December 8, 2020
When it comes to the low end, the more sounds fighting for space, the muddier the sound. Therefore you want to keep your low end instruments to a minimum.
For most tracks, you’re only going to have two instruments taking up the low end. The kick, and the bass. All other instruments can have a high-pass filter added to remove any muddy bottom end frequencies.
In the following clip, I’ve got a kick and a bass with no EQ applied (besides a low pass filter I’ve added to the overall mix) to show you how muddy the bottom end can be without careful EQing.
To clean up the low end, you have to make a crucial decision, which instrument gets the sub frequencies, and which gets the low end. This all depends on the sounds you’ve chosen. For example, if you have an 808 style kick with a deep sub, you’re going to want to pair it with a bass that hits a little bit higher. Likewise, with a deep sub bass (anyone remember dubstep?) you’ll want a higher kick.
To achieve this separation more clearly, I add an EQ to each track and emphasis and attenuate each sound so that they mirror their counterpart. For example, if I’ve got a track with a sub kick and a higher bass, I’ll increase the sub kick around 40-80Hz and increase the bass around 100-200Hz. Then, I’ll attenuate the sub kick around 100-200Hz, and attenuate the bass around 40-80Hz. For every other track, I’ll add a high-pass filter to around 200+Hz.
In our example, we’ve got a sub bass sound, and a higher frequency kick drum.
Now we’ve added the EQ, let’s hear the difference with the low pass filter added to the entire track
You’ll notice that the sound is a lot less “wobbly”, the kick punches through the bass and the bass keeps the deep powerful punchiness.
Here’s the same track with the low pass filter removed.
Cleaning the low end mix on a track without a clear kick/bass is a very similar process. All you need to do is determine which sounds should hit at which ranges, and attenuate and increase as necessary.
Another technique you can use to separate the low end is sidechain compression. Sidechain compression has a more pronounced effect than equalization alone. It can sound pretty great on dance style tracks.
Whatever technique you choose to use to clean up the low end of your tracks, make sure you take the time and effort to do it! It makes a huge difference to the final quality of the mix.