The Low End of your mix is critical
The Low End or Sub Bass region of your recodings is critical to getting a professional mix. It’s therefore important you’re able to quickly check the low end of your mix in your DAW.
In this tutorial we’re going to use a low pass filter to focus our ears in on the frequencies in the Sub and bass range and compare our mix to a professionally mastered track. Sub bass is usually defined as anything below 70-90 Hz, but here we will be using the broad strokes of the bottom end, from 120Hz down.
How to Quickly Check the Low End of your Mix
Step 1 – Reference Tracks
In this example we’re going to check the low end and Sub on a House piano track. This example had a 4 on the floor kick drum and bass guitar layered with a sub bass. Although each genre of music has pretty specific sounds and qualities within the sub range, this technique will work for you in any genre. All you need is your own mix, a reference track (fig 1 below) and some basic skills with EQ in your DAW.
For this example, for a reference track I chose ‘One More Time’ by Daft Punk which fitted the genre of my track. Pick a pro track with a bass and kick balance and mix relationship you’d like to achieve.
Step 2 – Load a graphic EQ on the Stereo Out
Our next step is to load an EQ plugin onto the Stereo Out channel. I chose the simple Channel EQ from logic for this example (see fig 2 below), but any EQ plugin will work as long as it has a low pass filter. A low pass filter is just an EQ filter that allows only frequencies below a cutoff frequency you choose to ‘pass’ through and be heard by you.
Step 3 – Low Pass Filter
Our next step is to switch on the low pass filter on the far right hand side of the EQ (by clicking it) and sweep the cutoff frequency down to around 120 Hz. You can see what this looks like if done correctly in the following pic (fig 3 below).
With this set up, you should now be able to listen to your track and only hear the low end frequencies below around 120Hz.
Step 4 – Listen and Learn
Now you can begin to carefully check the low end of your mix. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend loading a reference track in the same genre into your session. When you do, you can hear what is really going on in a professional mix in the sub 120Hz range. Things to listen out for include:
- How do the relative levels of sub bass and kick (low end) on your mix compare with the reference?
- How long does your Kick drum decay last in the sub frequency range?
- How much decay to the bass instruments have in this range?
- BONUS – is the sub bass actually always mono in the reference mixes?
This is a super simple way to quickly check the low end of your mix. Sub woofers are useful in some cinematic and sound design situations but a lot of producers prefer not to use them. Another tactic you can try is to get hold of a sub pac (heard great reports on these for handling this exact situation). Let me know how you get on with this technique or any questions in the comments.