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In The Studio: Six Tips For Balancing The Bass And Drum Mix


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By Bobby Owsinski May 7, 2012

This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

 
Perhaps the most difficult task of a mixing engineer is balancing the bass and drums (especially the bass and kick).

Nothing can make or break a mix faster than the way these instruments work together.

It’s not uncommon for a mixer to spend hours on this balance (both level and frequency) because if the relationship isn’t correct, then the song will just never sound big and punchy.

So how do you get this mysterious balance?

In order to have the impact and punch that most modern mixes exhibit, you have to make a space in your mix for both of these instruments so they won’t fight each other and turn into a muddy mess.

While simply EQing your bass high and your kick low (or the other way around), might work at it’s simplest, it’s best to have a more in-depth strategy, so consider the following:

1) EQ the kick drum between 60 to 120 Hz as this will allow it to be heard on smaller loudspeakers. For more attack and beater click add between 1 kHz to 4kHz. You may also want to dip some of the boxiness between 200 to 500 Hz.

EQing in the 30 to 60 Hz range will produce a kick that you can feel, but it may also sound thin on smaller loudspeakers and probably won’t translate well to a variety of loudspeaker systems. Most 22-inch kick drums are centered somewhere around 80Hz anyway.

2) Bring up the bass with the kick. The kick and bass should occupy slightly different frequency spaces. The kick will usually be in the 60 to 80 Hz range whereas the bass will emphasize higher frequencies anywhere from 80 to 250 Hz (although sometimes the two are reversed depending upon the song).

Shelve out any unnecessary bass frequencies (below 30 Hz on kick and below 50 Hz on the bass, although the frequency for both may be as high as 60 Hz according to style of the song and your taste) so they’re not boomy or muddy. There should be a driving, foundational quality to the combination of these two together. 

A common mistake is to emphasize the kick with either too much level or EQ, while not featuring enough of the bass guitar (see the graphic on the left for a good visual of what it sounds like). This gives you the illusion that your mix is bottom light, because what you’re doing is shortening the duration of the low frequency envelope in your mix.

Since the kick tends to be more transient than the bass guitar, this gives you the idea that the low frequency content of your mix is inconsistent. For pop music, it is best to have the kick provide the percussive nature of the bottom while the bass fills out the sustain and musical parts.


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About Bobby

Bobby Owsinski
Bobby Owsinski

Music Industry Veteran and Technical Consultant
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information and to acquire a copy of The Recording Engineer’s Handbook be sure to check out his website.

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