I'm finding it hard to get a consistently loud kick in my band's EP that I'm mixing/producing. In the verse of one song the kick is playing straight 16's at 160bpm and is on the first beat of the pre-chorus. The verse is hard to hear while the pre-chorus is a bit too loud.

I think compression would be the answer to this but I'm not sure how to use it to acheive this. I'm using logic pro 9. Compression settings at the moment are

Attack: 11ms
Release: 45ms
Ratio: 3.1:1
Knee: 0.5
Threshold: -15dB

And help is much appreciated
Well if you're after a constant level then you can always compress the hell out of it. If I was doing that I'd be setting attack maybe 5ms, release 50ms, ratio 5:1, I've never actually understood what knee does so I don't know for that, and threshold wherever it needs to be to make sure that it's always being compressed.
Otherwise if you have the sound you want but you need it louder in the verse and quieter in the prechorus then you could always use automation on the volume.
Well, don't forget that on a technical level compression reduces dynamics, which isn't really what you're looking for.

Automation or clip gain would be my first choice. You could also consider sidechaining the kick against the guitar, vocal or another dynamic element in the mix.

What compressor are you using? It might be worth setting up a compression bus with a good compressor like ThrillseekerLA in parallel.

If you fancy posting a clip of the mix as it is now, you'll get more detailed help.
Title meant to say Kick not EQ lol.

But anyway thanks for the advice, I've compressed it a bit more (6.4:1) and automated the quieter parts, it sounds a lot better now so cheers.

And Kyle62 I'm using Logic's built-in compressor.
What compressors do:

Turn certain troughs up and certain peaks down depending on the setting. If you turn your ratio all the way up you can see that the line graph is now almost flat. So the more you compress the less variation there is in the volume of the sound. Normally however this actually makes it QUIETER not louder. Gain Reduction tells you how much quieter the spikes are made. Now those spikes are levelled out you use the make up gain control to get the signal back to it's original peak volume, making the signal less dynamic and louder.

In the case of vocals this is great, as you can smash all the dynamics out for a rock song, else the extremely dynamic entity of the vocals can't compete with the less dynamic band behind him.

So really JUST compressing something doesn't actually help all that much, you've got to turn it up too. Also good EQ on the kick works wonders, you don't need most of the mid frequencies in a kick drum, not if you want a big modern kick at any rate.

Also parallel compression, large part of modern drum sounds:

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Last edited by ChemicalFire at Feb 3, 2013,
Before reaching for compressors I would analyze where your kick drum EQ is peaking and reduce that freq out of the bass guitar track by a minimum of 6db's. All of your guitar tracks should be rolled off at 100mhz and below as well to open up room for your kick and bass.

Sounds like your bass is masking the drums on certain parts due to this.
Posting settings isn't going to help you or anybody. It's all about sound.

You may need to read more about compressors and sit there and practice what the parameters are controlling. If you have a sound and know what you want it to sound like, then you just need to use the tools (eq/comp) to get that sound. Uneven volume...start with compression. If your attack is too fast you might kill the transient too much and lose the snap and impact of the kick. If your attack is too slow you may not hit it fast enough to actually get the effect you need. LISTEN.

Like previously mentioned - try parallel compression. Parallel compression will leave the transient intact, but will add body and overall more volume to the kick.

Parallel is just sending the signal out to a compressor, hitting it hard, and then blending it back in w/ the uncompressed signal.

IF you're mixing something with a bunch of double bass, then you really need to carve out some of the low mids and focus the low end, and probably add significant slap in the high end. Do whatever it takes to make it clear in the mix and sound good - don't follow any prescribed rule...unless it works for that situation.
Last edited by chronowarp at Feb 3, 2013,
Another little tip is a variation of parallel compression. Route the sound to a bus, cut out ALL but the top end snap of the kick and compress the ever loving hell out of it. Mix in to taste to get a nice cut if all else fails.
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Automation is your answer - if you have different sections, there is likely different things going on with the other instruments, sometimes masking the kick more than others.

You can automate the volume, or you can automate a band/bands of an EQ to boost the frequencies being masked more (i.e more attack, or more low end punch, depending on what you feel is missing when the section changes).

Edit: Also, what genre? <8:1 is actually relatively light compression for the kick drum in a rock or metal mix. I tend to have ratios far higher if it's an uncompressed mic source kick, as opposed to a sample that is pre-processed for use.

And as a fellow Logic user, which model are you using for Logic's compressor? If you've left it on the default setting ('Platinum'? something like that) I suggest you switch it to FET for things like kick and vocals, or VCA for guitars/bass. There's also an option, think it's called Clipping or Distortion, at the bottom of the plug-in window, that is default set to 'Off' but adds a bit of volume and saturation if you change it to 'Soft' and sounds much better than that.

If you are using the default compressor model, it will also automatically compress based on RMS (I think) instead of Peak values, which can be confusing. The other models (FET etc.) don't do this.
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I normally only compress around 4:1 for kicks... then again I use drum machines.
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For rock/metal? Man, I presume you've heard of the 'nuke' setting on the UA 1176 (or EL-8 Distressor, which actually has the option separately instead of pressing in all four ratios at once)? 4:1 is rather light compression on a kick, and is actually the lowest option available on an 1176 isn't it? (Or is it 2:1, 4:1, 8:1 and 12:1 [plus 'nuke']?).

Anyway, if you're using samples the chances are they've already been tailored to some level to sit in a mix easier, and you can program the velocity to be far more consistent I guess

Edit: Yup, googled it - 1176's ratio options are 4:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1
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Quote by chronowarp
Are you guys really compressing a kick that hard? Christ H. I'd understand if it was the parallel track, but on the actual kick?

What genre(s) do you work with? Compression on various elements of a mix is very genre specific. Go look at any mainstream pop mix and expect the vocals to be at least 12:1 compressed, and then automation afterwards. As long as it sounds good on the way out, and doesn't sound squashed of all dynamics and emotion, why is it a bad thing to compress something like a kick drum anywhere in excess of 12:1?

Edit: In fact, go and listen to a modern metal mix - no kick drum ever sounds like that naturally. They're all sample-augmented, and heavily compressed and surgically EQ'd to have no midrange, a narrow spike in the low end, and lots of high end beater impact to give it the definition required to make out fast double-kicks in a mix.
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Not metal. That might be the issue.

Overall I guess it doesn't matter, because the threshold and the ratio in tandum is really what dictates the sound, not just the ratio itself so I guess saying 12:1 in a vacuum doesn't really tell me much - it's just not something that I typically find myself doing when mixing.

But, ya, at the end of the day, what sounds good and works in the song is what you gotta do - I just never find myself hitting the actual kick or snare itself with hard compression. I will smash the parallel track and blend it back in considerably, and then count on the drum bus compression to take care of the rest.
Last edited by chronowarp at Feb 3, 2013,
Yeah. Obviously I'd never comp. an orchestral mix, or jazz drums like that, but mixes for thse genres tend to be far more about taking a back seat and letting the performers mix themselves... you worry far more about getting the right room, and the right mic choice/placement, and where the performers are seated relating to each other and the mics. Those things make a jazz mix or an orchestral mix.

Modern metal tends to be far more about being clinical and precise in the recording process, and then crafting the song a bit more in the mixing process.

Also, remember that even 2:1 comp on a kick, then into a drum buss with 2:1 comp (which will be 2:1 comp. of a 2:1 comp, which gives you... 4:1 overall?) and then a 2:1 comp. on the master fader for the bounce (which layers another level of comp. or a signal that has already been comp.d twice) will be... 8:1 comp, on the base level kick signal, if it is breaching the threshold of each compressor. I'm not saying it won't, but remember that each stage of compression can add up, even if it doesn't seem like it will matter
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Correct, but if the individual track is peaking beyond the threshold of the bus compressor, on top of the rest of the tracks sent to the bus, it will still be getting the majority of the bus compression.
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I think compression has two uses: Firstly, it can be used with a medium attack to emphasise the attack/beginning of the sound like giving punch to a snare or a kick. Secondly, it can be used with a low attack to flatten the dynamics of a sound and making its volume more consistent. Now I'm not a veteran but I think that if you're using like you would use it in the first case then it wouldn't really help if the drummer's playing is not consistent. Is that the case?
Quote by Sethis
I think compression has two uses: Firstly, it can be used with a medium attack to emphasise the attack/beginning of the sound like giving punch to a snare or a kick.

Honestly I'd rather use a transient shaper for that.
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Honestly I'd rather use a transient shaper for that.

That's a good approach too but a compressor is a very basic effect and can be found almost everywhere. It hasn't dissapointed me in most cases.

Good EQ and compression are definitely the answer. A while back I did an article on building your own reliable, free multiband comp at http://www.creativeedgemusic.com/2012/11/pro-tools-10-diy-multiband-compressor.html (since PT10 doesn't come with one stock, nor do most DAWs to my knowledge). This should help you get started on setting up some good multi-band dynamics, because you really need to look at each frequency region independently if you're having issues with a frequency specific instrument like the kick.

Essentially you're going for two sounds with your kick -- a nice low boom / thud in the 60-120 hz range, plus a click or snap somewhere in the 2k - 8k range. Personally I like kicks that have sweet spots around 60 hz and I add snap to taste between 4-8k.

You also want to make sure you're gating or cutting the Bass guitar a little bit at the sweet spot frequency of your kick so it's not getting in the way and getting blurry when your kick hits. You can even have your kick trigger a sine wav to add some low end thump in a very precise manner to enhance the sound, too.

To figure out where your sweet spot is, use a frequency analyzer (Blue Cat makes a free plugin of this, btw) to ID generally where that kick is hitting the hardest. It's often best to enhance THAT part of the EQ curve. Say you're seeing the peak around 75 Hz... well, that's where I'd put the boost. Then lower that part on the bass a few dB with EQ, or even better, have a compressor triggered by a side-chain on your kick, so every time your kick hits it compresses the Bass sound down and out of the way. You can adjust the compression and gain on your compressor to get the Bass to duck just the right amount so the kick is entirely clear without completely screwing your Bass over.

Holy shit, lot of replies here!

I ended up using automation with a small increase in compression and I think it sounds fine now. Thanks for all the tips though, I read them all, I'll definitely try and parallel compression and compression settings at somepoint.