Knock On Wood
Koen Heldens, April 2015

Lately, a lot of EDM, RnB and hip-hop mixes feature a kick drum sound which is often described as "woody" sounding. Award-winning mix engineer Koen Heldens (Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Timbaland) shares a trick on how to achieve that sound.

Nowadays, one of the most important things when working with an urban client is finding the kick drum knock sound. It's often referred to as a "woody" sound from the kick drum. As a mixing engineer I have four bars to grab the client's and listener's attention and make sure their heads are nodding to the beat. If this doesn't happen within those four bars, I might as well pack up and go home.

Clear examples of this "woody" knock are Chris Brown's latest Loyal and Ayo hit records mixed by my colleague Jaycen Joshua.

In order to achieve this trick we need to setup our parallel chain in a similar way as described in my previous article The Low-End Trick. I'll set up a mix channel with a duplicate of the kick drum. On this, I insert Softube's Valley People Dyna-mite, using PK (Peak) detection mode to achieve about 6-7 dB of gain reduction. I'll follow this with the Active Equalizer (modeled after the rare 1970's Swiss manufacturer Filtek Labo's MK5 broadcast equalizer), placed in series on insert slot 2 of the DAW mixer. I'll roll off any information below 240 Hz, and any information above 5 kHz, which makes the parallel kick drum chain very mid-range sounding. By boosting a lot of 700 Hz I'll enhance the kick's "woody" knock sound. Now, using the parallel channel's fader, a nice tonal blend between the original kick sound and the "woody" knock can be acheived. It can of course also be combined with a third kick drum channel, using the The Low-End Trick.

© 2015 Koen Heldens
LA-based international multi-platinum award-winning mixing engineer, with artists like Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Timbaland on his resumé.