Dubstep Mixing Guide – Kick and Bass Mixing

In this part we are going to look at the Low cut, and mixing the kick and the bass drum.

Low Cut

First things first, you will want to add a low cut filter on EVERY track except the bass. You can set this where ever you like but should not be any lower than 90hz other wise there will be frequencies interfering with the bass. At around 200hz you will start to lose punch, and 3-400 will cut out muddiness.

Mixing the kick By adding a low cut at 70/100hz, using aggressive compression with a ratio of 6 to 8:1 and a very fast attack setting (1.5 – 3.5 ms), with about 8DB gain reduction then adding a 3/4DB mid boost (3-5khz) and high boost (6-8khz) the kick drum will stand out a lot more in the dubstep mix. Power tip: When using compression on dubstep the attack can be the most important factor. The common mistake people make when starting out is to use a lot of attack thinking that improves the sound, however the attack function is actually the control of how fast the compressor starts to work, effectively a long attack on a punchy sound will have no compression effect.

By using 1-4 ms on dubstep kicks and dubstep snares you are allowing the natural ‘snap’ of the sound through (in the first few milliseconds) then the compressor jumps in and compresses the rest of the sound. The kick drum is the 2nd most important element of a dubstep track and should be the loudest part peaking at 0DB on a digital desk and +3DB on an analog desk. It might sound strange adding mids and tops on a ‘bass drum’ but if you listen carefully to a classic 909 kick you will notice a lot of its punch actually comes in the top frequencies, go ahead and run a low pass filter on a 909 and you’ll see that it sounds pathetic with out the top. This took me a while to learn, I used to low pass my kicks to around 200hz and could never get them sounding good.

This was because I presumed all the energy was coming at the bass end. Here are the attributes of the kick drum: The Boom: This is the low end area that hits you in the belly, is found around 80-110hz The Smack: This is the attack area of and the area that the hear hears most as defining hits, found in the 3-5khz range, I tend to use a fairly high boost of up to 5 or even 6 db using a wide Q. The Click: This works with the smack and massively helps define a kick drum in the mix, found in the 6-8khz range, again a wide boost in this area works well to define the drum. The muddy area: By cutting a thin band between 250hz -300hz you can effectively remove any unwanted mud (mud is essentially UN-clarity) Other compression recepies: Hard hitting: Ratio 8:1, 10db gain reduction, 3ms attack, 200ms release In your face: Ratio 6:1, 8db gain reduction, 2.5ms attack, 200ms release Subtle: Ratio 3:1, 6db gain reduction, 4ms attack, 200ms release Mixing the Bass: A good starting point is to have an EQ to remove any muddy area and a slight boost were it hits your most.

If your bass sounds light in comparison with the kick use a high cut to remove the top end, thus increasing the bottom end. Then run the EQ’d signal into a compressor with a ratio of around 4:1, fast attack, and gain reduction of 4db. Don’t get in to the mind set that you can’t EQ the sound in a certain way because it make the sound different from how it should sound, it has to work well with the kick and have its own space or the result will be a messy low end with clashing frequencies. You can make hard hitting / dirty dance music, that is also well produced and has good separation. The sub of the bass ranges from 30 – 60hz, but can creep up as far as 100hz. You must strive to get the sub right, as too much sub might sound wicked on a small system, but could blow the cones or amps and a larger system. A good way to check is to listen through headphones and for a few seconds turn them right up, the kick should be making them buzz, and the sub should be making them buzz the same amount. If they are really buzzing like they sound like they are going to break on the bass notes then roll off some sub by using a low shelf at 49khz with 2 or 3db of gain reduction will remove the excess energy in that region. It’s now a good idea to add an open hi hat, set a rough volume for it and then listen to see if there are any harmonics that shouldn’t be there between the real bass and the hats. If there is, again, using parametric, get hold of those frequencies in the bass and EQ them out.