Making a Techno Kick from Scratch

One of the most important elements of more or less any techno record, is a hard-hitting kick drum. If you’re a producer, and you feel it’s time to move on to something harder, then it’s pretty important that you have a strong understanding of how to create a powerful kick.

In today’s article, we’re going be looking at a few fundamental techniques that can be used to create that heavy hitting low-end.

Start by loading up 3 separate kick drums into Ableton. Each kick should have a different character, one high end kick with a very short transient, one mid-range kick and a low rumbly kick. The idea here is to tweak the 3 of them until you get the sound you want.

High Kick

Mid Kick

Low Kick

Combined together, our starting point sounds like this:

Mono

The low-end of the kick should ideally be mono. In dance music, the bass is often the focus point, second only to vocals. So just to make sure, let’s load a utility plugin and draw the signal down to mono by reducing the width to zero. I’ve applied this to both the Mid and Low Kick.

EQ

Next up we need to apply some EQ and begin the sculpt our individual layers.

High Kick

 

In this example, I’ve cut 100Hz to create space in the overall mix, whilst low-passing 10k to darken the sound. If necessary, you can boost around 5kHz to add ‘crack’ to kick, although I haven’t in this example.

Mid Kick

For the mid kick, I’ve cut 150-170Hz, again to create space in the mix for the other elements.

Low Kick

For the low kick, I’ve rolled off 30Hz to remove any ultra-low frequencies, just for clarity. Also, I Notched 350-400Hz out of personal taste to reduce the overall presence.

 

Combined together, our EQ’d kick sounds like this:

Group Processing

Group the kicks together in a summing track, so you can process them as a group.

Compression

To keep the dynamics nice and solid, I’ve applied some light compression to the drum group using a glue compressor to round off the kick.

 

Group EQ

Next, I EQ’d our drum group again, this time to sculpt the overall sound of the group. I have notched around 140Hz to slightly reduce the boomy low end, I also added a notch around 400Hz to further reduce the presence.

 

Saturation

To quote D.Ramirez:

“Saturation is the most important thing. It makes everything a little bit louder and fatter, and shaves off the transient, making it quieter. Saturation does a similar thing to compression in an easier to control way. It adds harmonics and changes the waveform, in itself, this is a light form of distortion that is quite pleasing. It makes your sounds warmer, fatter, crunchier, and perhaps even tougher.”

Make sense?

 

Parallel Compression

Next up, to achieve a little more punch and richness in my kick, I’ve added another instance of the glue compressor, this time I hit the signal a fair bit harder, whilst blending the wet / dry at 50%, thus achieving parallel compression.

 

Limiter

Next in the signal chain, I added some light limiting, just as a final wall of defence to prevent any nasty frequencies poking through.

Hall Verb

Finally, the main bulk of our kick is complete, now it’s time to start thinking about reverbs, for this instance I went with the Dark Hall preset in Ableton then tweaked the diffusion and pre-delay to fit the sound I was going for.

 

EQ’d Hall Verb

 

For final touches, I added an EQ eight, applying a drastic cut to the high end, as well as boosting the reverb fundamental to achieve a rounded and balanced sound.

Conclusion

Using Ableton stock to create a techno kick is perfectly fine, however it’s good to bear in mind that different plugins create different sounds, that’s why it’s always great practise to play around with whatever you have in your arsenal. Now that you know how to make a Techno Kick, it’s time for you to experiment and get creative with the technique.

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