In this blog post, we’ll cover one of the biggest keys for a banging track regardless of genre. Ultimately, it’s all about getting a perfect low-end, that is, your kick and bass relationship. Have you ever been guilty in the past for just boosting your low-end, hoping for a better result, only to find it made your track muddy, squashed and undefined? Well, with what you are about to learn right here, this won’t be an issue for you for much longer! So, are you ready to learn how to achieve great definition in your low-end groove? Let’s go!
Decide on The Genre
Naturally, it makes a difference what kind of bass we are talking about. Is it a short, staccato, 1/16th melodic trance bass or more of a sustained reese bass, as we might know it from future bass, for example? It is crucial to figure out first, as we need to get our hands on an appropriate reference track (aka ghost track) that features a similar kind of bass. In essence, be sure to compare apples with apples!
Set Up Your DAW
To set up your DAW correctly, drag an appropriate reference track into your DAW and set the tempo of your DAW to match the tempo of your ghost track. Furthermore, make sure your reference track is nicely in sync with your DAW.
Next, we set up the DAW with the right plugins on your tracks. What you need to have applied on your ghost track channel is one plugin for adjusting the gain, one for switching the track to mono (in Ableton both can be done with the “Utility” plugin), then comes an EQ or filter and then a spectrum analyser of your choice. (We highly recommend the free plugin by “Voxengo” called “SPAN”. It’s a must-have anyway.) Now, configure this ghost track channel so that the signal goes directly out (and not out via your master). In Ableton, you need to have to set it to an “external out”. In FL Studio, for example, you’d have to set the mixer track to “Out 1 – Out 2”. We do that to keep the master channel free for our track only.
Let’s go through the plugins now one by one. First, with the gain plugin, we take down the volume of our ghost track by -12 dB. We do this to account for the fact that it is already mastered. The -12 dB reduction is just a rough approximation. To dial in the loudness to a more comparable level, use the free plugin “Youlean Loudness Meter 2”. (Another must-have plugin!)
Watch out for the LUFS values and reduce the volume of your reference track until the song section in question (usually the drop) matches the respective part of your track with regards to LUFS. After the loudness is all set, you want to switch the track to mono, for which you need the second plugin in the chain. We do that to avoid getting distracted by the stereo field. If the track is in mono, it is much easier to to focus on what’s relevant and what’s not. Next up in the chain we have the EQ or filter, which we configure to cut out all frequencies above around 110 – 130Hz. Basically, we want to be left with the rumble of the bass.
Setting Up Our Track
At the very least, we will need our kick, sub bass and mid bass – all in separate tracks. This will give us plenty of control. On our master, for the same reason we need to have a mono-switch, and we also need an EQ or filter to cut out the frequencies above 110 – 130Hz again. Finally, a spectrum analyser rounds up the effect chain here as well.
Getting a Perfect Low End
So, let’s start with balancing this kick and bass together and get that perfect low end. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your kick is peaking at minus 12 dB. It’s not an exact science but it will get you into the right ballpark. Next, we filter out all the unwanted frequencies so that we’re left with only the bass frequencies. Compare now your track with the reference track and try to match the loudness level as well as you can by ear first and pay close attention to the kick in particular.
Balancing The Kick
Since we can’t always trust our ears, we need a little visual help. For that matter, open up your spectrum analyser of choice that sits on your ghost track and the one that sits on your master. Put the windows right next to each other, play the ghost track as well as your kick and compare the levels of the frequencies. Now, you should be able to observe that both fundamental peaks hit the same loudness. If it’s not the case, adjust the volume of your kick until you are there.
Balancing The Sub Bass
As for the sub bass, let’s do the same trick again! Have both spectrum analysers open, play the ghost track together with only your sub bass, and compare the levels of the fundamental peaks again. Adjust the volume of your sub bass until what you can see on your spectrum analysers matches up.
Balancing The Mid Bass
For the mid bass, you’d have to rely on your ears again. Just try to focus on those upper harmonics that you can still perceive despite the low pass filter that you should still keep engaged at this point! Aim for getting the upper harmonics of the bass in the mid-range just about to the same intensity as you can make it out in your reference track.
Perfect Low-End: Amp Shaping
Now at the final stage, we want to focus on the transient energy of your kick and bass. To give your kick the precision it needs to cut through your mix, shorten it with a plugin for volume shaping, such as the “LFOtool” or the “Volume Shaper” by “Cableguys”. With the correct settings applied, you should notice that the kick is now snappier, cleaner, and more precise. Give your sub bass now a similar treatment, preferably directly in the synth, by shortening the decay of the envelope, that shapes the volume.
So, with all this “know how”, you will never have to deal with a flabby low-end anymore! We hope you can put it all to good use, and should you have any questions, drop them in the comments below!
And don’t forget to check out my 4 best tips for mixing your perfect low end. Happy producing!