Kick Drum EQ Settings and Compression

Explanation of the above EQ settings:

As you have observed, the bass guitar is reduced in the sub-bass frequency range by cutting using a low shelf filter starting at 150Hz. So the sub-bass would be primarily composed of kick drum fundamental frequencies. If you do not know how to determine these fundamental frequencies you might want to read this tutorial on musical instrument frequency range analysis.

The kick drum spikes are aimed to be at 80Hz and the bass guitar is centered at 200Hz. The result of this mix is that the kick drum appears strong in the sub-bass while the bass guitar notes is still providing the necessary groove in the mix (bass notes clearly audible even in smaller speakers due to the boost at 200Hz).

The resulting kick drum sound is very common in country music genre.

EQ settings for kick drum in jazz music

In jazz music, the sound of kick drum and bass guitar combination is different compared to pop, rock and country music.

For example, it is normal for the jazz music to have a complete absence of sub-bass guitar frequencies as jazz bassist and drummer tends to be an instrumentalist/soloist so they would always be playing solo/emphasized notes all the time (instead of playing in common time/rhythm aspect). And the main objective of the kick drum audio mixing process is to give clarity to these two instruments.

Heaviness is not important in jazz so the low end can be completely reduced to give way to ambiance and clarity of the sound. You can start with:

Kick drum:
Low shelf -6dB at 70Hz
Cut -9dB Q=3 Center Frequency=400Hz
Boost +3dB at 150Hz
Boost +3dB at 2000Hz

Bass guitar:
Low shelf -6dB at 200Hz
Boost +3dB at 400Hz
Boost +3dB at 800Hz

As you have observed, the kick drum spikes would sound like a “thump” instead of having a boom/deep sound common in rock and pop music. The boost of +3dB can be changed to +4dB or so on (let +6dB be the maximum), until you can hear a clearly defined kick sound.

If you want to know the EQ settings guide for all of your instruments in the mix at one glance, you can refer to this tutorial: Complete EQ settings to Start when doing Audio Mixing.

Suggested Compression Settings for Kick

Personally in my own music production projects, I do not compress kick drums often in the mix because compressing it can reduce its power during the mastering stage. However if you need to compress kick drums, below are the suggestions:

1.) Set compression ratio to around 4:1
2.) Set release time to 100ms.
3.) Set attack time to 70ms (e.g. 75ms) to have that fat kick drum sound.
4.) Set threshold to 1/6 of the maximum peak kick drum level. So if the maximum peak of your kick drum is -6dB set the threshold to -30dB in your compressor.

This is an example screenshot of the compressor (Waves C1 Comp mono) illustrating a typical kick drum compressor settings (for fat kick sound):

Fat kick drum compression settings

Fat kick drum compression settings

Below are some important related tutorials relating to compression:

a.) Snare Compression- How the Drum Sound Changes with Different Settings – see how a snare drum sound changes with compression. You can apply the same concept with kick drums.

b.) How Compressor Attack and Release Works? – attack and release times are one of the most important parameters in compression that can have a significant impact on the kick drum sound

c.) Audio Compression tips – a general guide on compressing different elements in the mix.

Content last updated on June 14, 2012

  • Asthmatic Clinton

    Awesome, thanks. Wish I could finds something like this for all the instruments in Blues.

  • Andreas Furtner

    Use your ears, not the frequency dial!

  • Andreas Furtner

    Hi Kelvin, it is better to try and find your own settings. There is nothing worse than pre defined eq’s. I had a look, but I believe it confuses people more than is good.

  • Kelvin Egbegi

    Nice applied some of this tricks but sure will get a better mix wen I follow all on a Live mix.

  • Dxl Da Beat Muderer

    nice one bro.

  • Jacques Battel

    Good Stuff

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Seto Baagh,
    Thanks for visiting my blog,anyway you can find some answers relating to your problem here:
    Good luck.


  • Seto Baagh

    ive recorded live drum using a 4 channel mixer and 4 mics via adobe audition 3.. but the sound is not clear enough… im new to this so plz help me out…..

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hello Danny,
    Yeah sure, I am planning to write a tutorial about it and post it in my blog. Please subscribe to my feeds (at the topmost part of the site, there is a form that asked for your email address), so that you can received my latest post.
    It’s great to know that my tips gradually improve the sound quality of your drums. Cheers.

  • Danny

    Hi Emerson, it’s me again.
    Thanks for your inputs so far, right now I’m going to start mixing the drums. I’m excited, I’ve implemented your tips on the kick drum, snare, and hihat, so far they work quite well, each instrument sounded much more defined. Also with the panning of each instrument I decided to widen the drum kit, instead of -12.5 to 12.5 pan, I used -20 to 20, I kinda like the more spacious sound of the drum. So thank you for your wonderful blogs.

    Can I ask you one more thing? Can you direct us about how to mix the toms of the drum? What freq to cut or boost to make em sound better (I know, better is a very loose term, but please a little direction would be nice).

    I found that “playing” with sound is very addicting, don’t you agree?, I’m finding new things to learn everyday.. I’m hooked for life… Cheers.

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Danny,
    I am still using the old version of Adobe version but it suits me perfectly. Sadly, there is no punch in feature in that version. What I would normally do is:

    1.) If performance mistake occurs such as a solo guitar, I will delete the recorded wave entirely and asked the guitarist to re-record again.

    2.) I am not sure with your setup but you can always refer to the recorded software manual in case you are confused with the settings.

    It is why before I start the recording session, I need to ensure that all artists (guitarist, vocals and drummers) are completely rehearsed before doing the recording. In this case, not only it reduces the amount of mistakes but will make sure their performance is optimum.

    Now I can tell you why I am not in favor of punch-in technically,
    1.) Of course, fixing it can be complicated, and raw made fix can sound the recording artificial and less lively.

    2.) There is some problem with volume. The volume before may not be the same volume after punching in. So a contrast in volume can be difficult to mix, adding complexity.

    3.) There might be some problem with pitches. This is true even the guitars are not tuned again one day after as guitar pitching variations can vary with time, as a result, a solo might sound slightly out of tune after the punch in. Again adding some complexity if use pitch correction plug-in or re-tuning before recording.

    The best fix for this type of problem is to be “better rehearsed” and “practice” before doing any recordings. In this case, a “one-take” recording always sounds best than a “punched-in” or corrected recordings. It is why audio production is different from film production. In films, you can “cut” a scene because the eye behaves like that (close and opening of eyes naturally cuts the scene). But ears are different, it needs to sound entirely continuous and natural, so a punched-in is less advisable unless you are a master of corrections that even technical listeners or audio critics cannot even noticed that there is some “punched in” at that track.

  • Danny

    Hi Emerson, thanks for the reply. I’ll consider your advice on this matter, nice to know that you’re not only an engineer but also an artist with some cool perspectives too.
    Anyway I have a question that is more related to operating the adobe audition, hope you don’t mind.
    Here’s my problem, in adobe audition 3 there’s a “punch in” recording feature just like the one that I used to work with in cool edit pro 2.0. But there’s a difference and I don’t know how to fix this.
    Say I just finished recording a long solo guitar on a track, but there’s some mistakes here and there along the freshly recorded track. So what I would do is highlighted the “mistake” areas and then select punch in record, right?! Ok, then I backed down the recording marker some few seconds before the highlighted areas, the idea is so that I can play along the previously recorded track and would only start recording when the marker hits the highlighted area and replace the mistakes with a new take. That’s the common practice, right?
    Now here’s the thing, whenever I press the red record button I can not hear my current playing, I can only hear the original track (the one with the mistakes on it), I would only hear my current playing only when the marker hits the highlighted area and start to replace the mistakes with a new take. Now why is that?? I would like to be able to play along the original track before the highlighted area so I can have a better feel for the solo. Can you help me with this? Did I make a mistake? Did I make a wrong set up? I tried so many times to fix this, I tried playing around with the “audition mix” selection as well switching between “smart input” and “always input” but alas, no luck. Please help, I’m stuck. Thanks in advance..

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Danny,
    It’s great to hear you find the material in this blog helpful. Anyway, the depth of each instruments can be achieved by properly setting reverb. Careful about doing this as too much reverb can ruin a mix.
    So here is what I suggest:
    1. In real live performance, the drums does not sound too way in the back. In fact it sounds upfront and in your face to listeners. The 80’s are notable for the long reverb and use of big stage but it is not what is sounds now. If you place your drums behind the back, it sounds too weak and your mix sounds outdated. Anyway , if this is what you like, put some reverb on the snare and drum instruments.
    2. Try to experiment with reverb, if you put reverb on drum instruments, then you should not be putting also too much on guitars, or else all instruments are too behind the back. The higher the reverb, it sounds far from the listeners. Putting less reverb on guitars and vocals and substantial on drum parts, makes it sounds like the 80’s, try listening Outfield, New wave music and the way gated snare sounds on those days. Good luck.

  • Danny

    Hello, great web. My name is Danny Bunawan greetings from Jakarta.
    I’m learning to mix my demo in adobe audition 3, I read from your blog about the placement of instruments in the mix, very good stuff. I have a question, I understand that panning helps spacing your instruments evenly around the left / right axis, but what about the front / back axis, I’m talking about depth of each instruments in the mix. From your diagram it was clearly showed that the drum set is placed way back in the back ground, how do you achieve this? Do we use reverb to establish depth for each instrument? For example, listening to Guns N Roses album “appetite for destruction” , the drums seems to be placed behind the lead vocals, how can we get this in adobe audition. I’ve been playing around with the reverb option in adobe audition, but I am at a lost, too complicated for me, can you maybe help us by writing a blog about front/back “placement” for mixing? thanks and keep em blogs coming, learning a lot.