Using Sidechaining to get Better Bass

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Raveshaper
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Post 10 Jul 2015

I have found that a good way of getting a bit more presence in the low end of a mix is to insert a Line Mixer 6:2 into the signal path of the bass itself, then route the aux send into an MClass Compressor that is placed across a sound or sounds that are in a higher register.

If you set the attack and decay of the MClass to the minimum and play with the other settings, you can feed in a small amount of the bass sound and drive down other parts of the mix to make a bit more room. You want to do this gently. Only apply as much of the low end into the sidechain as you need to make the lower frequencies create a just barely perceptible "rippling" in the high mids/top end.

You can try applying this to the vocal, but I recommend not sidechaining your vocal using this method.

You still want to sidechain the bass itself with your kick or ghost hit. This is an added layer of sidechaining that can give you more bottom end in musical genres that really need that to push through.

For a ghost hit to drive down the bass, I recommend using a Subtractor with Attack, Sustain, and Release on the amp envelope set to zero, Decay set just high enough to cause a very fast transient. Works very well.
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Noise
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Post 10 Jul 2015

I will take this advice for a spin :)
Love this tips!
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normen
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Post 10 Jul 2015

Aside from this kind of "fix it in the mix" approach, the best way to make kicks and bass work well is to choose the right sounds and to get the composition and arrangement right so that they support each other ;)

That said, the sidechaining approach can be very effective if you have very busy/dense stuff to mix, not being dismissive here - just wanted to note this as many people here are composers and mixers at the same time.

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selig
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Post 10 Jul 2015

I've done both casual and more "scientific" research on the idea that you can "make more room in a mix" with frequency dependent ducking. What I have found is that the amount of ducking required to actually get more headroom is pretty intense. In fact, for typical low frequency ducking, I've not been able to measure any additional headroom even with extreme settings, mainly because the peak energy is so transient and intense. I'd be interested in hearing if anyone has actually been able to lower the overall peak level of a mix (i.e. gain more head room) by this technique.

As for ducking the high frequencies, we are even more sensitive to that range and even a few dBs can often be "heard" as pumping/breathing.

It should be noted you can achieve the same ducking effect with compression, as it's been done for years. The idea is that louder sounds will push the softer sounds back when they enter. I've used this for years via bus compression, something I first heard about on (I believe?) AC/DC records - can't find the reference now, so I may be mis-remembering the details! But the gist of the idea is that you bus similar instruments to a sub-mix and compress there. As one example, if you use this on a vocal bus that includes lead and background vocals, when the lead comes in it will subtly "push back" the bus and the results will be that the background vocals are essentially "ducked" by the lead vocal. The same thing works on guitar/synth busses with lead and rhythm/pad sounds, and to my ears is far more subtle and useful than hard core side-chain ducking.

Also, to the OP, the same thing can be achieved with multi band compression on the mix, with the high frequencies in the bass pushing back the other high frequencies. It should be noted that in cases where the bass is playing all the time, there is no need for this technique - simply use EQ to "carve" out the space for the bass (if you're into the "carve to make space" idea).

Just my 2 cents being shared in case it helps someone, as I don't claim to have superior knowledge here or know more any more than the next guy, etc. YMMV, and all the other usual disclaimers.
:)
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Benedict
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Post 10 Jul 2015

I'm with Selig on this one. It sounds natural as that is the way the human ear/brain works.

If I want the bass to have a stronger punch then I actually do the opposite and take a Gate from the Kik via CV Monster to make an Env shape and wire that to INCREASE the volume of the bass. Little bit of Buss compression on Drums+Bass and it is grooving (well as much as my music grooves anyway). And that I learned from 70's Rock mixing too as it makes the Kik and Bass tight so they sound punchy.

My take on the Mix EQ is to find the cutting point of every instrument in the mix and boost by 1-3db. I only cut if there is a problem, and there rarely is by then. If every instrument is in a different place (except those that are meant to glue) then it sounds nice and clear.

Print it.

:)

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selig
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Post 10 Jul 2015

Benedict wrote:I'm with Selig on this one. It sounds natural as that is the way the human ear/brain works.

If I want the bass to have a stronger punch then I actually do the opposite and take a Gate from the Kik via CV Monster to make an Env shape and wire that to INCREASE the volume of the bass. Little bit of Buss compression on Drums+Bass and it is grooving (well as much as my music grooves anyway). And that I learned from 70's Rock mixing too as it makes the Kik and Bass tight so they sound punchy.

My take on the Mix EQ is to find the cutting point of every instrument in the mix and boost by 1-3db. I only cut if there is a problem, and there rarely is by then. If every instrument is in a different place (except those that are meant to glue) then it sounds nice and clear.

Print it.

:)
I do exactly what you do with your "Mix EQ" technique above, and find it to be the best way to build a dense mix. This is typically done later rather than earlier in the process, after you get basic balances set and begin to discover minor "issue" with tracks disappearing into the mix. The EQ gain then becomes more or less a channel gain - it can be pretty amazing how raising the EQ gain (once you've found the sweet spot) by only a few dB can make the track magically "appear" from the fog of a dense mix, without it dominating the track. :)
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Benedict
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Post 10 Jul 2015

Yes indeed. Mix EQ is the second last thing I do after having a composition and mix I am about to call finished.

:)

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Raveshaper
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Post 11 Jul 2015

This is an example of the sort of "rippling" in the high end I was talking about.

You can definitely get this by brickwalling the mix with an emphasis in the low end shoving everything out of the way, but I have been able to get this sort of sound using the sidechain I described. If anybody with more technical expertise has a "better practice" for achieving this type of result, please share!

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freeQlow
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Post 14 Jul 2015

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