Getting bass and bass drum to play well together in your mix is one of the classic battles of the modern engineer. They just don’t want to meld, but there are plenty of ways you can persuade them to behave.
One tool in that fight, that will be especially of interest to hip hop and EDM producers, is this advanced sidechaining technique. I learned about it over at Modern Mixing, a great resource that we’ve mentioned before. Here is a tidbit that explains the essence of producer Jaycen Joshua’s approach to sidechaining bass:
Jaycen’s reply was that he likes to split his tracks into frequency dependent bands and that included the bass. So sometimes what he’ll do is split the bass into a high frequency band and a low frequency band. From their he will side chain the kick to the low frequency bass so that way only the low frequencies are being ducked out.
The effect is that you get much less of that obvious ducking sound. In fact, you might not even notice it – if you’ve done it right. And isn’t that the point?
You can use this sort of idea on all sorts of signals. At its most basic, it is taking the idea of multi-band processing and simplifying it. You don’t have to use a multi-band processor plugin when you can just split up your frequencies in your DAW.
Bass instruments usually contain a rich mix of information and it is only a portion of those frequencies that are problematic. So you can just focus on the problem areas by using the stock plugins in your DAW. This doesn’t have to be a fancy operation.
But don’t stop there. You can get further out by using one distortion on mids and a different one on highs. You could slap a phaser just on the ultrahighs to give a subtle movement, without affecting the entire signal.
When you unleash your creativity you’ll find that this kind of idea works in a million ways. Another example: Dave Pensado likes to add a layer of glossy highs to some of his mixes by setting up a buss that with some, maybe all of the signals in the mix, and then using a harmonic exciter and high pass filter to create a tinny track that lays over the other instruments. You could do something similar with a single instrument and it doesn’t have to be high frequencies.
A lot of us never fully explore the potential of our DAW. I know I haven’t. I’m still learning things about it. But with some ingenuity and some technical know-how, you can do some pretty advanced things. You just need to see outside the box, when you’re working in the box.