This is a bit of a contentious subject, and one that is talked about a lot, but it is an important one! Low end is a crucial part of every mix, and if it is not done properly, it can throw off the entire mix and leave you with less than satisfactory results. This is why I have put together 8 tips that will help you get a better low end!
1. Be Aware of the Limitations of Your Room
My room is a pretty good size, we’ve got some stuff built into the walls, in the corners, and I’ve formed a very nice equilateral where I sit. However, it is still far from perfect! It is definitely not an anechoic chamber or the perfect listening environment. Since it is not perfect, it is important that I know the limitations of my room and how things sound in it.
No matter the size of your room or what kind of setup you have, no have to be aware of what your speakers are going to reproduce and how things are going to sound in your room. This is where reference tracks come in handy! You need to make sure you are listening to a lot of reference tracks and referencing your own mixes in lots of different environments because this will teach you how your room sounds and how to get the best results.
In addition to reference tracks, don’t be afraid to check on headphones! Some headphones have a lot of low end, so checking there may help you hear something you were not able to hear before!
2. Do You Need a Sub?
Adding a sub in a small room can be painful, but you can and should add a sub because some small drivers don’t reproduce much below 100Hz or sometimes even higher up than that. Although I do recommend a sub to check the low end, I don’t mix with it on all the time!
With a sub it is also important to make sure that the balance is right. Play lots of reference tracks to make sure it sounds really nice and balanced, because if they are pumping, you’ll end up not putting enough low end in the mix, but if they are too quiet you’ll end up pushing the low end even more, and you’ll end up completely throwing off the mix.
3. It’s Not Always About Turning Up the Low Lows!
Having low lows on your kick/bass is only part of the story! When you have a kick drum tucked underneath, you heard a “thump”, but without any snap or click to it, it won’t feel like it is loud enough. If you can add a little bit of click/attack every time the kick drum plays, it will actually help the kick quite dramatically. It’s all about getting that balance between the low lows on the kick and just enough snap in it that you know it’s there. Cranking it up so it’s the only thing you notice in the mix is not the way to go!
4. Create Character with your Low End Instruments
You may have really great low end instruments with really pure tones, but your mix will sound even better if you add some character and personality to those low end sounds! I am a big fan of paralleling and using that to end some personality. To do this, simply duplicate the signal you want to add character to, and totally mess up the second version of it! Then bring it way down, and slowly blend it back in. This will blend with the high-mids and give some great character to your low end.
5. Create Consistent Low End
Sometimes, you may have inconsistencies in your low end, as instruments might be uneven and players are not always able to compensate for that. This is where I love to use the Waves MV2 plugin! There are obviously many plugins and methods you can use to get this effect, but what this plugin does is take the low level information and the high end information and pull them together, smoothing out any of those inconsistencies in the low end. This plugin creates a consistent, pumping low end and makes the low end sound great!
6. Decide what the Lowest Instrument is Going to Be
In classic rock or pop music, the lowest instrument was always the kick drum or bass guitar, but now, with EDM and other types of modern music, you might have a synth bass or some other sound that is much lower than your kick drum. If you do have a sound lower than the traditional bass or kick, that is totally fine, but it is now up to you to make a decision as to which one will be the lowest point in the mix. Having competing things in the low end is not going to make your mix sound good!
7. Proper Speaker Placement
Proper speaker placement is more than just the equilateral triangle we all aim for! You should make sure your speakers are a little bit away from the wall, that you have some symmetry in your room, among other things! Not everyone has a purpose-built studio, but no matter what kind of space you are in, you have to help yourself out as much as you can. When setting up your equipment, try to avoid corners, and instead find a length of wall that allows you to create some symmetry. For example, a wall that places a window on one side of your setup and then a large length of nothing-ness on the other side is not ideal! Work with the space you have and set yourself up in a way that gives you the best listening environment you can create in that space!
8. Don’t be afraid to high pass!
You don’t need to keep the low end on the acoustic guitar, and the keyboard, and everything else because it all just turns into this horrible mud! Pick the instruments you need to highlight the low end on – like the kick and bass – and work with that, removing the low end from everything else. If you keep the low end on everything, you won’t be able to find the bass and kick drums and bring them out enough to make your mix sound great. Also, if you have that much low end going on, you won’t be able to get the mix loud enough!
There’s a lot that can be said on this topic, and I’ve really only scratched the surface! What are your experiences with low end and what strategies to you use to get a great sounding low end?
Watch the full video below to hear more about how to get a great sounding low end! If you have a tip that you want to share with us, please leave it in the comments under the video!