Do you want to make your techno tracks sound more powerful, deep, and dynamic? Do you want to create a signature sound that differentiates you from other producers? Do you want to learn how to use reverb on a kick drum without making it sound muddy or unpleasant?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you.
In this post, I will show you how to create a techno rumble kick that will add depth and energy to your techno tracks. A techno rumble kick is a kick drum with a low-frequency reverb tail or delay that creates a rumbling effect in the sub-bass range. It is a sound design technique in many techno subgenres, such as minimal, industrial, hard, and dark techno.
I will teach you the origin and characteristics of this sound, how to choose the right kick drum, how to create a low and high rumble layer, how to balance and blend the different layers, how to add rhythm and variation, how to fine-tune your rumble kick, and how to test and optimize it.
By the end of this post, you can create your own techno rumble kicks that will shake the dancefloor.
Ready to rumble? Let’s get started.
A techno rumble kick is a type of kick drum that produces a low-frequency rumble that follows the kick pattern. It is a famous sound used in techno music to create a powerful and dark atmosphere. This kick sound originated from analogue hardware, such as Roland TR-909 drum machines or Moog synthesizers, which produced natural reverb and distortion when overdriven.
A rumble kick can add depth, movement and energy to your techno tracks. It fills out the low-end spectrum and can create excitement in the mid-range to add groove and tension to get the flow going on the dance floor.
Before you can create a techno rumble kick, you need to choose the right kick drum for your track. The typical techno kick drum is the 909, but you can also experiment with different types, such as the classic 808, plug-in synth or other sampled kick drums. Each has its own characteristic sound and punch, which will make a big difference to the sound of your rumble kick.
Some essential factors to consider while choosing your kick drum are:
The frequency range: You want a kick drum with a robust low-end presence but not too much sub-bass that could clash with your rumble sub-bass. A good frequency range for your kick drum is between 40 Hz and 120 Hz.
The attack: You want a kick drum that has a sharp and snappy attack that will cut through the mix and provide contrast with your rumble sub-bass. A good attack time for your kick drum is between 1 ms and 10 ms.
The decay: You want a kick drum that has a short and tight decay that will leave enough space for your rumble sub bass. A good decay time for your kick drum is between 100 ms and 300 ms.
The shape: You want a kick drum that has a smooth and round shape that will blend well with your rumble sub-bass. A good shape for your kick drum is a sine wave or a slightly distorted sine wave.
The second step to create a techno rumble kick is to create a low rumble sub-bass from your kick drum. This will add depth and energy to your techno tracks by filling the low-end spectrum. Here is how to do it:
Duplicate your kick drum track and rename it as “Low Rumble”.
Add a reverb effect to the “Low Rumble” track. Set the dry/wet ratio to 100%, the decay time to around 4 seconds, the size to around 50%, and the diffusion to around 80%. This will create a long and spacious reverb tail from your kick drum.
Add an EQ effect after the reverb effect. The EQ effect enables you to define the timbre of the rumble. To achieve this, you can use a low-pass filter to cut out all frequencies above 120 Hz and also use a high-pass filter to remove some of the low-end.
Add a saturation effect after the EQ effect on the “Low Rumble” track. Set the drive to around 10 dB and the colour to around 50%. This will add some warmth and harmonics to your low rumble sub-bass.
Adjust the volume of the “Low Rumble” track to around -12 dB. This will prevent your low rumble sub-bass from overpowering your original kick drum or other elements in your mix.
There are two excellent methods to apply reverb to a kick.
First, create a track containing only the dry kick sound. Next, create a send or return track with the reverb plugin. Connect the kick track to the send channel to send the kick through the reverb channel.
Create a kick track and duplicate it. Keep the first kick track dry and add the reverb FX only to the 2nd kick track.
Once you have chosen your preferred method, load the reverb plugin of your choice and set the dry/wet mix control to 100%. Then, load an equalizer after the reverb plugin and set the highcut filter frequency to around 100Hz. Use your ears to determine the best setting.
To create a techno rumble kick, the third step is to create a mid/high-frequency layer using the rumble sub-bass from your kick drum. This extra layer will add texture and movement to your techno tracks. This is where you can be totally creative; just do what sounds good and experiment.
Here's how to do it:
Duplicate your kick drum track again and rename it as “High Rumble”.
Add a delay effect or a second reverb effect to the “High Rumble” track. Choose one of your favourite presets or get creative with sound design delay techniques.
Set the dry/wet ratio of the fx to 100%,
Now you can explore your creativity by adding a distortion effect after the EQ effect on the High Rumble track, or using various filter effects, phaser, chorus, LFO or panning FX. You may also combine some of these effects to achieve your desired sound.
Then add an EQ effect on the High Rumble track. Cut all frequencies below 250 Hz and above 800 Hz up to your taste.
If your kick sound ends up being too wide or off-centre after adding some spatial effects, consider wrapping up your processing chain with a stereo/mono effect to reduce the stereo width. This will ensure that your kick blends in harmoniously with the other kick layers in your mix.
The fourth step to create a techno rumble kick is to balance and blend the different layers of your techno rumble kick sounds. This will make your rumble kick sound cohesive and powerful in your mix.
Add a group track and name it as “Rumble Kick”. Drag and drop your original kick, low rumble, and high rumble tracks into the group track. This will allow you to control the volume and effects of all the layers together. Put The original Dry Kick in the foreground and mix the other 2 rumble Tracks barely audible in the background.
To bring movement into your 3 kick layer it makes sense to use the sidechain technique. In this case you use a sidechain compressor on the low rumble track and on the high rumble track. Both sidechain compressors have to be triggered by the original dry kick. This means that whenever your original kick is playing, the other two tracks are pushed down in volume for a moment.
The 5. step to creating a techno rumble kick is to fine-tune your techno rumble kick. This will enhance the definition and impact of your rumble kick in your mix.
Add a compressor effect on the “Rumble Kick” group track. This will reduce the dynamic range of your rumble kick and make all 3 elements it sound more consistent and punchy.
You could also add a multiband compressor effect to the “Rumble Kick” group track. Set the crossover frequencies to around 120 Hz and 800 Hz, creating three bands: low, mid, and high. Compress each band separately with different settings, depending on the sound you want to achieve. For example, you could use a higher ratio and a lower threshold for the low band to make it more consistent and powerful, a lower ratio and a higher threshold for the mid-band to make it more dynamic and natural, and a moderate ratio and threshold for the high band to make it more balanced and smooth.
Next add an EQ effect after the compressor effect on the “Rumble Kick” group track to adjust the low-end presence and punch of your rumble kick.
Add a transient shaper effect after the EQ effect on the “Original Kick” track. This will sharpen the attack and shorten the sustain of your original kick, making it more snappy and tight.
For those who prefer a more distorted, hard techno sound, adding a soft clipper can do the trick. By applying a clipper to a techno kick, you can make it sound louder, punchier, and more aggressive.
To increase the loudness you can put a limiter on the end of the chain, with just -1 or -2 db of gain reduction
To create a versatile and creative rumble kick, the final step is experimenting with it in various genres and musical styles. This will help you adapt and modify the rumble kick to different musical contexts. To give you an idea, here are some examples of how you can use techno rumble kicks in different genres and styles of music:
Hard Techno: If you want to create a hard techno track that has a raw and aggressive sound, you can use a techno rumble kick that has high distortion, a fast decay, and a high pitch. You can add some noise, bit-crushing, or clipping effects to your rumble kick to make it dirtier and gritty. You can also use a fast tempo, a simple drum pattern, and a minimal melody to create a hard techno track. For example, you could use [this rumble kick] as a basis for your hard techno track.
Melodic Techno: If you want to create a melodic techno track that has a deep and atmospheric sound, you can use a techno rumble kick that has a low distortion, a long decay, and a low pitch. You can add some reverb, delay, or chorus effects to your rumble kick to make it more spacious and lush. You can also use a moderate tempo, a complex drum pattern, and a rich melody to create a melodic techno track. For example, you could use [this rumble kick] as a basis for your melodic techno track.
Minimal Techno: If you want to create a minimal techno track that has a subtle and hypnotic sound, you can use a techno rumble kick that has a low distortion, a short decay, and a moderate pitch. You can add filter, modulation, or automation effects to your rumble kick to make it more dynamic and exciting. You can also use a slow tempo, a simple drum pattern, and a sparse melody to create a minimal techno track. For example, you could use [this rumble kick] as a basis for your minimal techno track.
House: If you want to create a house track that has a groovy and funky sound, you can use a techno rumble kick that has a moderate distortion, a moderate decay, and a high pitch. Add some compression, EQ, or transient shaper effects to your rumble kick to make it more punchy and snappy. You can also use a fast tempo, a syncopated drum pattern, and a catchy melody to create a house track. For example, you could use [this rumble kick] as a basis for your house track.
Trance: If you want to create a trance track that has an uplifting and euphoric sound, you can use a techno rumble kick that has a low distortion, a long decay, and a high pitch. You can add some reverb, delay, or sidechain compression effects to your rumble kick to make it more spacious and energetic. You can also use a fast tempo, an arpeggiated drum pattern, and an emotional melody to create a trance track. For example, you could use [this rumble kick] as a basis for your trance track.
I am Marcus, a music enthusiast who runs a mixing and mastering business. Additionally, I compose insightful articles for my blog and produce music as a member of the techno duo Agravik.