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Sound Advice

The Old Oscillator In The Bass Drum Trick by George Kourounis

Have you ever found yourself in the situation that you are mixing a song and the bass drum has no bottom end, sort of like it is being hit by a limp lasagna noodle? Well, one often-used technique to beef up the sound of your drum kit is what I call “the old oscillator in the bass drum trick”. No, it does not involve disconnecting a tone generator and placing it inside the drum itself.

Trying to boost the bass with an EQ doesn’t always work, especially if there is not much low end to begin with. So, what we need to do is to add some bass of our own to the sound. All you need is an oscillator with a sweepable frequency control, one extra input on your mixer and a noise gate with an external key input.

First, patch the output of the oscillator to the input of the noise gate and then take the output of the gate and return it on a spare input of your mixing console. Take the bass drum track and split it so that the original drum sound is continuing to come up on its own console input and also is going to the key input of the gate. This allows the gate to open and close in response to the bass drum, but instead of gating the drums, it is gating the oscillator tone. Now, every time the drummer hits the bass drum, the oscillator will sound. Set the tone to something very low, below 50 Hz or so. Definitely experiment with this as it will depend on how much help the drums need, the style of music, and even what key the song is in. By adjusting the gate settings, tone frequency and blend of bass drum/tone, you can come up with all kinds of really cool sounds. Just keep your ears open.

George Kourounis, Instructor, Sound & Recording Techniques, Trebas Institute.

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