Mixing Bass and Kick Drum

Mixing Bass and Kick Drum

The human ear is not really sensitive to sub and bass frequencies as compared to high frequencies. That is why it can be pretty hard to get a well balanced low-end in a mix. In this tutorial I’ll show you a few techniques you can use for mixing bass and kick drum sounds.

I’ll be using audio and pictures to demonstrate everything to make it easier for you. Check out the audio example below:

As you can hear, the 2 sounds I chose are not really working well but with a little more processing they can sound a lot better. The kick is sounding good so it wont need a lot of processing, just a few eq cuts will work. The bass is the one that needs more processing.

Let’s jump right in and see how we can mix this kick and bass using eq, compression, a stereo image effect and distortion.

Before I add any equalizer I’ll start by compressing the bass sound to smooth out all the loud peaks. For the compression settings I used a fast attack and a medium release time. With a gain reduction of -3dB, a ratio of 2:6 and make-up gain of 1dB.

Bass & Kick Drum Blog Post - Compressor

The next thing to do is to mute the bass sound, insert an equalizer in the kick channel. Sweep around the spectrum to find where the kick is dominant especially in the area below 100Hz. The kick I’m working on had a lot of energy at 37Hz, 80Hz, some mud at 413Hz and a nice bottom end at 56Hz.

Then the next thing to do is to check which frequencies is the bass sound dominating. I find out that the bass also has some energy at 55Hz and around 80Hz.

The bass sound had a lot of rumble so I had to do drastic equalizing on it to make it work with the kick. For the kick, I only removed the mud and created a small boost at 56Hz.

For the bass I had to cut 37Hz, 83Hz and 111Hz to remove the rumble noise and make the sound a lot smoother. I also created a boost at 3kHz to make the notes of the bass more audible. Then I sent both the kick and bass to a bus channel to compress both to glue them together.

Just a small amount of compression with a gain reduction of -1.7dB. The compressor glued the 2 sounds together and helped the kick dominate the low frequencies and the bass to dominate the low-mids and upper-mids.

Bass & Kick Drum Blog Post - Kick Drum Eq Settings

Bass & Kick Drum Blog Post - Bass Eq Settings

To add some final touches I added a stereo image plugin to make the bass a bit wide. This just helps the kick drum dominate the center of the stereo field and make the bass sit well in the mix.

To fatten up the bass sound I also added distortion and this also made the bass sound warmer. If you follow all the steps above and your bass is still not working with your kick drum then try side chain compression.

If that fails as well then simply make a big cut  on the bass with a wide Q at 50Hz and boost the kick with a wide Q at 50Hz. If that fails as well then do the same thing at 80Hz. One of these has to work and if not then think about changing one  of the sounds, whether the kick or the bass.

I think after all that processing, the bass and kick sound a lot better. Check out the audio samples below to hear the difference between the raw and processed version. Also make sure that you avoid processing tools such as reverb on low-end instruments because reverb tends to push sounds at the back of the mix. So your sounds will lack the punch you desire.

Hope you found the tutorial useful, to learn more about bass and kick compression as well as eq then read my previous blog posts and leave your comments below.

Before

After

2 comments

  1. Great post! One thing I’m stuck on is when to process the kick and bass together versus processing the kick with the rest of the percussion. You have great posts on both methods but it’s not clear how to settle on one over the other. Thanks!

    • If I was forced to choose one approach I would say process kick and bass first then the rest of the percussion after. But there’s no one best way though.

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