Hi. Ive been making music for a long time and Im happy with where Im at with it BUT I have never seemed to be able to get a handle on low/sub bass lines. Im now in a position where I have 5 or 6 tracks im very happy with and they’re all essentially finished except I just want to fill out the bass content nicely with a sub bass.
The main problems I always run into and have no idea how to deal with are:
-Some notes boom and others just don’t resonate whatever you do to them. do I just leave it like that? or do I start changing the gain of each note… it still doesn’t work anyway
-When trying to get the levels right I don’t know if I should be hearing the bass clearly or if it should be low enough that I cant tell its there…or any level in between. when I try and add harmonics it sounds like guff
Its really so frustrating to have no idea what Im doing and everything I try I don’t know if Im improving the sound or not. Any solid advice/knowledge would be much appreciated
What’s your room like? Are you listening on headphones? That can make a difference. Google room acoustic modes if this is unfamiliar. That can explain why some bass notes sound louder than others in your setup (at least on reason)
My problems with mixing are usually addressed in Mike Senior’s “Mixing secrets”.
Really helps to understand eg how bass destroys a mix of not handled properly. Also explains how room acoustics are the very first thing to address.
The room is TERIBBLE. its way way too small and depending on where i put my head theres no bass or a lot of it. I put a book shelf behind me to try and break up the sound in some sort of rudimentary half baked way. Having said that I have always had problems like this wherever I go, I usually just don’t have a sub bass or have no bass at all in my music but now I really need it. Using both headphones and speakers I can still tell that certain notes just don’t resonate like the others. I get that you have to choose the notes carefully but without changing the key of the song (which I’m not willing to do as its all samples) what can I do??
Ive spoken to somebody locally about using their space which is far superior to mine but taking notes and bringing them back here isn’t gonna be precise
get a subpac and good headphones.
Shall we assume your room is small and square? 10 feet x 10 feet is particularly horrible, I know this from personal experience. Assuming so, I suggest you work around this by doing a ton of reference listening outside of your space, then head back to the lab and apply HPF and mix adjustments as needed.
You really cannot fix the acoustic problems in a square space.
By no means an expert, but I too find working with the low end troublesome. It’s kind of like walking
In the dark. If you can’t see it or hear/feel it In this case, then it has to be expected.
I’d recommend trying a subpac
Monitors that go lower, along with bass traps - sound like your in a small space though so maybe no.
Also try your mix on other systems, especially big systems that will reveal the low end, then you’ll get an idea where to make adjustments in your own room
Bass in small rooms is a pain. 99% of us probably don’t have access to a room that could even be helped. Diffusion via a book shelf will break high frequencies but won’t help (as you found out). For low frequencies in small rooms there is not much you can do, because most bass management solutions entail building bass traps or airgaps behind absorbers (again, this eats more of your square footage). Subpac is a pretty good option but is expensive (actually…any of the above is).
A subwoofer or monitors with lower freq. response will not help your problem because no matter what the excitation of the room modes will always mean that some low frequencies will be more pronounced than others.
Proper room treatment is essential. But to get sub frequencies under control you need either expensive or diy panels that are big and very thick. Depends a bit if you have room for it. The foam “bass traps” won’t help with this.
Another 2 easy but important mixing tips I always give people is to make room for the low end elements by low cutting other elements in your track. Take a look at every element with an analyser (almost every eq has one build in). You’ll see how many things have low frequencies that are taking up space where they should not. Even hihats.
The second is to low cut your bass as well with a 12db slope. This way you lower the sub frequencies in volume in a curved way so now you can turn up the bass in volume to get it more present in the mix. experiment with a low cut on 200+ hz even.
Think of the frequency spectrum as your room. The more big stuff (low end) you put in, the less room you have to breath.
Another tip is to use a compressor on bass parts to even out the volume levels for different notes.
But as has been said, it’s tough if you can’t hear it well. No idea how you have set things up, but if it’s hard to improve the room acoustics, then putting the speakers as close to you at ear level as possible will help. Because if you can play your music less loud, the room will have less influence. Also, SonarWorks Reference Studio 4 could help you immensely.
Why don\t you just monitor through headphones? If it sounds right in them then it is right… rooms are rooms, all shapes and sizes, no advice here is gonna be perfect, just saying
Hmm, Yes and no I have those dt990 pros and although they sound very nice, I can’t make an honest low end mix on them because they tend to boost some bands in the low end giving a wrong image of what is really going on. You’d need a pair of head phones that go into the multi hundreds of euros. maybe SonarWorks Reference Headphones could help with this. Good stereo imaging is also harder on headphones.
True Dave I was just thinking of all the different odd room sizes… I prefer headphones to mix but agree with your post there
Yeah you make a good point. At the very least they are very good as a reference. And a joy to wear, even as ear warmers.
Iv’e never really used monitors in all the years Iv’e been making sounds and music Dave, (1987) lol I did have KRK’s once but I prefer headphones personally and I feel that if I can get a mix right on my headphones then it’ll sound good in a club… I haven’t released since 2011 so not sure how it is today but there are no rules in music so just my opinion hehe
I was going to suggest SonarWorks as well. It won’t solve your room problems but it will definitely help with clarity. Treat the room as much as you can afford, get SonarWorks Reference, and put your monitors on IsoAcoustic stands.
Learn to read the analyzer frequencies, cross referencing with professional tracks, and you will see obvious problem areas in your tracks that need addressing.
I can honestly know what the bottom end will sound like without even hearing it by viewing my analyzer. The graph never lies
I use RME Digicheck
Along with my daw the most crucial software in my studio by a mile
I was thinking the same thing (and maybe this deserves its own topic)
If you’re listening to one of your favorite, best produced tracks on headphones as a reference and trying to match those levels (bass and otherwise) what’s the difference?
I was working on a production for a client and using a song as a reference, finding my low end to be lacking, and the reference to be HUGE. Some might say bad, but I liked it and figured “well if I like how this sounds in these cans, why wouldn’t I like my own mix if it’s very similar?” So I put a low shelf +6dB or so on both the bass and subby kick… Which I thought would be crazy, but it matched really well and my client liked the result. Plus for the first time my mix actually had BASS. The reference was The Castle by the flaming lips if anyone cares.
But yeah that’s my question…i just don’t understand why mixing in headphones would matter that much if you’re using a solid reference track and just matching levels? Of course checking on multiple systems is important, but I find car/phone always sounds like shit anyway lol
Basstraps in the corners - at least 30cm x 30cm rockwool from bottom to top, a spectrum analyzer and comparison to reference tracks. That’s your best bet.
Helmholtz resonators could also be one thing to look into. Small rooms rarely have space for adequate bass trapping.
If your bass notes ring out, that is not actually a part of the music, those ringing notes are created by your room resonances, and that ringing will never sound exactly same when listened to in other places. You most def do not want to chase those notes, trying to get all the other bass notes ring out like that will be a sure way to ruin your mix.
Beside all those helpful advice from above … how is your mixing experience and the loudness of the sound when you are working?
As @LyingDalai advised, the study of books like “Mixing Secrets” can give us basic to good understanding, what happens inside and outside the mixing desk and where those gremlins are, which we hunt down all the time. And there are many
There are analytical tools like iZotope Neutron or Insight, which can help to get a pro-sound, even, if the audio-environment has some disadvantages.
And there is the loudness, finally. As an example, I work at a loudness level, which would allow us to have a conversation without raising voices. Typically the ears are very sensitive at such levels and the tendency to build up reflections or amplified frequency modes is relatively week.