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3 Tips To Make Your Kick & Snare Cut Through The Mix

One of the biggest questions that producers have when starting out is “Why doesn’t my kick/snare punch through the mix like this track?” 

Well, the answer is simple and it is either you’re not using any sidechain or using it the wrong way. Even though in this digital age, “rules” don’t apply, there still exists a way to do something to get something right! A lot of the songs by the pros that you hear, the drums just cut through the mix and sends you to different dimension. This is because these guys use Transient Shaping & Sidechaining in such a way that both the processes compliments each other. There are basically 3 ways to sidechain and these are:

  • By using a Compressor and triggering the sidechain using a ghost note or any audio signal!
  • Using LFO & Volume Shaping tools, for example: LFO Tool, Volume Shaper etc
  • Manually dipping the volume using a Utility plugin.

Now with that being said, let's talk about 3 ways by which you can get your drums to punch through the mix and avoiding anything from clashing with the main elements that acts as the driving force for the track!

1. Get The Settings Right

Just because you see in a tutorial or someone tells you that you should apply this much Threshold or use X ratio or X ms Attack/Release it doesn’t mean you should use exactly that. They might be saying this because that setting worked for them but this surely won't work for you always. You should be super critical of what settings you’re running your sidechain compressor on. There are no set rules, you just have to dial in the settings according to the kick/snare you’re using. Also, too fast of a release can cause distortion, so be careful of that.

If you’re using a compressor as a means of sidechain, the best way to get everything right according to me is, just pull the threshold all the way down then fiddle with ratio, attack & release till you’re happy with how much signal is passing through and once you’re done with that, just dial the threshold back to the point where the compressor is not getting over triggered and everything sounds natural. If you’re using a volume shaper as a means of sidechain, focus of the shape and the rate to get everything sounding right!

2. Get Rid Of The Fundamental Frequencies

This can also help clear up some space for the Kick & Snare to breath. Basically just put an EQ on kick and snare, put the eq on audition mode and where you find the most ringing/resonance, that is the fundamental frequency of the kick and snare (depending upon what you’re eqing.) Then pull down by -3db to -5db and slap that eq on every group except the kick and snare obviously. Now by this, you’ve essentially cut out anything that might be playing in that region & shouldn’t have. Mix it with proper sidechain and baam, you have the kick/snare punching through like crazy. Your eq should look something like this:

3. Do It Manually

If you don’t have any volume shaping plugin and don’t trust yourself to use a compressor, you can achieve the same results with just a Utility plugin too. Spoiler Alert: It's gonna take a bit more time than just slapping a compressor. Basically just follow the image below and make a smooth and natural shape to dip anything when kick/snare comes in. Then copy paste this on every group/where you want. Just be careful to not make the curve too big. You don’t have to dip all the way down, but you can depending upon what you’re going for. This will give you almost the same results but in a more controlled and consistent way.

We hope you learned something from it and it helps you out if you were facing problems with your kick/snare not cutting through the mix!