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Six Steps To A Great Bass And Drums Balance

Approaches for getting the relationship correct to attain the sometimes "mysterious balance"
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 how 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.

Here’s an excerpt from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook to help achieve this sometimes mysterious balance.

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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 the mix 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 to make them fit together, try the following:

1. EQ the kick drum between 60 Hz 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 4 kHz. You may also want to dip out some of the boxiness that lives between 200 Hz to 600 Hz. EQing in the 30 Hz to 60 Hz range will produce a kick that you can feel if your loudspeakers are large enough, but that can also make it sound thin on smaller speakers and probably won’t translate well to a variety of speaker systems. Most 22-inch kick drums like to center somewhere around 80 Hz, for instance.

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 Hz to 80 Hz range, whereas the bass will emphasize higher frequencies anywhere from 80 Hz to 250 Gz (although sometimes the two are reversed depending upon the song).

Before you continue to EQ at other frequencies, try filtering out any unnecessary bass frequencies (below 30 Hz on kick and 50 Hz on the bass, although it varies according to style and taste) so the kick and bass are not boomy or muddy. There should be a driving, foundational quality to the combination of these two together. 

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