The Sub and Bass Mixing Omni Discussion


#1

What to you put in the <80-100 Hz range? Kick? Some snappy bassline? Both?
I would also like to know why you do as you do.

I have a problem with this since I have quite small speakers (5" bass element) and try to mix my sub bass by comparing my tracks against others in my livingroom with a hi-fi system with sub-speaker. The thing is I’ve come find everyone is putting different instruments in the sub freqs.

I’ve started to put both the kick and bass in the <80 Hz, with a sidechain on the bassline to make it dodge just the frequeny that the kick fire on. I think it can sound too “muddy” with just the bassline, and with just the kick it feels empty. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Sub has always been the hardest part to mix, in my opinion. The both-way with bass sidechain is a compromise, it’s neither good or bad.
If you do have your bass down there, do you have another bassline that’s not? Just to get the clarity of it more audible?

Two (extremes) examples:

  • Justice - †: They have just the kick in the subs. Hits hard, sure, but it feels kinda empty with nothing else down there. Even the bass disappears in the mix.
  • Any dubstep: Bass + sometime the wobble in the subs. 80% of the times it takes over too much in my opinoin. That may be just the point with that kind of music, but it too often it just sound like a muddy mess of bass that drown every other instrument in the mix.

What’s your though on this? General sub bass mix thread maybe?


#2

I think you answered you own question here honestly.

  1. Sub is hard to mix in a non-treated studio w/o the right monitors or a dedicated sub monitor.
  2. It depends (sometimes genres have standard practices though).
  3. There is no “right way”.

I haven’t finished a properly mixed track in ages, but I’d say I tend to let the kick carry 80hz more so than the bass, I also try to write basslines that mostly have notes where the kick isn’t and I don’t often use long decays on either bass nor kick. Just rules of thumb that I break the moment it interrupts what I want to accomplish artistically.

I would also look into dynamic EQ, side chain EQ and multiband compression. As these are tools I use all that often myself I can’t give you good advice on how to use them.

Another thing I’ve found myself doing is just turning shit down, everything, way down. Like I start by just turning everything down by half. I know digital is super forgiving, I know some folks seem to get away with having items in the mix crazy loud, I don’t know enough about digital audio and RMS and LUFS and all that shit.

Also, I can retitle this thread if you want it to be the dedicated sub/bass discussion thread. Great topic.


#3

Yeah, I also cut the levels in half the first thing I do. We learnt a general rule in school alot of year ago; Cut before boost, and this gives you alot of headroom for mixing later on. I also use to cut anything in the bass below 100Hz (12-24dB slope, not clean chop) just to add another pure square or tri sub on way lower level to get more control of those freqs. Maybe I should start using multiband comp or dynamic eq instead…

Feel free to retitle of you like! :slight_smile: Maybe would server great as a general bass mix thread for tips and tricks!


#4

Something to consider, I’ve stopped going crazy with low-shelf EQ on all elements myself. I feel like it was making my mixes anemic, thin, empty. Maybe I was taking it too far by doing it on absolutely everything (more or less).

Also, something I almost always do is use U-he Satin as the first plug-in on the master. That seems to help with making tracks feel full.


#5

Let me preface everything I say by saying I do mostly house, so it’s pretty easy for me to get away with just sidechaining everything to the kick. That said, I like bass more than I like kicks, so it’s always a balancing act for me. I don’t do much to either my kick or bass because it’s so easy to mess either of them up. Usually, for both, I just run them through PTEQ-X, which is an excellent and free Pultec EQ emulation with tube saturation built in. I dial in the low shelf (the middle section) on the kick at 60hz (it’s only a few choices of frequency on the pultec) and than you crank the boost up to taste, but go a bit higher than you think you need. Then bring the attenuation for the low shelf up to almost as high as the boost (I like to leave a little extra, but “by the book” you would just crank both to max). That really makes the kick thump in my experience, and my guess is it pulls it out of phase with the rest of the mix slightly because it cuts through a bit cleaner too. If I want to bring out a clicky attack or something, I go ahead and do that in the midrange emulation on the same EQ (the top section).

I use the same emulation for bass, only I dial in the low band at 100 or 150 hz. I usually don’t do a separate sub because I can often get more than enough sub out of a bass sound with the pultec. I keep my kicks short and my basses too, it’s very easy for long releases to put way too much energy into the lower range. I also prefer square waves for my bass because it gives you that strong fundamental and plenty of overtones for smaller speakers, but it has half the energy that a saw would down that low. I don’t run a hipass on my kick or bass unless there’s something I don’t like happening way down around 40hz or so. Everything else is hipassed 120-300ish hz, respecting their individual fundamentals so that I don’t thin things out too much (though that ultimately is going to happen).

By now, the tone on the two is so similar that I really get to set balance with just volume and how much the bass ducks the kick. Playing with the decay/release stage on your bass and kick here as well as how any distortion lets go of the bass (either of the main instruments I use for bass has distortion on the output stage, so I have to take that into account even before the EQ/tube stage) is really how I get things right. So it becomes more of a timing issue than a frequency issue for me.

I have ducked the kick (and other conflicting elements) with dynamic EQ in the past and its absolutely fine, but for what I do it isn’t obvious enough to really give the kick the impact I want, so I just do straight volume ducking now.


#6

I think being mindful decay/release on both kick and bass is really important.


#7

I’ll simply say beyond rolling things off, if you use a “clean bass” and/or low pass it as well, you can gain some nice character by adding some type distortion to it. Like a sine bass feels nice once you figure the level, but it doesn’t really sound off well.

I work with small speakers myself. And really the best way for me to get a better judgement on the loudness if to listen to the mix over multiple systems. Like my car, etc.

So I would try to get a good idea out. Listen and then come back to it with the idea you’re going to do x and see where that takes. Keep in mind, if you reduce the drums and sub, as they sound good together, you may need to reduce other stuff, like melodies by a different percentage, just so you don’t have a high end mess.

Unless I’m writing a full bass type track, I also try to use stuff with harmonics in it. Like a low end piano note. To write.


#8

@relic 3 points are really solid.

Here is a list of some of the things I consider doing in a mix. Depends on the song whether I really do, but I at least check these off in my head.

Where are the dense or sparse parts of the song?
… I tend to often have only bass and kick below 80 - 200 Hz for more dense parts of a song.
… But many more spare parts I may not high pass anything at all. E.g. song starts with acoustic guitar, if I recorded it well, leave it alone until the rest of the mix comes in. Similar with a nice bass synth drone.

Ya sidechaining to kick some, even subtlety can be good. Alternatively I may use the same bass midi to make subbass part, similar goal, sometimes easier to control if there are lots of dynamics on the kick. Or if the kick and bass arent always hitting the same, just to give each bass attack a little sub oomph without becoming muddy.

Things to increase bass harmonics without overloading the bass frequencies
…Using a relatively subtle resonant high pass filter with a very low cut off, e…g 100
…Using a subtle overdrive on the bass, esp. a multiband one. Klanghelm SDRR fuzz setting also works wonders for this…note you have to push it crazy hard to recognize it as a fuzz, really just a great even harmonic generator.
…sometimes used an octave up effect on bass, low enough it sounds more like harmonics than that it is doubled.

I dont always do any of that. The best arrangements need much less mix magic. But perhaps overly clean mixes help with the incredibly poor listening environments most end users have.


#9

It depends on the tune! usually no matter what genre… everything that doesn’t need to be felt from the floor should be cut at 240Hz. As anything that hasn’t been given a cut in this range will create mud in the mix later. Nothing should ever be recorded or processed down with said filtering, but applied during a mix session. Not all sources also should have a hard Q. Sometimes a moderate adjustment to the width of a signal will work more than a tight notch or rolloff. Imo

As far as my mixes go:

Cinema:
Anything that is meant to rumble, or create a buzz on a television set stays in the 65Hz to 150hz range. If there is a extreme low end impact, then it gets cut at 30Hz.
All other signals get a Hp once the structure of the piece has been established of 240Hz. This is a instance when a harder Q cut would be used on a lot of signals.

In-House MFG (Manufacturing and Training Videos):

If there’s a V/O artist: I cut them around 300-400Hz, and all other elements that aren’t bass, kick, snare drums, or things that emulate sounds that usually sit in those instruments frequency get a 240hz Hp.

Music:
Genre specifics:
House: Anything that’s not a impact, sub or artificial kick (808, 909) gets a nice 240Hp at mix stage. Cut kick and Sd at 80Hz with about a .51 q-slope, at about 12-18dB

Bass…everything that’s not the bottom of the snare, kicks inside (or synthetic impulse), bass groups 60 hz channel stays, others get mixed to taste. All other signals (unless impact, boom, or low end centered) gets a 240Hz HP cut.

Rock: cut low end with mid eq of 100Hz, the a side cut at 200Hz. All other sources get a moderate q cut at about 240Hz.

Jazz.
Similar to rock, but with more focus on brass depending on if the players have deeper resonating sources.

Anyway… point being is I always attempt to gauge what sources might create mud well before I start worrying about mixing. Treat those lightly, and then at the mix stage attempt to mix fader levels to focus on the feel of the songs low end first. Then mix other signals that counter it to get the low end to sit in the mix.

One other really good technique to try to get a really clean sub is:

Copy your direct bass pattern onto your sub patch/instrument/or copy paste a version of your bass.
Solo it. Apply a light bit of tube distortion.
Light compression.

Now Split the bass into a multi band patch. something like:
1: channel low: 30Hz Q of 1.00 . 300Hz Lp 1.00 Q.
2: channel Mid: 301hz-2000Hz same Q’s
3:channel Hi: a Hp Cut at 2000Hz
Group these into one channel.
Add a Hp eq to taste above 80-100Hz. If you want your sub to have a lot o definition, set the HP to around 300-400Hz.

Now send 2 signals (sub, and bass group) to another channel, and apply a light compressor to taste. Take all faders down low, and mix the low end first.

Could do something similar to the sub if you want it heavier and apply distortion to a noise channel which would be the mid, but relabel it noise and not mid.

Hope my babbling helps