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Tuning Kick drum

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Tuning Kick drum

Postby Slash7 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:56 pm

I'm not sure if they tune the kick in all the genres, but at least in dance music and other bass heavy musics they do and I guess the principle is to tune the kick to the tonic or the fifth as these two have the most defining harmonic elements in any scale.

But what if we have a sub bass prior to kick, in terms of frequency range... Last year Mike Senior had written about Ariana Grande's "Side to Side" which he had pointed that the kick doesn't carry any sub 60Hz-80Hz energy in order to not to interfere with the pitched bass part...
So assuming that the sub bass plays the tonic or the fifth, does the kick need to be tuned to the tonic or fifth? Won't tuning it to 3rd or 6th (imperfect consonants) work in this scenario?
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Re: Tuning Kick drum

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:10 pm

I suspect you're over-complicating the issue Slash7 ;)

Ultimately, what sounds best works best, and while EDM kicks are often very resonant and it's helpful to tune them to the song in question, or roll off their bottom end to avoid clashes with other bass instruments, and sometimes the kick may end up being the only low bass contributor, each song needs its own solution :headbang:

Yes, I suspect that in some instances tuning a kick to the 3rd or 6th of the current scale may work well when the sub is playing a tonic or 5th, that depends on what other notes are being used in the song.

A 5th and 6th together are unlikely to gel very well for instance.

Having one of the notes tuned to the tonic of the scale will often make sense, but to avoid a clash you don't necessarily need to have other bass notes tuned to a 3rd, 5th or 6th - having other 'bass' contributions an octave away may suit certain sounds, especially if you layer them carefully.

Or, if as in this case you know you're going to have a tonic sub bass, just try shortening the existing kick drum (turn the decay time down if it's electronic) to emphasise the impact/thwack, so the sub bass and kick can work together without having to be separately tuned.

However, as I said at the start, ultimately there are no rules - if it sounds good, it IS good ;)


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Re: Tuning Kick drum

Postby Slash7 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:42 am

Thank you Martin. Yes I always need someone to tell me I'm over complicating the stuff, so that I can get relaxed and trust my ears :roll:
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Re: Tuning Kick drum

Postby Andy McBain » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:07 pm

Martin basically nailed it.

Having been involved with electronic dance music for some years now, I would say the concept of precisely tuning a kick is a relatively new thing. Prior to that it was "find the kick sample that works and stick with it". Some kicks can't even be tuned precisely par se as they have little to no fixed tonal content.

An example of a style where kick tuning is a little more prevalent is Psychedelic Trance, where more recently the classic "sine wave sweep" kick will often have a longer tail which sustains at a specific fixed frequency, say 49hz for the key of G. If the notes of the bass line are also in G, then they will also have a fundamental frequency of 49hz - so overlapping the tail of the kick with the first note of the bass line can result in nice sounding sub bass "boom" if the phase of both elements is correct, and the perception that the kick and bass are one harmonious "unit".

However even this method isn't done *all* the time. It really is a case of "what works best for the track", and more specifically, the groove :)
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Re: Tuning Kick drum

Postby BJG145 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:12 pm

Martin Walker wrote:Ultimately, what sounds best works best

I've been surprised recently to ask a couple of people recently who I thought were pretty decent drummers how they tuned their kits - and found they had no idea.
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Re: Tuning Kick drum

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:10 pm

BJG145 wrote:
Martin Walker wrote:Ultimately, what sounds best works best

I've been surprised recently to ask a couple of people recently who I thought were pretty decent drummers how they tuned their kits - and found they had no idea.

Now that IS a surprise - even non-drummers tend to know something about drum tuning :o

There are various things to do before taking your drums into a recording studio, and tuning them in a suitable manner is one of the important ones :headbang:


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Re: Tuning Kick drum

Postby JesseWeiss » Thu Jul 19, 2018 6:12 pm

BJG145 wrote:
Martin Walker wrote:Ultimately, what sounds best works best

I've been surprised recently to ask a couple of people recently who I thought were pretty decent drummers how they tuned their kits - and found they had no idea.
I would say a majority of drummers know how to tune their drums but don't intentionally tune to intervals.

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