Your kick and bass elements should occupy from 20Hz up to about 300Hz. At least, with your kick, this is where its main body should be. Any bass instruments, however, should not exceed 300Hz as this is the threshold between upper bass and low mid frequencies.
There is no best way to EQ a kick drum, but there are some steps that you can take to make your kick drum shine through your mix. Likewise, there’s no set way of EQ’ing your sub-bass and other bass elements, but there are tried and tested means of making your bass and kick drum work better together.
To mix your kick and bass effectively on monitors, you should have a good understanding of what frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz are problematic in your room. That is, what frequencies create a flutter echo or are prone to standing waves.
To identify what frequencies are an issue in your room, play consecutive semitones from G1 (46.2Hz) up to F3 (174.6Hz). This is a test specifically for bass response which allows us to isolate specific keys that are problematic, so it’s perfect for right now! Play through this chromatic scale and take note of which semitones (and their corresponding frequency) are louder than and what tones dip out.
Having this information in place will allow you to make more informed decisions about when to reach for the volume fader!
To identify where in your room issues like standing waves and flutter echo will occur, you can do the clap test. The cap test entails you walking around your room and clapping at every point in your room. At best, you’ll get a pleasant reverb. But in the worst-case scenario, you’ll get a harsh tinny sound that’s bouncing off the walls.
If you are mixing with monitors, and even if you’re mixing with headphones, you should be referencing other songs pretty frequently too. Reference songs that are similar to yours and listen to how the kick and bass both work together and with the rest of the mix. Frequently referencing is important because it refreshes your perspective on how your kick and bass sound.
It’s true that headphones don’t offer the same stereo field that speakers do, but that doesn’t undermine their use.
For example, we recommend using open-back headphones when working with low bass frequencies. The design of open-back headphones is so to allow air more flexibility and space to accurately reproduce the input signal. This makes them great to mix sub and all higher bass frequencies!
Kick and Bass EQ Tips and Tricks
So, with all of that out of the way, let’s dig in!
Remove Excess Sub Energy
Our first tip involves a high pass/low cut filter. On your sub-bass channel, remove needed energy from the sub-range (20Hz to 40Hz). Most monitors and headphones can’t reproduce these ultra-low frequency ranges accurately, so they are more detrimental to the overall quality of your music than beneficial. Remove them and maybe, just maybe, your track may very well become un-muddied in the blink of an eye.
To remove excess energy, apply a low cut filter with a -48dB per octave slope at 30Hz. This’ll remove most of the sub frequencies and create a lot more space in your mix.
Carve Out the Mids of Your Kick
You’ve probably noticed that your kick drum is fighting with other elements in your mix. To sort this issue out, we need another filter.
To ensure that you don’t remove the power from the kick, you want a notch filter with a tight q (which is the width of the filter band) at a -10dB per octave reduction. Place the filter between 200Hz – 500Hz and experiment with its placement. Carve out different ranges within the 200Hz and 500Hz range and see what cut allows your other elements to shine through the mix.
Boost the High End of the Kick
Now that you’ve removed the mids from the kick, you might be experiencing more of a… limp kick?
If this is the case, there is a solution. Grab your parametric EQ and isolate a frequency range near the top of the kick. That is, find out how high in the spectrum your kick frequencies are reaching.
Now, apply a 6dB per octave boost with a bell curve. Some kicks may reach around the 2kHz section, some higher and some lower.
You’ll notice that your kick now has more body and punch, and probably sounds brighter than it did before, let alone rounder!
The slope and frequency values, such as -48dB slope and 2kHz, are rough guides. Your track will be unique from mine, and so it will require slightly different solutions.
But use these guides as starting points. Experiment with different filter slopes and don’t just take our word for it. Take what we’ve said and move your bell curve up and down and see what it does to your mix, or apply your kick’s notch filter to a different frequency band. Then you’ll see for yourself why we’ve suggested what we have, and your bass and kick will sound epic!
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