Part 1 – Composing and Producing for a Solid Bottom End
Having punchy kick drums with a deep bass doesn’t start in the mixing process. It starts in the composition process, is enhanced with the sound design and production. Once that is all done, the mixing process will tidy it all up, and the mastering process can make it shine. Follow this general guideline and you will find it easier to get a solid bottom end that sets the groove to your music. Mixing your low end will be a lot easier.
Who’s on the bottom?
Who’s dominating, the kick or the bass?
Firstly, you need to decide how the kick drum and bass lines will work together. More to the point, who is on top and who is on the bottom.
Do you have a deep bass line that needs to shake and rumble?
Is it your kick that needs to boom through at the bottom frequencies?
This can help you design your sounds and eventually guide your EQ decisions.
Often this is determined by the genre. For example, Drum and Bass tracks often have a thinner kick to make way for really thunderous bass.
Techno often has a bass line that is locked in so tightly with the kick, that it sounds like it’s part of the one sound.
You don’t have to stick to the conventions, but understanding them will help you make a decision.
Tune your Kick Drums
No, your drums don’t have to be in key. Sometimes that’s nice, but that’s not the important part.
Just make sure your kick drum frequency isn’t the root note of your bass line.
If your key is C, and the bass line is often landing on C2 (~65Hz) consider moving your kick drum tuning either higher 70 or lower than 60.
Check out this page for a guide on notes and frequencies.
Unless you want your kick drum and bass line to become the same sound (see the techno example above) .
Without any EQ, some separation of the kick drum has been achieved.
If you aren’t using a computer, drum machine or samples then make sure you tune the kick drum before recording.
Kick to the Rhythm and leave some breathing room.
Think about how your kick and bass relate to each other in time. If they hit at the same time, they may blend, and if that is the aim that’s great. Consider using syncopation to create space and interest.
Leave some space too. Bass speakers need to travel to push the air, if there’s always a bass frequency being reproduced they may not get to travel as much as they need to.
Same Same but different
On a last point about sound design. If you don’t want your kick and bass to blend, then make sure they sound different. Their root frequency may be in a similar range, but their harmonics don’t need to be.
Have Fun With It
Really this comes down to 1 thing. Have a bit of a plan when you start arranging or writing. It doesn’t have to be too serious or detailed.
Play around, experiment and see what you come up with.
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