Hey, this is Jason Moss from BehindTheSpeakers.com, and these tips are gonna help you craft a low end that sounds clear and balanced, so your tracks will compete with the pros.
Tip number one is to zero in.
Now, sometimes when you’re listening to the full frequency spectrum, it can be difficult to determine what the right moves in the low end are to make. So I find it can be helpful to just listen to that area of the frequency spectrum on its own, and that can help you make more discriminating decisions about what you might need to do in that low end area of the frequency spectrum.
There’s a technique that I like to use, and all you need for this is just a simple EQ plugin, and it’ll help you really zero in, again, on that area of the frequency spectrum and hopefully make better low end mixing decisions. Let me show you how it works.
Okay, so I have a song here called “Heroes Of Hope” by Clean Green Music Machine, and I wanna show you a little trick that I like to use when I’m trying to zero in on the low end in my mixes. So let me play you the track first.
♫ Ready to fly ♫ We are strong together ♫ We are one ♫
Cool, so you can hear there’s a lot of stuff going on, and this is a great example of a mix where I might wanna just take a look at the low end without necessarily being distracted by all that other stuff, and just make sure that everything is working together.
So what I have here is an EQ that I’ve placed on my mix bus. Now this is bypassed by default, so I’m not listening through this all the time, but sometimes I like to enable it, and I have a preset here that I’ve saved called Subs Only. And all it is is a low-pass filter with an 18 dB per octave slope set to around 170 Hz.
And all this is doing is basically getting rid of everything above 170 Hz, and just allowing me to listen to what’s going on below 170 Hz. And this is really like my magnifying glass to the low end of my mixes. So sometimes throughout the mix I might just wanna kick this in for a minute or two and listen to how the low end is working and just zero in on that area of my mixes.
So let me go ahead and play you this and you can hear what it sounds like.
Cool, so if you’re listening on a laptop or small speakers you might not hear anything at all, but what that’s telling me is really how are the kick and bass working together, are the toms getting in the way, is there low end kind of mud or rumble that I’m not necessarily hearing when I have everything playing together. So, again, this is like my magnifying glass. And I really like having this EQ just always there so that I can kind of turn it on really quickly, just to get a sense for what the low end is doing.
Now I also have a couple of other presets here for the midrange and the high end, so if I wanna zero in on those areas I have those presets saved, too. But I find this Subs Only preset to be the most helpful out of all of those. It’s just a great way to zero in on this area of your mixes.
Tip number two is to check for phase problems.
So whenever you have multiple tracks in your mix that are correlated in some way, maybe you recorded an instrument with multiple microphones like a drum kit, you have multiple snare samples that are all triggered at exactly the same time so they all kind of make up one big snare sound, you might get some phase cancellation between one or more of those tracks. And the result of this is that the low end often disappears. So you can be listening to these tracks playing together and wondering why your low end sounds so thin, and maybe you might add some EQ and try to boost the low end, but it still sounds kind of thin and lifeless. You’re dealing with phase problems here, so EQ is not gonna fix that. You gotta address this problem at the source, and the easiest way to do this is just to flip the polarity on one or more of these tracks and see if the kind of combined sound is thicker and fuller with one of those tracks flipped.
So that’s the easiest thing to do, and if you’re looking for more information about phase cancellation and how to solve these kinds of problems, I wrote an article not too long ago with some more detail on this. So you can check out the link in the description below.
Tip number three is to watch your reverbs.
Now reverb can easily cloud up the low end of a mix, especially when you start adding reverb to things like kick and bass and low end instruments. I’m not gonna say you shouldn’t do this because sometimes it works, most of the time it’s not a great idea, but you wanna be really careful.
One of the things that you can do is you can high pass your reverb return. So I think of reverb just like any other track in my mix, and if you get rid of that low end, often times it can clear up at the bottom end of your mix and just leave more space for the kick and the bass and other instruments that might sit down there. So don’t be afraid to EQ your reverb returns to fit a little bit better within the mix.
Tip number four is to check the low end on headphones.
Now the great thing about headphones is that they remove the sound of your room from the equation. You’re listening to the sound directly out of the headphones barreling down your ear canals. You’re not hearing it bounce off the walls in your room like you would if you were listening on speakers. The effect of this is that you hear a more accurate representation of the frequency spectrum in your mixes.
There are all sorts of other problems with mixing on headphones, so I don’t recommend mixing on them exclusively, but when it comes to the low end in particular I think they can be a great secondary reference point. I recommend doing the majority of the mix on speakers, and then checking on headphones and really listening to the low end and making sure that you’re not getting led in the wrong direction. I think this can really help you make better low end mixing decisions.
And tip number five is to optimize your listening environment.
Because the biggest problems in most rooms are in the low end, you wanna make sure you’re doing everything you can to optimize the sound of your speakers and your room, so you’re hearing a flat, accurate representation of what’s really going on in the low end of your mixes. Now this is where things like acoustic treatment can really start to help. But actually, the best place to start is with the gear you already have. Start by finding the right spot in your room for your speakers and listening position. And if you do this, you’re gonna even out the low end in your room, and this is gonna give you a more accurate representation of what’s really going on in that area of your mixes.
Now if you wanna learn how to do this, I put together a video with seven simple tips that will walk you through this process and help you find the right spot for your speakers and listening position in your room. Click the link in the description below or in the video and you get free instant access.
Anyways, for more mixing tips, check out my website, BehindTheSpeakers.com. Thanks so much.
Video features music by Clean Green Music Machine.