How to mix kick and bass? That is a question I get asked a lot.
Getting the kick and bass sounding right very important because without a solid bass and kick you can’t have a great mix.
The low end in your mix is not powerful enough, or it is too powerful.
The kick disappears when the bass plays or vice versa.
Your low end sounds great in your studio but when played elsewhere it doesn’t sound the same.
Are these issues you face when mixing the kick and bass?
In this post, I share some common reason why your low-end mix is not great and 6 tips to get the kick and bass to sound better in your mix.
Tip 1: Live Kick and Bass
This first tip applies specifically to live drums and bass that you have recorded yourself or one from a client.
The main problem I found with live recording is timing, which can cause phase issues, especially with recording done in a less professional setting by someone who is just learning.
The bass player and the drummer may not have much experience playing live or to a click track.
Often they will play out of time with the other player.
If this kick and bass played out of time this can cause one or both to sound thin.
Even with compression and EQ the bass or kick won’t sound beefy until the phase issue is sorted
One of the first things you want to do when you get a live recording to mix is to edit the timing to make sure bass and kick are in phase (in time).
This is as simple as shifting the way form in time with each other.
Tip 2: Your room treatment
Mixing in an untreated room in your home makes it very difficult to judge what the low end actually sound like.
Playback from even the best monitors won’t reproduce accurately in an untreated room.
You may mix the kick and bass that sound great in your studio but when playback in another environment the low end falls apart.
This make confuses you because the kick and bass are pumping when you play it in your studio.
Frequency built up in an untreated room will cause you to misjudge the sound that you hear and make mixing decision that you think is improving the mix but in actuality it’s not.
If you treat your room your monitors will perform better and you will yield better low-end mixes.
Tip 3: Tune The Kick
When you tune the kick to the key of the track will make work better in the mix.
If you are recording live drums this is as simple as tuning your drums.
Plugins like Logic Pro EXs24 and Ableton Live Simpler are used to tune your drum samples.
First, you find the root note of your kick sample using an EQ and change it to the key of the track.
Tuning the kick a 5th above or below the bass is a great way to get the kick to sit well in the mix and also create separation, which I go more into in the next tip.
Tip 4: Create separation between the kick and bass
Separating the kick and bass by giving them their own frequency slot on the lower end of the frequency spectrum will make them sound more cohesive in your mix.
If the kick and the bass sound alike and you can differentiate between the two when they play together tuning the kick a 5th above or below the bass will create the separation you need.
Tune the kick a 5th above the bass if the bass dominates the low-low- end whereas if the kick is the lowest in the low-end, tune it a 5th below.
Low frequencies are big and full of energy and your job as the mixer is to fit both the kick and bass in a small frequency range(40Hz to 250Hz), without competition for space.
Use an EQ and divide the frequencies (40Hz-250Hz) the kick and bass.
When you boost a set of frequencies in one instrument cut that same set of frequencies in the other.
For example, if you boost 150Hz in the bass, cut it from the kick.
Tip 5: How long is the tail
If the bass has a long tail to kick should be the opposite.
This will create more space and clarity and make the kick and bass easier to work with in the mix
Tip 6. Sidechain the kick and bass
Sidechain compression is a technique use to get kick drum to cut through the mix when the bass or other instruments masked it or then it is too low and you don’t have no more head room to turn the kick up.
The bass can masked this kick when they play at the same time in the mix or they have the similar fundamental and harmonic frequencies.
Using sidechain compression whenever the kick play the compressor will briefly lower to volume of the bass so that the kick is audible.
The time is so short that it won’t be obvious that the bass is lower.
Using one are these technique and you should be on your way to getting a better low end mix.
Image by: Philip Rood