, on 20 February 2012 - 05:15 PM, said:

I'm constantly told by my other half (who was an audio engineer, but mainly in the live arena) to NOT mix through headphones but when I'm putting a song together, naturally I will adjust things to make it more pleasant to my ears when I'm composing.

Why not mix through headphones?


The big one being that the stereo field is greatly enhanced and exaggerated.

I could just as well say that the monitors diminish and underplay the stereo field. Both are valid, normal listening options, so the mix really needs to work on both. Because the stereo imaging of headphones is different than speakers doesn't mean it's inherently worse than monitors. Besides, you should be making sure your mix sounds good in mono anyway. The stereo field is icing on the cake.

As far as "hearing details", for my main mixing, I WANT to hear every detail. How else am I going to be able to notice subtle problems that will get exaggerated on some random playback systems? I prefer mixing through my monitors, but I'd be hard pressed to say mixing through 'phones is "bad". Obviously, you can screw mixes up either way...

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:33 AM

View Postm24p, on 21 February 2012 - 04:57 PM, said:

View PostFunkDaddy, on 21 February 2012 - 03:28 PM, said:

View Postm24p, on 21 February 2012 - 01:18 PM, said:

View PostDesertrose, on 20 February 2012 - 05:15 PM, said:

I'm constantly told by my other half (who was an audio engineer, but mainly in the live arena) to NOT mix through headphones but when I'm putting a song together, naturally I will adjust things to make it more pleasant to my ears when I'm composing.

Why not mix through headphones?


The big one being that the stereo field is greatly enhanced and exaggerated.

I could just as well say that the monitors diminish and underplay the stereo field. Both are valid, normal listening options, so the mix really needs to work on both. Because the stereo imaging of headphones is different than speakers doesn't mean it's inherently worse than monitors. Besides, you should be making sure your mix sounds good in mono anyway. The stereo field is icing on the cake.

As far as "hearing details", for my main mixing, I WANT to hear every detail. How else am I going to be able to notice subtle problems that will get exaggerated on some random playback systems? I prefer mixing through my monitors, but I'd be hard pressed to say mixing through 'phones is "bad". Obviously, you can screw mixes up either way...


Why not mix with headphones? Easy question. Simple answer...Because, you shouldn't.

Hearing an "Exaggerated Stereo Field" will not in any way help you to make a good mix. I'll ask another, and IMO more valid question;

Why would anyone want to hear anything from an Exaggerated point of view when trying to make a "balanced" mix?

why not tell the truth?

Properly set up monitors, in a well treated room don't lie to you as much as headphones do BUT, it seems as though, the wet-behind-the-ears salesperson at whichever MusicMart is busy telling everyone that this costs "Too Much."

HA!

Your playback system is where the lion's share of your recording budget should be spent. If you begin with all of the best of everything but, cheap it out on your playback system you've stepped backwards. THIS IS AUDIO so...How you hear the music you make is more vital than which DAW you choose to make it on. Believe otherwise IF you would like or do like chasing your own tail.

IF you'd rather spend $100 on a pair of 'phones rather than $1000 on a pair of decent monitors...consider this if logic will not persuade you otherwise...You get what you pay for.

Consider this as well...IF headphones are all that are needed to make a good mix, why are there still companies who build exceptional monitors? And, why are professional engineers STILL using them?

Look into a company called FOCAL. They make decent monitors for under $1000.
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Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:47 AM

View PostLzi, on 06 March 2012 - 10:33 AM, said:

Properly set up monitors, in a well treated room don't lie to you as much as headphones do BUT, it seems as though, the wet-behind-the-ears salesperson at whichever MusicMart is busy telling everyone that this costs "Too Much."

Look into a company called FOCAL. They make decent monitors for under $1000.



I've never met a salesperson for any MI company that would tell you not to buy something because it costs too much: on the contrary, they often tell you not to buy something because it doesn't cost enough.

I'm sure Focals are fine. But don't forget that good near fields for under $1,000 a pair are also made by Genelec, Event, JBL, and Sonodyne (who makes a great 8" woofer nearfield that sells for something like $800 a pair).

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 03:06 PM

View PostLzi, on 06 March 2012 - 09:33 AM, said:

View Postm24p, on 21 February 2012 - 04:57 PM, said:

I could just as well say that the monitors diminish and underplay the stereo field. Both are valid, normal listening options, so the mix really needs to work on both. Because the stereo imaging of headphones is different than speakers doesn't mean it's inherently worse than monitors. Besides, you should be making sure your mix sounds good in mono anyway. The stereo field is icing on the cake.


Hearing an "Exaggerated Stereo Field" will not in any way help you to make a good mix. I'll ask another, and IMO more valid question;

Why would anyone want to hear anything from an Exaggerated point of view when trying to make a "balanced" mix?

why not tell the truth?

What makes monitors the truth and headphones the lie?

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:18 PM

View PostFunkDaddy, on 17 February 2012 - 12:26 AM, said:

That is indeed what compression does, raises the lows, lowers the highs. But it can also shape the tone of the signal you put it on. That's why there's so many different compressors and everybody has their favorites to use on certain instruments.


Heard this song on the radio the other day and it made me think of this thread, a fine example of what heavy compression does to the drum sound. I think it works perfectly for the song but it's definitely an acquired taste...


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Posted 07 March 2012 - 05:05 AM

Does the drum sound change once the music picks up in this song?
I didn't like the sound of it right in the start of the clip but then when the bass came in I had trouble deciphering where the kick drum was.
This just reminded me of how little I listen to music these days (except other writers songs on boards like these) The whole song just sounded really compressed. Though I always hated going to hard rock concerts with my other half and feeling the bass vibrate my organs I also, it appears, don't like music that doesn't seem to vibrate anything.

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 10:49 AM

Yeah, more of the "dry" drum mix kicks in at 0:38 but it's still pretty heavily compressed. The drum intro, to my ear, is almost 100% the compressed signal. It's all pretty compressed, and high-passed (as in EQing a lot of bottom out) pretty strongly I think, including his vocals, to get that "AM Radio" sound until the chorus kicks in.

That's what I'm hearing anyways
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Posted 07 March 2012 - 11:26 PM

Here's my two cents. I know you're not mic-ing a kick drum. I've always been able to get the electronic/sampled kick sound I wanted (or I could at least live with) following this approach. Before you get lost in effects, try mixing different kick sounds together, try different VELOCITY, sustain and/or attack levels as such might be available to tweak with your tech, and try TUNING the kick/kicks up and down. All will substantially affect the sound of the kick. Also, unless your song is dominated by a power kick-snare beat or the kick otherwise has prominence on its own in the mix, the kick won't be so much a substantive drum in the mix as it is a percussive augmentation of the bass, and you really can't get the "right" kick sound in isolation from the bass sound, and you should settle on the right bass sound first. You're welcome. That will be $10.00 (U.S.) Oops, make that $10.02. I have to recoup my two cents.

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:07 PM

View PostFunkDaddy, on 06 March 2012 - 09:18 PM, said:

Heard this song on the radio the other day and it made me think of this thread, a fine example of what heavy compression does to the drum sound. I think it works perfectly for the song but it's definitely an acquired taste...
I just have to say the lead vocalist sounds so much like Trevor McNevan (of Thousand Foot Krutch) that I thought for a little bit that it might be the him.

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 10:14 AM

In dance music the kick/bass are almost the whole song. Listen to the lyrics or non-lyrics if you will of most dance music, it is as one of my friends decscribes it; "So simple, it's almost stupid." LOL. If you're going to create dance type music learning how to make a nice kick drum sound is fundamental. The kick is the drum which follows/drives our heartbeat so, if it is not right, nobody will move their feet...SIMPLE...Get this right first!

Remove the kick track from a dance tune and listen...There is not much left besides the bass. Mute everything besides the kick/snare/vocal...LISTEN...Now, you should be hearing that a dance tune is mostly a MONO experience. In fact, the more you move away from MONO the less power your song will have. Everything that matters IS in the center...Kick/snare/bass/vocal...Mix so that this center is not a fuzzy mess of compounded frequencies all fighting for the same space. Forget about the keyboards parts, guitar parts etc.., these will all be panned hard left or hard right so do not worry aout them too much until your center is correct.

A dance mix should be an LCR (LEFT/CENET/RIGHT) mix BUT... the MONO center is everything.

Forget about soft panning (anything which isn't either 100% LEFT or RIGHT is considered to be "soft panned") anything except perhaps BVs (background vocals).

Compression is important but, be careful not to go overboard. Often the sound which you are hearing is not the sound of just one compressor. It is fairly standard practice to use a combination of compressors to achive the desired tonality.

Yes! The sound of the drums can and does change within an arrangement. The more subtle changes you have going on, the better. Music should be in a constant state of movement, never sitting still. Dynamics involve much, much more than simply volume.

The key to a poerful sounding dance tune is always SIMPLICITY. Get the center thumping, this is where that "GOLDEN" sound lives (for a dance record). How the low end relates to the high end is vital. Realize that nobody is really listening to the lyrics so, they don't have to be "the feature"...The beat IS the feature of a dance record (nobody really listens to the lyrics). IF lyrics are important to you then, write cathy hooks.
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