Compressing EDM Kick Drums

Advanced tutorial on how to use a compressor to shape and colour EDM kick drums.

Beat Construction


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EDM is an overall general genre that encompasses all electronic drum music and taming or expounding the kick is a must. Although all urban genres fall under this general genre it is commonly accepted that when we talk of EDM we are in fact referring to electronic music and when it comes to kick drum sounds nothing is as famous as the Roland TR 909 kick drum.

Roland TR 909

The Roland TR 909 was released in 1983 three years after the iconic TR 808 (1980). It uses samples as opposed to generated waveforms and became a cult classic for the House, Techno and Acid genres. It has remained a classic and is much favoured by EDM producers for its cutting and dynamic sound. The kick drum from this iconic beast has been featured on countless records. It is one of the most processed kick samples in history as it acts as a staple sound for all EDM genres. It is also one of the most commonly used kick drum layer as it marries well with both synthetic and acoustic drum sounds.

EDM kick drums, and predominantly the Roland TR 909 kick drums, can sound hard and unexciting. This can be due to the fact that EDM kick drums are short in duration and are lacking in waveform generated tones that often act as a sub layer to the main kick drum sound.

With 909 kick drums it is often beneficial to apply EQ and compression to shape and pronounce the sound particularly when in a mix context and surrounded by layer after layer of instrument sounds. However, this tutorial takes the sound design approach and focuses on using compression to create new drum textures as opposed to making the kick drum cut through a mix.

In the video I use D16’s Drumazon plugin, the best TR 909 emulator bar none, to trigger a drum beat sequence using the famous TR 909 kick drum. I show you how to use Drumazon’s tools to shape the 909 kick drum. I explain in detail how to use FabFilter’s Pro C2 compressor plugin to create lots of new drum textures. I show you how to use the compressor’s side-chain filter to specify which frequencies are used to trigger the compressor and which problematic frequencies need to be filtered out.

Plugins used in this video:

FabFilter’s Pro C2

D16’s Drumazon

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Understanding the requirements for creating an Epic EDM Kick
  • Compression and Clipping
  • Using the Range function on a compressor
  • Creating Biting points with Threshold
  • Squeezing the Bounce
  • Advanced Side-chaining Tricks
  • Understanding Filter Responses
  • Blending
  • Transparent and Coloured compression