Nip and Tuck
The second area where layered kick samples can be problematic is in terms of the frequency ranges they occupy. When we mix two or more signals together (whether they’re individual samples as in this case, or whether they’re bigger parts of a mix such as a drum loop and a bassline), we’re trying to find the best compromise which allows the sounds to sit together within a limited bandwidth. If frequencies overlap, this can be difficult, hence why we’ll often cut the overlapping frequencies from one sound in order to make space for the other (for further explanation of this concept, check out our recent walkthrough on the basics of EQing a mix).
The best solution when layering kicks follows exactly the same principles – we’ll use subtractive EQ in order to carve away the unwanted frequencies in each sound, making space for them to sit together.
In this case we’ll carve away the high frequencies of our first sample:
Then carve away the lower frequencies of our second sample:
The two EQd samples sound much cleaner when layered than they did in their original form:
Of course, there’s no reason why you should stop at layering just two kick samples. By following the same process once more, you can layer another one on top if you still think there’s something missing. Two or three carefully chosen samples are usually sufficient to get the desired blend of low-end boom, midrange body and top-end click.
For a better idea of the various types of kick drum – and the elements that combine to shape them – it also pays to listen to kicks in the context of a track as well as on their own. Those descriptive terms like ‘boom’, ‘weight’, ‘click’ and ‘knock’ often make more sense in the context of a full mix.