• Mix/Production: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
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« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 04:22:29 by Mar T. »
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:


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #1 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.
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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #2 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...


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #3 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?


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #4 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:


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #5 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)

- 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.
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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #6 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


Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #7 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.


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #8 on: December 27, 2016, 02:19:33
« Last Edit: December 27, 2016, 02:21:32 by Mar T. »
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:


Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #9 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. 
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #10 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.


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #11 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!


Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #12 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.     


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Re: How to manage the low frequencies in your mix?
Reply #13 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. 


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