Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
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Friday, May 17 • 11:30 - 12:00
It's all about the Kick: The Aesthetics of the 1980's pop kick

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How creative can we be about Kick Drum sounds?

The kick drum would often dominate a commercial pop music production in the 1980s and as Harding (2010) asserts, the client or “team leader” (Harding & Thompson, 2017) would be the driver of this mix decision. The kick drum sound was heavily influenced by the sonic properties of the Linn drum machine in the early part of the decade. Producers, artists and studio engineers were fascinated and excited at this introduction because for the first time ever, there was a sampled kick drum sound attainable in a way that was both manageable, and most importantly for engineers, controllable and instant. No compression was required and minimal equalization was usually used. The boosts on the SSL console, at around 80Hz and 3Khz, was quite often used gratuitously and without specificity, merely because of the default nature of their positioning. Provided the recording levels were set efficiently and no distortion present, the job was accomplished effortlessly.

This study explores and analyses some of the reasons behind the making of some astonishingly poor engineering and production decisions made in the 1980s that have lead to a legacy of largely unlistenable historical pop records, from an aesthetic point of view. Moylan talks about technical and scientific listening skills vs. artistic or creative expression in Understanding and Crafting the Mix (2006). We will investigate this phenomenon and analyse some of the sonic trends used by mix engineers (Bromham, 2017) which contributed to this historic problem and in doing so, conduct an interdisciplinary evaluation of kick drum sounds from this era.

avatar for Phil Harding

Phil Harding

Dr. Phil HardingMusic Producer + Engineer / JAMES Co-Chair / Academic / AuthorForthcoming book:https://www.routledge.com/Pop-Music-Production-Manufactured-Pop-and-BoyBands-of-the-1990s/Harding-Collins/p/book/9780815392811
avatar for Gary Bromham

Gary Bromham

Researcher & Independent Music Professional, Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London

Friday May 17, 2019 11:30 - 12:00 EDT
Classroom 311 (3rd floor)