Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers, and in this video you’ll discover a powerful technique that will help you mix kick and bass like a pro.
But before we dive in, I also put together a free kick and bass mixing cheatsheet that includes some extra tips and tricks that I won’t have time to cover here. So to make sure you get the most out of our time together today, click the link in the description below or up there in the video to download this free cheatsheet right now.
Now before I jump into my DAW and show you how to pull off this technique, I want to share with you why the kick and bass actually compete in the first place. So imagine you have a dresser drawer, one of those four or five-drawer units, and you have a bunch of different clothes that you’re trying to fit into this dresser – socks, shirts, boxers, pants, whatever.
Now there are a couple different ways that you could go about filling this dresser up. The quickest way – certainly the way that I did things when I was in high school – is you could just stuff everything into the top drawer, right? And while this is the quickest way, it’s certainly not the best. Because very quickly you find that that drawer fills up, right? There’s only so much room in that drawer for the clothes. And so suddenly you find that socks are flying out the sides and half your clothes don’t fit, and they’re all over the floor.
Now if you’re a little bit smarter, you would say okay, how do I distribute all of my different clothes evenly among these different drawers? So maybe you put the pants in the bottom drawer, and the socks and the boxers in the top drawer, and shirts in the middle. And then you find that everything fits, right? There’s space and room for everything in this dresser.
Now you can think of the frequency spectrum as a big dresser, and each individual area of the frequency spectrum as a different drawer. So imagine the low end is the bottom drawer, and the midrange is the middle drawer, and the top end is the top drawer. The basic idea is that whenever we try to fit too many things into one section, one area, one drawer of the frequency spectrum, there’s not enough room, right? And so this is what’s happening in the low end in particular when we have problems with the kick and the bass competing for space, because we can’t really both put them in exactly the same spot in exactly the same drawer of the frequency spectrum.
Now the best thing to do would be to choose sounds that sit in different drawers right from the beginning. So instead of choosing a kick and a bass sound that both sit maybe in that same drawer in that same area of the frequency spectrum, we can actually use sound selection before we start the mixing process to choose sounds that are a little bit more complimentary to each other. But if we’re stuck in the mixing process with a kick and a bass that sit in the same area of the frequency spectrum, there’s a technique I like to use called spectral slotting that can be a great solution. And basically what it allows us to do is to take two sounds that are in the same drawer, or near the same drawer of the frequency spectrum and move them to separate drawers – so to use EQ and tonal shaping to actually sit them in separate drawers, so to move them out of the way of each other. And when we can do this, we find that competition is eliminated, and suddenly we can hear these two different sounds a lot more clearly.
Now there are two different types of the spectral shaping that we can use within the mixing process – over/under and pocket. Now over/under is the simplest type of spectral shaping. And basically what it allows us to do is re-distribute the frequency content of one track so it sits over the other. So if you go back to that dresser drawer picture, maybe we have the bass sitting in the middle drawer and the kick sitting in the bottom drawer, right? So we would say that the bass is sitting over the kick.
Now the other type of spectral shaping, pocket, is a little bit more complicated. But the general idea is that we create a hole in one track to make room for the other. So the way I like to think of this is – going back to that dresser drawer analogy – let’s say you have a bunch of clothes in one drawer and you’re trying to make room for more, you can push the clothes to the left side of the drawer and the right side of the drawer and then you have some room in the middle to maybe throw in a pair of pants or socks or something like that. So that’s generally the idea of pocket spectral shaping.
So now that you understand this on a conceptual level, I want to jump into my DAW and show you how to pull it off to add clarity and eliminate competition between the kick and the bass in the mix.
So the first thing I’m going to show you is over/under spectral slotting. So we have two tracks here, a drum loop and a bass track. Let’s take a listen to them together without any processing and get a sense for how they’re working together right now.
Okay so not great, right? We’re not hearing a lot of that impact from the kick and it almost seems like it’s getting swallowed up by the bass itself. So let’s take a look at these two tracks together on a spectrum analyzer and see if we can point out where there might be some frequency competition or collision happening.
Okay so the kick track is red, and the bass track is below it in purple. We can see right here in this 50-100 hertz range, we’re getting a lot of buildup right between these two tracks. So the meat of the kick is right down here as we can kind of see from this bump, but we’re also seeing a lot of the low frequency content from the bass down here as well. So my instinct is telling me that this kind of buildup in this region is getting in the way of us really hearing that kick track clearly. So what I’m going to try to do is move the bass a little bit further up the spectrum by cutting out some of this low frequency content on the bass. So if I can get rid of this stuff, I can actually make the bass sit above the kick, right? So the kick will be on the bottom and the bass will be right above it, and that will hopefully help the kick fit together with the bass a little bit more so we can hear each clearly.
So the way I’m going to do this is by using a high-pass filter on the bass itself. So we’re here, again we have this EQ on the bass track. So cool thing is that I can just kind of dial this up until, you know, it’s right out of that kind of region of the kick itself. So let’s take a listen and see if we can kind of hone this in with both of these tracks playing. So I’m going to play the tracks and then I’m going to adjust the high-pass filter until I hear more of that kick, but I also want to keep as much of the weight and the warmth in that low end of the bass itself. So we’re trying to really strike a balance between clarity but also not thinning out too much of that bass, because we do want some of that low end on the bass as well.
So to me, right around here, you know, maybe 100 hertz or, that’s kind of a nice middle ground, right? We’re getting some of that low end on the bass but we’re also hearing a lot more of the kick itself. Now some of this depends on genre, right? If we wanted these kind of two tracks to overlap a little bit, you know, we might be working in something like a rock track where we want a little bit more of that cohesion, we might want to bring this down a little bit. But if we’re working in a hip hop track or something more along the lines of this style, we’re really looking for a little bit more clarity, so we might bring this up a little bit further.
So I want to kick this in and out of bypass and let’s just take a listen to how this high-pass filter is affecting the relationship between these two tracks. So I want you to listen to the low end impact of the kick itself with this cut in and out of bypass. So first we’ll do it without the cut. With the cut. Again without it. And with it.
So again, it’s a bit of a subtle change, but I’m hearing more kind of emphasis on the kick itself. It almost sounds like we’ve turned the kick up in the mix when in reality we’re getting rid of that low frequency content on the bass to make room for the kick. And so in effect, this has shifted the bass further up in the frequency spectrum – so we’ve created an over/under spectral slotting situation where the kick is on the bottom and the bass is right above it.
Now if you’re ready to dive deeper I also put together that free kick and bass mixing cheatsheet that includes some extra tips and tricks that will take the sound of your kick and bass even further. Click the link in the description below or up there in the video to download this free cheatsheet right now.
Now before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – what do you struggle with mixing more, the kick or the bass? I’d love to hear from you, so leave your reply in the comments section below.
Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more mixing tips right here on my YouTube channel or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.