Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers, and if you’re like most of my students you probably struggle to get the low end in your mixes to sound right. Maybe the kick and the bass are competing. Maybe the low end sounds boomy or muddy. Or maybe your mixes sound great in your studio, but when you take them out into the car the low end totally falls apart. If any of this sound familiar to you, you should know that you’re not alone, because mixing low end is just hard. It’s hard for everybody, whether you’re an amateur or a pro. And this trick that I’m going to show you today is going to make things easier for you. It’s going to help you approach the low end with more clarity and confidence.
Now one of the main challenges when it comes to mixing low end is that it can often be difficult to hear what’s going on in that area of the frequency spectrum. Our ears are much more sensitive to midrange frequencies. And so when it comes to mixing the low end, if you can’t really hear what’s going on down there it makes it much more difficult to make good mixing decisions.
So this trick is almost like a magnifying glass. It will help you zero in on that low end area. And when you can do that, you can be much more discerning, and it just makes it easier to make the right mixing decisions. So I have a track here called “Best Man,” by Dylan Owen. And I’m going to show you how to apply this trick on this track, but let’s take a listen to the full mix first.
♪ Green as our grandparents trees, in our land of fantasy ♪
♪ There in pine bush, shoot through the acres with our lanterns leaking kerosene ♪
So you notice this is a hip hop track, and obviously in hip hop the low end is incredibly important. So the kick and the bass in this mix at this point I think are working really well together. And one of the big parts of that was the fact that I got really good sounds to work with as a mixer. So the producer who produced this track did a really great job at choosing the rights sounds – the kick and the bass – and they fit really well together. And that’s half the battle – just getting the right ingredients to start with will make the mixing job so much easier.
But something else that I really tried to do in the mixing process was pay very close attention to that low end and make sure that I was giving it the attention it deserved, because in a hip hop track low end is everything. So what I did was I added an EQ to the mix bus. Now I added it at the end of all my other processing, and this is what I recommend you do as well if you’re using this trick. So after any compression or other EQ, or limiting, just put it at the end of the line.
Now here I’m using the FabFilter Pro-Q 2, which is my favorite EQ. You can really apply this technique with any EQ, you don’t need this specific one. This is just the one that I like. So I have a bunch of presets that I’ve created for this EQ. The one we’re going to take a look at here is called subs only, and basically all this is is a very simple low-pass filter. And a low-pass filter cuts all the high end out and lets the lows pass, that’s what low-pass means.
So basically we have a filter here that’s cutting everything above 170 Hz, so all we’re left with is the low end. So I’ve found that number 170 Hz is a pretty good place to start cutting if you’re using this trick. It’s not essential that you use that specific number. You can play around and find your own specific number that works best for you, specific frequency.
The other thing I just want to point out here is that the slope on the cut – so that’s how aggressive the cut is – is 18 dB per octave. So a higher slope means that things drop off a lot more quickly. So if we set this to – let’s say 96, you can see it’s like a straight line. Whereas back at 18 dB, things are a little bit more gentle. So I find that that number 18 dB for this technique works really well. I would encourage you to play around and determine your own choice for that specific slope that works best for you.
But the idea here is that now when we play back the mix through this filter, all we’re going to hear is the low end of the frequency spectrum in our mix. And it’s almost like, again, taking a magnifying glass up to that specific area of the frequency spectrum. So let’s take a listen. I’m going to turn the mix up a little bit so we can hear it more clearly.
So you can see and hear now we can actually just zero in on that low end information, and we can start to discern what the relationship is between the kick and the bass in that low end area. Now the way that I use this technique is I don’t spend a ton of time listening through this filter. I prefer listening to the whole mix, and it’s important that you listen to all the frequencies together primarily. But when I’m really trying to zero in on maybe a specific high-pass filter or I’m trying to work on the relationship between the kick and the bass, and I really want to get a little bit more of a sense of what’s going on in that area, that’s when I’ll pull this up. And I might flip it in for a minute or so and just listen to what’s going on, and I usually like to listen to the low end just on its own towards the end of the mix as well.
And not only do I do this with the low end, but I actually do this with the midrange and the high end as well. So you can see here I have a midrange-only preset that just cuts out the low end and the high end and just zeros in on the midrange, and then I have a highs-only preset that just allows me to listen to the high end. The point here is that by using these filters – and specifically in the low end – I find this is really the most useful. Again, it just allows me to hear a little bit more of what’s going on, and just zero in for a second at what’s happening down there, and just make better mixing decisions.
So play around with this technique. Create a preset in your favorite EQ. And I promise you, you know, especially if you’re working on things like hip hop, being able to zero in on that area and spending a couple minutes every mix just listening to what’s going on down there will help you make better low end mixing decisions, and it’s going to lead to a low end that sounds clearer and more balanced.
If you’re ready to dive deeper, if you like this technique and you want to learn more, I recommend that you download my free EQ cheatsheet, which is packed with more tips and tricks that will add clarity and separation to your mixes just like the one that we talked about today. So if you want to download this, again it’s completely free. Just click the link in the video above or in the description below, and you’ll download this free cheatsheet right now.
Now before you go, leave a comment in the section below this video and let me know – what’s your go-to EQ plug-in? I’d love to hear from you, so leave your answer in the comments section below. I read every one and try to reply to as many as I can.
Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more mixing tips right here on my YouTube channel, or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.