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Pan65's picture
Joined: 12/02/2012 - 12:04
How to make the kick cut trough your mix

Caustic Song file (optional): 

Hi guys!

I thought I should share a little trick with you all as a Christmas gift. It’s really not a secret or something, all producers use it to bring out the kick in there productions. I just want to show you all how easy it is to do in Caustic. So let’s go shall we…

To get along I suggest you download the caustic file provided in this post. The song we are going to mix is a rock song, well not a whole song but enough to get the feel of it. If you start the track you will only hear the drums as the other instruments are muted, but listen to it for a while. The kick is from the ODMX kit that ships with Caustic (at least it did with C2), I think it sounds pretty acoustic and fit nicely in this track. The drum mix may sound weird on its own but it sounds quite good when the rest of the instruments come in, so lets start unmute them one by one.

Ahh the wall of sound, wonderful our goal is complete. Not really, our nice kick quickly disappears under all that noise as we bring in more sounds. So how do we fix that? Do we turn up the level of the kick? If you look at the VU meter for the kick machine you see it’s already near its peak, turning it up will only produce clipping and we don’t want that to happen. Ok then there’s only one option left which is to lower the other instruments, yup you could do that but then the overall output level will be low and we want as much level as possible. Of course you can use a compressor to even things out and the limiter to bring it back up again but it’s not optimal in this case. Let’s test another technique instead…

Bring up the beatbox with the kick and you see there are 3 sounds loaded in to it, but only the fist one produce sound at the moment. If you turn up the level of the second one you hear it’s the same kick as the first one (I only renamed it for the purpose), but we don’t need all of the sound from this sample. What we want is the attack of the sound, the beginning just as the pedal hits the drum. To get that we simply turn the decay knob all the way down, that will leave us with only a short click from the sample. If you now turn up the level of this sound to about 12 aclock and listen to the track again you will hear the kick loud and clear.

What we did here is a little illusion, the attack serves as a marker that we hear loud and clear and that help us to listen for the sound that lay underneath. Pretty cool actually and we could keep the kick as is but there’s another thing we can do to further improve the kick. This kind of music needs a lot of bass and we kind of expect to hear that in the kick too. Our kick already sound quite good but it wouldn’t hurt with a little more body and depth in the sound. A common trick here is to add a sinewave to the kick and that’s what we’re gonna do too.

The third sample in the beatbox is the kick from the 808 kit and it is more or less a pure sinewave, but it has some attack and decay in it to make it sound right. Since we don’t need the attack at all we can turn the attack knob all the way down. Now tune the sine down until it sound fat and nice, about 9 aclock sound quite good. For the next step we need to solo the machine to hear what we are doing. Now we need to trim the length of the sinewave to match the original kick, we do that by turning down the decay so that the sine sound dies out the same time as the kick does. If you want you can let the sine ring a little longer, that will produce a nice tail to the sound but do it sparse. The last thing to do is to find a nice level for the sine and you need to hear the rest of the track for that, so unmute the machine again. Now turn down the sine level and start bringing it up again until you start hearing it, yeah that’s it.

What do you think, quite nice sound for just a couple of minutes of work. Well there’s still a lot of frequencies to take care of to get a nice clean mix, but that’s another day and another tutorial (maybe something for Jason or Skarabee to dig in to?). But we can do some cleaning up by going to the FX slot and unmute all the filters I put in there, and as we already do some cleaning up we can go to the master section and unmute the compressor, EQ and limiter and we have a quite good result there already…

This technique works for almost any music genre but you might need a different approach, for hiphop you want less attack and more boom in your kick and for other styles you may skip the sine part entirely. Sometimes it’s not enough to just boost the attack and in those cases you can try to find a different frequency for the attack, the tune knob is your friend here. You can also try to put the attack in a different machine, that way you can EQ it different. In most cases you want the attack to be in a higher frequency than the actual kick, that way it stands out more and you can have it cut trough your mix at quite low volume.

Hope this tutorial been to some help for you and that I didn’t bore you too much.

Have fun guys and Merry Christmas to you all.

Joined: 10/17/2013 - 06:55
awesome explanation, thanks

awesome explanation, thanks

Jason's picture
Joined: 03/23/2012 - 21:32
Interesting technique there..

Interesting technique there..... There are many elements to get a good sense of rhythm in your track wether the animation of your production is thick and lush, or sparsed out in your mix.   I will soon have some videos up to show how this can be done regardless of style of music.   The kick drum can be one of the most tricky things to really get right, and fit well in your mix..... a kick can make or ruin your mix if not handled properly....

Expect to see some awesome tips and tricks and other awesomeness in the new year coming up.....

Pan65, you found a unique way to control the shape and tone of your kick sound in the BeatBox... always more than one way to get it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody, I'll catch you'all's after my vacation this week! cool


K.Boog's picture
Joined: 07/23/2013 - 07:22
Thanks' for the kick tip Pan!

Thanks' for the kick tip Pan! You explained it perfectly!!!yes Merry Christmas to you and your Fam!

zaclaurent's picture
Joined: 11/18/2013 - 18:43
Wow! Just what the doctor

Wow! Just what the doctor ordered! I've often wondered why sometimes the potency of a kick drum gets lost or muddy in the final mixdown, tweak after tweak, the other elements still steal away its power!

thanks man, I really appreciate your considering helping out in this way:)

mekanism's picture
Joined: 06/16/2012 - 19:34
Another thing that helps are

Another thing that helps are to first choose the right kick for the tune, meaning throwing any old kick sample in a track usually wont cut it. Sample selection is the most important part of making a beat that gels with the rest of your track. Another thing to try is adding in a clap sample to the kick which will add some high end to it. One of the best ways to get a kick to shine through the mix is to have a lot of high end in it. One of the more challenging things with caustic is eq'ing. For drums it helps to be able to surgically remove unwanted frequencies especially when layering but for me I havent figured out how to do this with the eq in Caustic.

Joined: 06/21/2013 - 06:16
Really helpful... thanks a

Really helpful... thanks a lot Pan65..appreciated!!yes

kylewalz's picture
Joined: 06/30/2013 - 13:07
Outstanding work, man!  This

Outstanding work, man!  This is like a real studio mixing lesson.  Thanks for taking the time to type this and share.  

drb's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012 - 09:06
Cheers man, will have to try

Cheers man, will have to try experimenting with this one.

GrimShades's picture
Joined: 11/11/2013 - 06:47
Great post.......and a great

Great post.......and a great tip

Pan65's picture
Joined: 12/02/2012 - 12:04
Thanks Jason

Thanks Jason

I must say I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of this technique before, you seems to have very similar experience as I do. Metallica’s Black Album was the great eye opener for me, I spent uncountable hours trying to make my own kick’s cut trough like that but I couldn’t get it right. I mostly experimented with EQ trying to peak the kick somewhere in the mid frequencies with various results. Then a read an article somewhere about this technique and everything just fell into place. It sound weird that just a short click would lift the whole body of the kick from somewhere in the background to right up your face, but it does work and that’s the only thing that matters.

I’m looking forward for your tricks and tips it’s always nice to learn something new. The day I consider myself fully learned is the day I’ll quit.wink

winu's picture
Joined: 02/11/2012 - 12:18


thanks a lot for the trick with the kick...;)     wish you also a happy and kicking new year...  winu




Pan65's picture
Joined: 12/02/2012 - 12:04
Thanks for the thumbs up guys

Thanks for the thumbs up guys, it's good to know what kind of content is helpful for you. It helps me and others to plan ahead for more tutorials.

King4Life's picture
Joined: 12/24/2013 - 20:23
Imagine your drum is the body

Imagine your drum is the body and the instruments your environment. lol thats what I do. 

Joined: 02/13/2014 - 21:23
Thanks for this. Tried it and

Thanks for this. Tried it and it worked really well.

Joined: 04/09/2013 - 03:32


LogicalFrank's picture
Joined: 10/04/2013 - 15:00
Yeah, definitely this was

Yeah, definitely this was useful to me. I've layered kicks for forever but never tried playing w/ attack/sustain. It makes a subtle but very important difference.

Bad Ickaruzz
Bad Ickaruzz's picture
Joined: 02/17/2014 - 21:27
Thank you, great tutorial :)

Thank you, great tutorial :)

At the fundemental level everything is frequency, music truly is life :)


Joined: 02/19/2014 - 18:16
Thanks for the tips Pan65 -

Thanks for the tips Pan65 - not being a producer, more of a singer / songwriter - these kind of tutorials are invaluable in trying to figure out the art of balancing a soundscape. Great stuff!


​"sometimes it snows in April..."