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I'm adding drums to a metal song with distorted guitar and heavy bass. I have a double kick part I want to use and I think it's right for the song, but it gets lost in the mix. The only trick I know at the moment is to sidechain some compression to the non-drums, but this isn't cutting it. I've tried to carve out some frequency for the kick attack, but struggle to find the right frequency. Are some songs simply too busy for double kick, like the song has to be written for it from the start?

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  • Is your use of the double kick primarily both pedals kicking at once or the pedals kicking alternately?
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 7:21
  • Alternately. Typical metal 16th notes. 140 bpm in this case.
    – Mastiff
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 18:07

1 Answer 1

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AI to the rescue… sorry, but it's great for this.

Throw a reference track at one of the myriad 'splitters' available online these days & play with the mix to see how it was done. I threw System of a Down's BYOB at BandLab just as a simple test. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a method to post a specific link or mix, so you'll have to try it for yourself.

One thing you should notice, though, is that a lot of work has been done to get the other instruments right out of the way of the kick. Guitars are thinned right down, little going on below 150Hz. The bass & guitars have a scoop in the middle to make room for the kick & snare, leaving the drums to be broad spectrum, with a lot of punch between 500-1Khz. The distortion/fret slap on the bass is quite high, 2-3KHz & up, so it's not interfering with the drums, and sits in more with the guitars.

Note in this track the two guitars are heavily panned, to leave room in the middle. There's also some serious out of phase going on to broaden this still further, though not enough to ruin it in mono. I think one guitar is dead centre & the other is completely phase-inverted left to right. I can't break the mix down any further than 'the guitars' so that's a best guess.

I'm not hearing any sidechaining to get this to punch through. It seems to be all done in the EQ.
The kick is pretty punchy, using quite a slow attack compression to let a lot of skin slap come through [though I'd guess it's probably brick-walled after that, too, it's very consistent] & it is also by far the loudest drum in the mix, much more than the snare or toms.
One thing I did eventually spot is that the two kicks in this are either quite different kicks, or EQed differently. One is definitely 'heavier/bassier' than the other & are used in different sections of the song, when they're not playing solid 16ths. When they are playing constant 16ths, the heavier one leads.

BTW…Rule #1: Don't mix with your eyes. This cannot tell the full story… It also is looking at an average over time, not at specific single note peaks. I've added a single kick & cymbal image at the end so you can see the specific curve there, but it still doesn't quite 'look' like what I'm hearing.
So, if you try this, listen, don't just look.
Also, even with AI separation, you don't get a perfect split. Some frequencies & transients get summed to the wrong parts.

As the adage goes - get it right in the mids & the rest will take care of itself.

Guitars
guitars

Bass
bass

Drums
drums

Kick + cymbal
kick-cymbal

Guitars anti-phase
enter image description here

These images are all referenced to peak values, with a cutoff at 40Hz, meaning anything below that should be ignored. There's also a lot of smoothing as I let each track play for 30 seconds or so. I tried shorter bursts with 10Hz cutoff, but the images were more confusing than these.

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  • Where did the plots in this answer come from? Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 13:15
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    Waves PAZ Analyzer, inside Cubase. [single part of multi-pane display]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 14:00
  • Thanks. Although I'm well aware of it, it's always disconcerting how much production goes into metal, when it gives the impression of being "real instruments". Of course it is (for the most part), but making it sound good takes so much work. I'll be an early adopter when good/affordable AI plugins become available. I'd rather play than fuss with production.
    – Mastiff
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 18:12
  • tbh, before the invention of the 'bedroom studio' we used to have actual sound engineers & producers who dealt with all that. I went from simple 'muso' to producer/engineer in about 1980 when the first domestic 4-tracks became affordable. I ended up being 'OK' at most of that eventually… but it takes quite a while even though I did work with some acknowledged masters in the field, rather than try to pick it all up from YouTube [which didn't exist;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 19:46

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