Mixing Low End: Four Tips For Crafting a Tighter Bass
Mixing Low End: Four Tips For Crafting a Tighter Bass

September 28th, 2022

Mixing Low End: Four Tips For Crafting a Tighter Bass

One of the hardest tasks we face when mixing is the crafting of a low end bass sound that is warm and powerful without being woolly and indistinct.

Mixing bass isn't easy, and amateur recordings are often either lacking in bottom-end or have a bass sound that swamps all other low-end elements. in this article, we offer four tips that will help you to craft a powerful yet tight bass in your mixes. 

1. Make Sure Your Monitoring Is As Accurate As Possible

The bass is often mixed poorly in amateur recordings because home studio monitoring is regularly far from ideal. If your studio is in your bedroom, it will never be acoustically perfect, but there are some things you can do to improve the situation. You can look at installing acoustic paneling and bass traps, and you can invest in software like Sonarworks Reference 4 that can calibrate your speakers based on the qualities of your listening environment.

You can always consider mixing on headphones if you can't add acoustic treatment to the room. A great pair of studio monitoring headphones are cheaper than a great pair of speakers, and if your listening environment is not ideal, this is an easy way to step up your mixes. You can also augment what you hear with some visual cues – download a frequency analysis tool and use it to see if certain frequencies are over- or under-represented in your mix. 

2. Watch Out For Masking

An extremely common problem in mixes is that the bass and kick drum mask each other, causing a low-end that is woolly and poorly defined. This issue arises when these two low-end instruments are prominent in the same range of frequencies.

Use a frequency analyzer to see where your kick is most prominent. If it is particularly powerful at 100Hz, then perhaps cut your bass at this frequency. You need to ensure that you create space for both of these elements in your mix so that they can both cut through.

3. Compress The Lower Frequencies Harder 

If you need to tame down the bottom end of your mix without suffocating the life out of your bass part, try using multi-band compression. Compress the frequencies under 200Hz harder than the rest of the bass. This can smooth a part out nicely. 

4. Keep The Lowest Frequencies Central

A bass will sound tighter if the lowest frequencies are panned right to the centre. Of course you can pan your entire bass centrally, but it can be nice to leave the higher frequencies panned out wide so that your bass has more presence across the stereo field.

There are specific FREE plug-ins that can perform this task for you – iZotope's Ozone Imager, for example. However, it is not hard to do this with just a couple of EQs.

Send the output of your bass to two auxiliary (aux) channels. Pan one aux centrally (L0, R0), and add a low pass filter to it, set to 300Hz. Leave the second aux panned wide (L100, R100) and add a high pass filter to this channel, again set to 300Hz. This way all the frequencies below 300Hz will be panned centrally, and those higher will be panned out wide

Comments:


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Nick Wood
Sep 29
my biggest problem
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Tim Pedro
Sep 29
Beautiful. Never thought of panning frequencies to AUXes.
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Granted .
Sep 29
1. Make Sure Your Monitoring Is As Accurate As Possible
This is so important. Im building panels for my room right now and I can tell room acoustics is such a major part.
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Granted is 100% correct! A properly treated room is EVERYTHING. Your ears don't struggle or fatigue as easily. Don't pass Go, don't collect $200 if you haven't treated your room. You are just making life more difficult for yourself.
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Felipe Berto
Sep 30
beautiful
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Tim Weirich
Sep 30
Treat the room as much as you think. Then do more. Note primary reflection points especially. Use Room EQ wizard and AMROC to ferret out problem frequencies and nodes. The get Sonareorks Sound ID Reference, and scan. Make adjustments and rescan.
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Granted .
Sep 30
a place to start thinking about room acoustics :
Youtube : acoustic insider
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The room is key for all frequencies (and is usually the weakest element in the chain) but the hardest to manage are the low one. Acoustic measurements, appropriated treatment for your room and a room corrector are the best ways to deal with it. Sonarworks is good to start and can work in a well treated room. If you want a real correction that also deals with phase issues then there is the Trinnov but definitely not the same price tag
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Also, get the free copies of AMROC room calculator and REW Room EQ Wizard. Plenty of YouTube videos to help you use those free tools to identify issues in your room and where treatment is needed.
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steve pieper
Oct 01
Be sure to get Sonarworks so you can use an EQ compensation curve to flatten your room response. Makes an unbelievable difference.
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As commented above - acoustic treatment is number one. If your room acoustics are shit, no matter what you do will be nothing more than polishing a turd. If you're serious about mixing or mastering, invest in learning about acoustics and room treatment and spend money on getting your room to sound good. The more money you spend on room treatment, the less money you will have to spend on gear, since everything will just sound better. And you will find that being able to trust your playback system is one of the most valuable assets you will have.

For low frequency management, I went the DIY route and built some Acoustic Fields diaphragmatic bass absorbers. It was quite the undertaking but it proved to be one of the best decisions I made in my life.

As for number 4, I don't recommend the bass bus EQ trick. It makes sense in theory, but unless you use a linear phase eq this will create more problems than it solves, since the HPF and LPF will produce phase issues around the cutoff points, which will translate to confusion and unwanted interactions between the two buses. Best option here is to use a dedicated tool for mono-ing low frequency material. (brainwork's subsynth comes to mind, but there are quite some options out there)
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And like Steve Pieper said if you don't mind paying a bit (it's not a crazy amount), Sonarworks is great addition. Get the version for speakers and headphones with the calibration mic. And you will want to try to get your room so the worst frequencies in your room are no more than 6db from flat.
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Habib Semlali
Oct 10
Good tips

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