Imagine the low end of your mix to be like the foundations of a house. Without good solid foundations, your house will fall down! Getting your Kick and Bass to sit together well will allow you to build the rest of your mix around them, and help create that solid, clear sound that you are after.
1. Monitor Correctly
First of all you will need to be able to hear the bass accurately, so you will need a good pair of monitors with a low frequency response (or a sub woofer) and if possible an acoustically treated room. You may have to move around the room when monitoring, as different frequencies will be more prominent in different areas. For example, if you are closer to your speakers, the bass will sound louder, and different to when you stand back from your speakers. It's worth standing back every once in a while, as this gives you a better representation of how others will hear your track.
2. Separate Frequencies
Now you need to decide on how you want your low end to sound… do you want a tight punchy kick and a deep subby bass, or do you want a big boomy kick and a more prominent bass? The kick and your bass must peak at different frequencies to allow them to be separated from one another. It is no use having a huge fat, subby kick drum with a deep subby bassline as well, as they will make the mix muddy and confused.
Of course you could always use your kick as a sub bass...
3. Look into the Analysis
To make sure both your Kick and Bass sit well together, add a separate Parametric Equaliser to the bass and the kick. The example below shows the Parametric EQ in Logic Pro, this has a Spectrum Analyser which allows you to view which frequencies are playing. But you can use any Parametric Equalizer you wish…
Try playing the bass track on solo. Look at the Spectrum Analyser, and more importantly listen to the sound, and try to decipher which frequencies are most dominant. Next try and think about which frequencies you could do without to make room for the kick. Basically, you are looking to take the most prominent frequencies from your Bass, and cut out the same frequencies out of your Kick, so they don’t overlap, and vice-versa.
Here, the bassline used is quite organic sounding and peaks just below 100Hz. There is not much activity in the sub harmonic frequencies, so for now we are going to put a cut below 70Hz and get rid of most of it.
Now play your Bass along with your Kick, and listen carefully to see which frequencies are clashing, then try and notch out these frequencies.
The Kick (left) had a nice, subby bottom end, but also peaked a bit at just over 100 Hz, which interferes with the bass.
4. EQ Decisions
To help you decide on how to EQ your kick, try soloing it and turning up your system quite loud. For a harder, punchy kick that feels like its hitting you in the chest, put a gain at around 100-160Hz, or for a deeper kick that hits you more in the stomach, add a gain at around 50-100Hz.
To get rid of any unwanted frequencies in the bassline, try boosting by about 10dB, with a small Q factor, (Q Factor determines how sharp or wide your EQ frequency is) and sweeping through the frequency band. Any obtrusive or nasty sounding frequencies will be amplified, showing you where you need to make a cut. Also, don’t forget the higher frequencies of the bass and the kick (1-10KHz ), as gently boosting these can really help them cut through the mix.
Here you can see the how the kick and the bass are now peaking at different frequencies. We put a cut on the bass at around 250Hz as it was sounding a bit wooden and muddy, and boosted it at around 4KHz to brighten it up. We boosted the kick at around 50Hz for some more sub harmonics, and also at 150Hz to give it a little more punch. There was no high end in this kick so we decided to layer it with a small click sound to help it cut through the mix better.
5. Going In-depth with Multiband Compression
Often EQing alone is not enough. Using a multiband compressor can be a good alternative or addition. If you still can’t get the right sound, you should think about layering your kick and/or bass with other sounds until you can. Also, you could think about loading your kick into a sampler and using the envelope generator to ‘shape’ the kick if the tail is too long.
6. Listen Critically
However many plugins or effects you use, don’t forget to listen to it! If it sounds good, and its what you were looking for, you’re onto a winner. Compare it to similar tracks which have been successful and see if you're on the right track. Play it on different sound systems, especially if your monitoring system isn’t the best. Monitor at different levels, but most of all, take your time to get it right, because once you have, the rest of the mix will begin to fall into place.
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