I recently asked two thousand of my readers what their biggest mixing challenges were.
Guess what the most common response was?
Mixing low end.
No surprise there…we all know it’s one of the most difficult, frustrating parts of the mixing process!
If you’re struggling to craft a low end that sounds tight, balanced, and clean, you’re not alone. Avoid the following mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a low end that competes with the pros.
1. Not Optimizing Your Listening Environment
Ever experienced the “car check nightmare”—where your mix sounds perfect in your studio, but falls apart in the car?
If so, you probably have a serious problem with your listening environment.
If your studio’s acoustics aren’t up to snuff, it can be nearly impossible to make good low end mixing decisions. In fact, there’s a good chance that this is the single biggest thing holding you back from crafting a great-sounding low end.
Optimize your listening environment, and you’ll be able to hear the low end in your mixes more accurately. This will help you make mixing decisions that sound great on a wide variety of different speakers.
2. Losing Perspective
You can easily lose perspective of what the low end should sound like while mixing. This can set off a domino effect—where you start adding more and more low end to every track, only to end up with a boomy, muddy mix an hour or two later.
The solution? Challenge yourself to remain more objective throughout the mixing process. Take breaks more frequently. Compare your mix with references to ensure you’re still in the right lane. Switch to headphones and double-check your mixing decisions. Trust me…your tracks will thank you.
3. Filtering Without Listening
High-pass filters can help you achieve a cleaner, tighter low end. But they can also thin out tracks and leave you with a tinny, anaemic mix.
For best results, use them with care.
Filtering is not an excuse to turn off your ears. By all means—remove excess low end if it’s getting in the way. But if there’s no problem, there’s no need to fix it. You don’t need to high-pass everything by default. Instead, let your ears be the judge.
4. Ignoring Context
Your mix does not exist in a vacuum. It’s part of a continuum that includes the other tracks on an album, an artist’s catalogue, a genre (or multiple genres), an era, and even the sound of recorded music as a whole.
This context will dictate what listeners expect the low end in your track to sound like. For example, genres like EDM and hip-hop have a hyper-extended, heavy low end, whereas others may warrant a more naturalistic sound. In addition, the other tracks on an artist’s album might influence how much low end is appropriate in a given mix.
It’s important to consider this context when making low end mixing decisions, as well as choosing references. Otherwise, you may unintentionally lead yourself in the wrong direction.
5. Forgetting To Check Phase
Phase problems are the bane of a world-class low end. They can stealthily suck the punch, weight, and thickness out of your mix—leaving you with a thin, wimpy bottom end. For more on why this happens, check out the video below:
Pay close attention to the phase relationships between the different low end tracks in your mix. Problems will commonly crop up between different kick drum mics, the kick and overheads, or bass and DI tracks.
Start by flipping the polarity on each track and determining which position sounds best. You can take this technique further by time-aligning tracks, or with plugins like Sound Radix’ Auto-Align.
In addition, don’t forget to check for mono-compatibility. There are still places where your mix may be played back in mono (like on an iPhone). It’s important to make sure the bass doesn’t disappear!
Did I miss one of your biggest low end mixing mistakes? Let me know by leaving a comment below!