How to blend your kick and bass guitar

Balancing the low end in a mix can be very difficult for beginning mix engineers. Understanding why your mixes sound muddy and lack clarity often takes years to deconstruct for engineers who are using the DIY approach. The kick and bass guitar are undoubtedly the main source of sonic energy in a song and getting them to balance harmoniously will take your mixes to the next level.

Focusing on key elements such as proper equalization and learning how to implement side-chain compression will allow the listener a more enjoyable experience across the frequency spectrum. Below you will learn the basics of learning how to properly blend and mix the kick and bass guitar instruments while maintaining clarity and punch. Let’s get started.

High and Low Pass Filters

Learning how use these two very basic filters will help clear up space in your mixes for all your instruments. A good rule of thumb when mixing is to get rid of what you don’t need. Using a frequency analyzer while mixing on your master bus will give you more insight into the  sonic information that is getting in the way or irrelevant.

Simply put:

  • High Pass filters cut out all the low end
  • Low Pass filters cut out all the high end

Both should be used in every mixing situation and are very effective in creating clarity in a mix

Most instruments contain frequencies that really don’t add anything, or are so audibly low, that you are better off creating room or space for another instrument that do contain those frequencies. Remember that a big part of mixing is creating a balance between all the instruments. Muddiness and dull mixes come from not understanding how to deal with all the frequencies being produced by all the instruments. It can get overwhelming at first but when you start to understand the concept of cutting out what you don’t need, you are well on your way to creating clear and powerful mixes. Let’s exam the photos below to get a good idea on how effect using high and low pass filters can be at eliminating unwanted or irrelevant frequencies.

Sculpting EQ curves

Part of being a mix engineer is understanding which elements of a song need to dominate the sonic spectrum. Which sonic information needs to be enhanced or reduced to capture the attention of the listener. Your job while mixing is to make these critical decisions to ensure a proper well-balanced mix. Using the technique of EQ Sculpting will lead you in furthering this balance of instruments and EQ in a song

EQ sculpting is the art of cutting or enhancing specific or targeted frequencies of two or more instruments. You are basically choosing the dominant instrument, locating its dominant frequency range then sculpting or cutting out a hole in the opposing instruments frequency range. It sounds complicated, but it is a really simple concept that can easily be understood by using a frequency analyzer. Let’s Look at the example below using our kick and bass guitar channels in our DAW.

As you can see, EQ Sculpting is a very simple concept that not only can be used with the kick and bass guitar relationship but across all instruments when mixing. Knowing when and specifically where to add or cut frequencies are attributes of experienced engineers and will ultimately lead to more clients due to your experience.

Side-chain Compression

Finlay, a more advanced technique that is heavily used in modern music production is Side-Chain Compression. Side-Chain Compression involves you understanding your DAW’s “in and out” infrastructure as well as your plugin’s capabilities. Because this is a more advanced setup, we will break down the concept in parts.

In the kick and bass guitar scenario, Sidechain Compression can be simply understood as this:

When the kick hits, the bass guitar will automatically lower its volumes.

 

When you look at this concept at its core it makes sense. Two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In this scenario, as well as most of the time, the kick will almost always dominant over the bass guitar in your mixes. Side-Chain Compression is a technique that can clear room for the kick drum sonically and remove the bass guitar information so that it may shine through loud and proud.

Prior to examining the examples below, understand that the use of compression in this scenario is not to add attack or control dynamics. Many people get this technique confused with the way normal compression is used. Side-Chain Compression is basically an on-demand volume knob that is controlled by the kick drum.

Let’s review the video below to learn the benefits of side-chain compression

Conclusion:

The low end in a song is often the hardest part to mix for most beginner engineers. Because low frequency sound waves are so strong, it can be difficult to blend them harmoniously. Follow the basic techniques of using high and low pass filters, EQ sculpting and side chain compression will control the low end creating a clearer and pleasurable listening experience for the listener. Try these techniques out and see where they take your mixes.