Can You Kick It?
Virtually every genre of “dance” music (and electronic music in general, actually) relies on the kick drum as the foundation of its groove making the choice of sound and its place in the mix crucial. Each different genre will have its own sonic identity so the kick drums that work in one genre won’t necessarily work in another but there is always some common ground. Some people choose to create their own kick drums using synthesizers and kudos to them for doing so but, while I have done this, it isn’t something that I do often because it doesn’t cover every sonic territory.
Another option that is definitely much quicker and easier is to use sample libraries. These offer the advantage of having instant access to many different kick drums and there are a lot of these commercially available, covering virtually every club music genre. The downside of using these sample libraries is that you will end up using sounds that a lot of other people are using as well. One thing that I have done in the past is to combine different kick drum samples in different ways to create my own kick drums through creative sampling rather than synthesis. Unfortunately, this approach can be time consuming as well. So is there another option?
As it happens there is and it takes the form of the excellent Metrum Kick Drum Synthesizer from Vengeance Sounds in Germany. The makers are already well respected as creators of some of the best club focused sample collections and are also highly respected as music producers in their own right. But this latest venture sees them offering something that I think has value to every electronic music maker out there. At the core of Metrum is a four layer architecture with three layers being sample based and one being synthetic. Each of these layers has controls and envelopes for pitch and amplitude as well as a number of other controls. There are also some built in effects to further customise the sound. It comes with a library of samples to get you started but you can easily import your own as well.
As it stands it doesn’t really offer anything that you can’t already do manually. I realise that this doesn’t sound like a “glowing” recommendation but there’s more. While it does offer anything fundamentally new it packages the whole experience up into a very accessible and easy to use format which can save you a lot of time. It gives you the instant gratification of samples with a good degree of programmability and will certainly give you more unique results than sampling alone. The best recommendation that I can give it is that it forms a fundamental part of more or less every new production or remix that comes out of my studio. You owe it to yourself to head over to the website and check out the videos of what it can do.
Simon Langford, author of The Remix Manual is a professional music producer and remixer, with close to ten years of experience. He has worked on over 300 remixes, and has had tracks of his own in the UK National Top 20 Singles Chart and the US Billboard Dance Chart. Simon has remixed artists including Rihanna, Robbie Williams, Sugababes, INXS, and many more. He has written a series of articles for Sound on Sound magazine on remixing.