Songwriters in the Kitchen!

Board index => Songwriting Ingredients => Topic started by: Mar T. on December 21, 2016, 22:05:39

Title: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on December 21, 2016, 22:05:39
Hi all,

I'm always having trouble in my mixes to get the low frequencies under control (<100 Hz).
Things I've learned are:
-If you want a louder bass you should not boost the bass track in the low frequencies, but find the mid/high-mid range where the 'character' of the bass lives and boost that.
-Kick and bass are in each others frequency space so only one of them can be dominant. I often choose to cut the kick frequency from the bass track to give the punch of the kick room.
But these are no 'truth's' , just my personal findings.
Does anybody with production affinity have a golden rule for managing the lowest frequencies of a mix?

Cheers!
:mart:
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Leonard Scaper on December 22, 2016, 01:21:46
For any of you who are just getting into mixing your songs in the Digital Audio Workstation of choice this is a very good topic.

The one single thing that made my mixes start to sound "listenable" was the use of High Pass Filter (HPF). There is so much energy down there in the basement.....it accumulates in your mixes. I admit to having a HPF on almost every track....along with an EQ cut in the 200-400 Hz range.

There are a lot of things to say about low frequency management for specific instruments and I am curious as to what light all of you can shed on this topic. The one thing I'll say is.....once you start filtering it is SO easy to get carried away. I listen back to some of my old mixes and they sound....anemic....from being too heavy handed with HPF.
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on December 22, 2016, 01:31:19
Hey @Leonard Scaper , yes High Pass filters on almost every track that's a really important measure imo!! But I had the same experience as you.. They tend to make the mix sound too anemic (love that word). So I think we have to choose the right frequency and not 'cut' there, but roll off with care.
Most of the time I don't use HPF's on the kick channel and I do on the bass channel (when I want to emphasize the kick punch).
I was thinking: maybe compression works better in the 1-100Hz area than equalization? We could drive a compressor on the bass track with the kick and make room for the kick that way? The bass then becomes the 'sustain' of a note triggered by the kick.. But that's when you prefer the kick punch over the bass punch of course.. Just thinking out loud...
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Leonard Scaper on December 22, 2016, 01:59:11
@Mar T. .....a band specific or multi-band compressor might work well for that. But compression might work against you by bringing the low end noise floor up. I always like to filter before compression to get rid of the very low stuff that might get enhanced through compression. Compression can get tricky....a HPF is SO easy to use.

I don't do drums in my material so I can't add much to that part of the conversation. For acoustic guitar, though, I'll say to listen carefully to what the filter is doing as they can introduce phasing if the slope is too steep. I'll often times use a shelf rather than a pass filter for acoustic guitar.

You mentioned before about how raising the low end of the bass might sound like the right thing to do but can cause problems and I definitely agree with that. I use an old (1969) Gibson EB3 bass for my stuff and it has a very round and full tone. I always filter it moderately, even though that may seem counter-intuitive. I have found that bass guitar will cut through a mix nicely with a little filtering and a gentle boost at around 700-900 Hz.

btw, did you know that a HPF will always cause a small frequency bump at the specific frequency that it is set at?
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on December 22, 2016, 02:15:03
@Mar T. .....a band specific or multi-band compressor might work well for that. But compression might work against you by bringing the low end noise floor up. I always like to filter before compression to get rid of the very low stuff that might get enhanced through compression. Compression can get tricky....a HPF is SO easy to use.

I don't do drums in my material so I can't add much to that part of the conversation. For acoustic guitar, though, I'll say to listen carefully to what the filter is doing as they can introduce phasing if the slope is too steep. I'll often times use a shelf rather than a pass filter for acoustic guitar.

You mentioned before about how raising the low end of the bass might sound like the right thing to do but can cause problems and I definitely agree with that. I use an old (1969) Gibson EB3 bass for my stuff and it has a very round and full tone. I always filter it moderately, even though that may seem counter-intuitive. I have found that bass guitar will cut through a mix nicely with a little filtering and a gentle boost at around 700-900 Hz.

btw, did you know that a HPF will always cause a small frequency bump at the specific frequency that it is set at?
That's valuable lessons learned @Leonard Scaper ! Thanks for sharing.. I agree with 'filter before compress' concerning the 'noise floor' argument..
Okay! I'll expiriment with a shelf instead of a pass for ac. guitar. Just bought a matched pair of (budget) Rode M5's to accurately record the acoustic in stereo, let's see what shelving does..
Yes! I know that the HPF will boost that specific frequency, but only because I've seen that visually. So maybe in the chain we should add an EQ to the track we're high passing and make a tight Q cut at the rolloff frequency then?
Great debate Leonard, I hope some other kitcheners will share their experience/lessons learned as well, maybe we'll find the secret to natural sounding but tight lows together!
:mart:
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Jambrains on December 22, 2016, 11:52:19
These is what I do regulary
- As already said HPF on all tracks esp. important for e.g. distorted electric guitars that compete with the bass/kick/whatever in the lower freqencies
- Compare frequencies of kick against bass guitar, bass against guitars and so on and e.g cut the bass guitar at the freq of the kick that like and the other way around.
This video show this process in a great way (and Pro Q is a great plug, esp with a touch screen)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSNYBbPAvKE
- Compressor (often multi band) to tame the bass guitar and perhaps a limiter as well if the bass is basically pumping put 1/8 notes.
- Putting an eq with mid/side capabilities on the master bus and HPF the sides works great.
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Jim on December 22, 2016, 13:50:35
Thanks for the video @Jambrains! Really useful stuff there...I wondered if one could do the same (with the Mid/Side split) in Reaper without having to download that tool and you can apparently, using a free plugin called "Voxengo's MSED"...I'll have to try it out when I mix my next song.  ;D

More info at https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/ms-mastery
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: M57 on December 26, 2016, 13:59:51
@Jambrains I don't have it, and it's not cheap, but that Pro-Q plug is by far considered to be the best in the game in the on-line circles I frequent ..and that's a great video. Thanks for sharing that.

@Leonard Scaper I too have similar EQ issues, in my case the 180-300 range. However, I'm convinced that fixing it shouldn't be so much a function of processing it correctly than recording it better in the first place.  I don't know what your space is like, but if it's in your home and anything like mine - it's not big.  If the height of your ceiling is in the 8' range and one of the dimensions of your room is in the 12' range, there's practically no way you don't have some nasty room nodes going on in that frequency range. I don't doubt you already know this, but treatment is a huge part of the equation.

@all With that in mind, and this is going slightly OT, but it is highly relevant. Pro engineers (at least with acoustic sources) need to use much less processing because they record it right in the first place.  The music, arrangement and musicianship aside, the way we record, the space we record in, and the equipment we use to record is much more important than all the equipment we use down the line to capture and fix it.  Cut to the chase - The pros use optimal spaces to record. Most of us don't have that luxury and it puts us at a huge disadvantage.

My solution, and I believe the solution of many home recordist types is rather than to get the room sounding good, take the room out of the equation! After all, now there are absolutely fabulous IR convolution reverbs out there that can put you in any space you can imagine ..and a few you can't.  The way to do this is to treat the room.  I've spent more on treatment for my room than I have on any one piece of equipment. No lie.  I don't doubt that most home recordists have woefully under-treated rooms because it's expensive, and not as sexy as equipment - yet, IFAIC it may very well be the most important equipment I have in my room.

All that said, and finally getting back OT, we can tame the highs pretty easily with treatment, but Bass is the supreme enemy in the home studio, and the most expensive to manage.  In addition to baffles on the walls and ceiling and some gobos on wheels, I've put traps in the corners of my room, and I know there are still problems, especially in that high bass frequency area (call it 100-300 hz)  Even using some sophisticated programs and getting a pro to come and move around baffles and furniture to optimal positions, there's just no way to tame it all. We do the best we can.
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on December 27, 2016, 02:19:33
Hey @M57 ow yes, I completely agree room treatment is most important when recording real instruments... I'm afraid not many of us (including me) have the budget to do that, so most of us will have to deal with the artifacts.. For acoustic recordings I only have experience (and that means I'm learning) with recording vocals and acoustic guitar (and still learning). Just bought a matched pair of rode m5 (budget) sdc's to try to capture a 'real' acoustic guitar sound and I agree the best is to capture the source as accurate as possible. Results will follow soon next year, busy working on a new track with a prominent acoustic.
For the bass I'm mostly using vsti's (that have been sampled in perfect treated rooms). For drums idem. And still it's hard to make the lows sound tight, phat, thick but also 'tamed' and 'managed'.
In my last collab (party night, together with jim) I cut a hole in the bass track (eq wise) where the kick is. I also pushed some of the higher bass guitar frequencies to the sides so the center provides enough 'room' for the vox to live in. And I used a multiband compressor and compressed the low end a bit (and made up gain) to create some punch. It should sound okay, but I'm not sure. Let me know if you have time  ::) ::)

@Jambrains Wow great tutorial.. thanks for sharing! Great tools there and just like @Jim I love how they visualize the process. HPF on all tracks was my advice earlier, but I noticed that's also making the mix sound too clean when not applied with care.. Just bought a dead-neutral-sounding 'reference' headphoneset AKG K702 and I was shocked when I listened to my mixes (but also when I listened to some commercial mixes through the same headphones).
I think we should be carefull to not 'cut' the bass frequencies too drastically, in most of the occasions I expirimented with a gentle roll-off below a certain frequency (depends on the instrument and the context) is enough. If you want the result to sound natural, which in my case is always true.
I agree with the compression on the lows to tame, but also add punch...

Let's keep expirimenting and share experiences in this thread, imo thats very useful. Thanks all for replying so far..
:mart:
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Bill from November Sound on December 27, 2016, 14:56:20
This is great thread! Thank you all for sharing this information and advice. I can't add nearly as much to the conversation as the rest of you but I want it to keep going.
I spend a lot of time with reference tracks and I try to get my music to sound like the songs that I admire. I feel like I'm getting closer.
Anyway, I want to add that I notice the low end of my favorite pro songs hits a magic number on the meter (voxengo span, etc..) and then just stops. The bass still sounds so full but it never goes above that number. My song visually has to hit a higher number on the meter to aurally compare. I'm not sure if they use a multiband limiter or something to achieve that or if it is exclusively done with EQ early on. 
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Jambrains on December 27, 2016, 15:51:35
@Jambrains Just bought a dead-neutral-sounding 'reference' headphoneset AKG K702 and I was shocked when I listened to my mixes (but also when I listened to some commercial mixes through the same headphones).
:mart:

@Mar T. you call that a shock? Download the trial from here https://sonarworks.com/headphones/overview/ , select your K702 from the list of supported phones and listen.... now we are talking SHOCK!
At it is still a generic calibration albeit based on a number of K702s  but still only accurate to +/-3db.
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on December 27, 2016, 16:05:46
Hey @Jambrains wow man that's another fantastic tip, actually I was already searching for such a tool! Thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Dara on March 16, 2017, 19:32:00
I second cutting all low frequencies from all non bass instruments, cut as much as possible... even as much as you dare... sometimes this will make said instrument sound not quite right if listening on solo, but when played in context with the entire mix can sound great.  (if not just back off a little on the Q until it sounds right).

All is instruments add a low freq hum, even if it looks like nothing is registering down there, there will be some sort of noise, (room ambience, interface and hardware noise floor etc).  This may not be an issue on it's own, however when you add another 5 to 10 tracks or more, this minuscule sound has just been amplified 5 to 10 times or more.  Cut this = Getting to keep more bass in other instruments.     
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Knate on March 16, 2017, 21:12:17
Ive learned to manage my low end a little better recently with a few tips I recieved around the block. 

I always HPF the kick and bass at about 38hz to start.  I then bring up a VU meter plugin in an FX/Return track, send the master output of each track to the VU send and get the kick sitting where I want it to.  I calibrate the VU so that the kick touches -3db, then bring up the bass fader up until the two are hitting together at 0db.  Honestly, as long as the bass is adding 3db to the kick, it doesnt really matter at what measure the kick hits to start.

Ive found that my bass tracks live at about 80hz and my kick sounds punchiest at around 100hz.  Ill cut and add 1-2 db to each instruments at those frequecies and use a pretty high Q to make sure that they arent overlapping too much.  Then I cut 2-3 db from the 200-400 range and set the Q so that it covers that range without overdoing it. 

Next I like to give the bass a little low mid boost at about 500hz and set a LPF at 2khz to clear up the high end for the guitars.

Then, Ill HPF the other instruments as high as I can to clear space in the low end, usually at around 400hz. 

Ive historically struggled mightily in this area, but going this route has stopped me from pulling out my hair over it.  Im getting better at it too, and West Ridge Blues is the best example of it.  Easily, easily, easily the best low end Ive managed to achieve yet. 
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on April 07, 2017, 04:23:54
Just wondering: is everything about this topic already said? Let us know!
Title: Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Levander on June 10, 2017, 16:29:28
These is what I do regulary
- As already said HPF on all tracks esp. important for e.g. distorted electric guitars that compete with the bass/kick/whatever in the lower freqencies
- Compare frequencies of kick against bass guitar, bass against guitars and so on and e.g cut the bass guitar at the freq of the kick that like and the other way around.
This video show this process in a great way (and Pro Q is a great plug, esp with a touch screen)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSNYBbPAvKE
- Compressor (often multi band) to tame the bass guitar and perhaps a limiter as well if the bass is basically pumping put 1/8 notes.
- Putting an eq with mid/side capabilities on the master bus and HPF the sides works great.

That is probably the best EQ tutorial I've ever seen. Huge thanks for sharing.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Dutchbeat on June 10, 2017, 18:39:38
ha, that is always nice to hear @Levander, that the information offered by fellow songwriters and mixers (from @Jambrains here) on this forum is useful and being used by others  ::thumb:: ::thumb:: ::thumb:: ::thumb::
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: budhabuilding on September 15, 2017, 15:10:48
Besides using EQ i use the next plugins to get the best low end

for basses
Bass professor https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=o2wOpaUhF9Q
Wave maxxbass

Also double the basssynth/guitar a octave up and blend it just a little in....

I use small speakers like auratone... (avantones) i should hear a kick and the bass on those speakers. So a mix my bas sound now much higher.. ;-)

For kick
MDA Subsynth (sin osc under kick)
Maxxbass
kick2

For making the low end mono i use
wave s1 shuffler


For checking the bass....
Evouyn noisebud
SPAN'

hope this helps ;-)
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Mar T. on September 17, 2017, 02:24:02
Hey @budhabuilding , man I was completely unaware of Reapack (only for Reaper users), thanks for sharing that info!
Just played with the bass professor and I loooove it! Yes, this helps!! For other Reaper users: check this out!!

Cheers!
:mart:
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Bill from November Sound on September 22, 2017, 23:26:04
Can anyone offer me some advice on this?

I'm working with reference tracks. I play mine and I play the professional tracks and they "sound" close. But, on the voxengo span or other meters they "look" just slightly different. Mine have a slight "bump" in the lows between 80hz - 180hz. The pro tracks always hold that part down .... their tracks look pretty flat.

I know I shouldn't try to mix or master with my eyes but it sounds like I'm closer than I've ever been.   
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Roberto Cianchetta on November 01, 2017, 15:24:34
My oh my,

the low frequencies are my nightmare!!! ahah.

I try to listen to reference songs which I know well and that may be similar to the song I am mixing, and try to understand why and how they sound so much better.

When I started mixing my album, Philosophy Of Wine, I had as first and almost constant reference the James Taylor's album OCTOBER ROAD. I think the the Kickdrum and the bass are in that album really something magical (I am speaking, of course, of a certain kind of music; that would not apply for hard rock)!

Another album I use as reference, even if it is not the sound I am looking for, is THE NIGHTFLY - Donald Fagen. I think that sound is great, first of all because it sound very good on every speaker you will use...!

On the other hand, I am pretty sure that the mastering it is a great deal in getting the right balance where the mixing lacks. And to do a good master you need a really good equipment (you can't do that at home, if you want to get it real professional)IMO :)

 
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: BLACK MIRROR on July 02, 2018, 10:47:27
what a great topic... excuse me, I'm gonna resurrect it.
Low frequencies are everybody's nightmare...
I also learned one day that an HPF was necessary on all tracks, but very carefully, @Leonard Scaper, you are right that this vice can give you anemic songs.
But little by little I decided to take back and let again "whole" instruments if the song allows it. It depends on the number of elements you have and the simultaneous confluence of they. In some cases, less complex songs you can afford to allow stay instruments without HPF and this adds a haze that gives a lot of character. In dirt there is often wealth. It is my opinion.
Particularly with the basses, it is an obsessive torment ... Fundamental for me is to find firstly the character and growl around 1500hz and strongly increase it, then let it to live in the 50-100hz. Never apply an HPF above 49hz. If any note booms too much over there in the low, I apply a dynamic eq with a particular Q-node narrow to that frequency, forcing it to attenuate it only when it exceeds. It is te equivalent to a band compresor but more selective still… Finally I add a one band compresor to the whole bass until character is sufficiently clear and the roundness pleasant, finding the balance between both.. not too much compressed at ratio 2:1.
Sometimes, while listening, I have to kneel under the table or go to the adjoining bathroom to check that everything is ok... jajajajaj
but this way is just what works for me... um, I think... you can never be confident with the basses.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Leonard Scaper on July 02, 2018, 15:12:12
In dirt there is often wealth.

Well said.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Timothy Smith on December 29, 2018, 03:53:21
I love these kinds of conversations. This stuff has always been interesting to me.  The Pro-Q is one of the very best EQ's for sure. I almost picked it up this year but I missed the sale. I won't pay that much for an EQ. I'm cheap. From what I understand there isn't a huge advantage  buying Pro-Q 3 if you have Pro-Q 2 already.

A few thoughts are rolling around in my grey matter on this subject.  There  are EQ's with exceptional filters and others with not so good ones. Hence the reason so many will pay 249.00 for Pro-Q.  I have a few that I think are really nice for a lot less $$. Dynamic EQ's are especially helpful in taming frequencies because they only act when needed as opposed to  a standard EQ that notches all the time. A mix might look good on the GUI but not sound  as good as it could because over chopping frequencies is bad too. Just my .000002. In particular, two very good dynamic EQ's are Melda's M-dynamic EQ and Ozone's Dynamic EQ.  I only use these in extreme situations. Very similar to a multiband compressor but more useful in my opinion. 

Concerning limiters MCDSP's ML4000 isn't the most intuitive to use, but it's amazing in what it can go. Requires either a dongle  or iLok cloud to use.  They are always having a sale. The best time to buy it. That limiter /compressor  can easily select which frequencies to limit /compress or expand and has helped me a lot.

I could go on for probably too long about bass management. I use IK Multimedia's ARC 2. Check it out for frequency control.

I use two LD condensers to record acoustic, mainly because aside from a very cheap pencil mic they are my best mics. I get the typical small room box effect from LF, MF buildup. Having the room full of junk helps me a little. I have learned the optimal distances and placement for the mics, then I simply notch out the bad ranges. I don't have a hardware compressor, so I sometimes track through my plugins with a slight delay.
Using a cardoid pattern I manage to eliminate most of the room.  I'm sure I'm not doing as well as I could if I had a dedicate preamp and treated space.. I'm using the inputs on my Focusrite Scarlett 2nd gen. People rave about these interfaces and they are decent. Nowhere near as good as a wound transformer pre amp though. I did manage a fairly decent acoustic guitar recording here-
https://soundcloud.com/starise/scenes-of-granduer

Like most others I use what I have and I gets me by. One day I might get  one. Too many other things to buy right now.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Leonard Scaper on December 29, 2018, 10:35:21
That is a very nice piece of music @Timothy Smith . I do like the acoustic guitar sound that you achieved using two mics like that. With two microphones capturing the complex sound of a guitar you will always be dealing with phasing issues as the sound waves get captured at differing times no matter how carefully you place the mics.

The cool part about that is that phasing can give you a very musical sound if you work with it. Sounds like you got it right in this piece. When I was using two mics I would nudge one of the tracks around very carefully so that it lined up differently with the other. Each tiny move (1 ms) would change the sound in very noticeable ways. That can be a very creative exercise....and it can even help manage the low end.

These days I use one mic on acoustic guitar and I listen carefully to the low end when I am placing the location of the sound hole in relationship to the microphone.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Timothy Smith on December 29, 2018, 22:24:04
Thank you @Leonard Scraper  for your comments here and for bringing this up. I should have mentioned phasing or comb filtering issues are possible when using two mics. It has taken me some time to get the mics just right. Not directly in front of the sound hole the sound hole. I mostly keep the mics fairly close to one another. I have mine on two mic swing arms mounted to either side of my desk like the type podcasters use. I swing them into place when I'm ready to record. Saves a lot of time messing around with mic stands.

The main advantage to two mics is you can get a stereo effect if the tracks are worked right.  I hadn't thought about shifting one track to compensate. This is a great idea I'll file away for when I do it again.

I sometimes use  the phase switch on one track to flip the signal 180. I don't need to do that very often.

One other thing I do is use a smaller body guitar for most recording. It's a Martin with the smaller body.  I also have a large body but I haven't played it in awhile. The large body cavity tends to make more ruckus  in the low frequencies in my studio.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Leonard Scaper on December 30, 2018, 00:26:12
@Timothy Smith .........great discussion. Curious as to other acoustic players' microphone choices.

I also record only with small body guitars....a Martin 000 and a 1933 Kalamazoo KG-11.
Title: Re: Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Post by: Timothy Smith on December 30, 2018, 01:33:54
I'm jealous @Leonard Scraper. I have a Martin DX. It's the low end model. Sounds surprisingly good though.  I have been eyeing the Mahogany Martins. I'm an average built guy and they fit me perfectly. The large body is sometimes a stretch.