Bass Drum Compression; Compressing a Kick Drum Tutorial

The purpose of bass drum compression and compressing a kick drum tutorial is to make the ‘meat’ of the drums louder and to reduce the transients / peaks at the same time so that the kick can be punchier.

This tutorial is going to focus on compressing the Kick Drum and starter compression settings and will help you unlock using compression for any process.

Your typical compression parameters are Threshold which determines when the compressor starts to work. Attack is how fast or slow the compressor reacts once it starts working. Release is how long the compression is held. Ratio is how much compression is applied to the signal. Gain Reduction shows you how much of the signal is getting processed. Using a DAW, you will want to use compression with a plugin on the insert of the track.

When compressing a kick drum, you are listening to the fatness or the punchiness of it. Either the kick will need to be bassier or it will need to be punchier to cut through the mix so as not to interfere with a sub bass instrument (if present). By increasing the attack time, the kick will be bassier. By decreasing the attack time, the kick will be punchier. This method will affect any instrument the same when compressing. If you want to squash it so it will hit harder, set the threshold so the gain reduction is -5 to -12 and set the ratio to 5 to 10:1. When setting the threshold this way, you will need to adjust the output. Make sure the output is the same level as the input before the signal was processed (use the bypass function to check this).

Make sure to tweak the compressor ‘while’ you are listening to the entire mix. This will ensure you find the sweet spot for the kick in the mix with the rest of the track.

Kick and Snare Compression Settings:

Attack: 1-5ms, Release: 0.2s/Auto, Ratio: 5 – 10:1, Knee: Hard, Gain Reduction: 8-15 db
General Compression Settings:
Attack: Fast, Release: 0.5s/Auto, Ratio: 5:1, Knee: Soft Gain Reduction: 8db
General Mixing Compression Settings:
Attack: Fast, Release: 0.5s/Auto, Ratio: 2 – 5:1, Knee: Soft Gain Reduction: 2-9db
Vocal Compression Settings:
Attack: Fast, Release: 0.5s/Auto, Ratio: 2:5 – 6:1, Knee: Soft, Gain reduction: 5-12dB.
Bass Compression Settings:
Attack: 2-8ms, Release: 0.4s/Auto, Ratio: 7 – 12:1, Knee: Hard, Gain red: 5-13dB

Tutorial: Compressing a Kick Drum:
1) Import a Kick Drum Audio Sample into your Audio Sequencer. Also Load up a Software Sampler with a Kick Drum patch.
2) Load up to 3 compressors on the Audio Track’s Insert Channel and on the Software Sampler’s Insert track.
3) Experiment with the Compression Settings and the different characteristics of each compressor.

Using your own equipment, apply this kick drum tutorial until your ears begin to hear the subtleties of compression.
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