How To Get Your Bass And Kick To Play Nice

Fade

Beat Scientist
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Drums and bass play a very important part in Hip Hop production, as it is the foundation of what makes our beats sound great. However, many times there are drum kicks that just don't sound right, and a lot of that is because it doesn't blend well with the bass notes. Here's how to fix that.

The Kick Drum

The best way to get your kick drum to sound better is to mess around with the EQ. A lot of times, producers tend to apply compression to the drums as soon as possible, but compression is something that should be used sparingly. What you have to remember is that the kick drum is also known as the bass drum. So think about that for a second - the bass drum. That should tell you that the kick drum SHOULD go in unison with the bass, as it's so closely related.

When processing with EQ, the main frequency range you will want to mess with is from 60Hz to 150 Hz. Boosting the 60-80 Hz range is where the kick will really thump, if that's what you're looking for, and cutting around 150 Hz will give you a classic EQ for a kick drum. Then, boosting the highs around the 3 kHz range will add some clarity to the kick so it won't sound muddy along with the bass.

The Bassline

This is where it can become tricky, but it doesn't have to be. When you EQ the bassline, you're basically going to do the opposite of what you did with the kick. Cut around 60-80 Hz, boost around 150 Hz, and boost the highs around 800-900 Hz. When doing this, you have to visualize it because it's much easier that way. You're taking away from the kick and substituting that range by increasing the bass notes.

At this point, your kick and bass should sound great together, but it's not always that simple. The main thing I always see (and experience myself), is that even if you EQ properly, the kick and bass might just not sound good together.

Make Them Fit

A lot of producers are using the famous 808 kick drum on their tracks, and rightfully so. The 808 is super dope, and it sounds great on any beat you make since it thumps hard and acts as a bassline at the same time.

But problems arise that don't need to. The 808 is actually not a drum sound at all, rather, it's a synthetic pulse! The attack, decay, and sustain have all been tweaked so that it sounds like a boomy kick drum, but that's not the case at all.

So with that in mind, it should be very easy to have your 808 kick and drum kick sit well in the mix. The 808 kick is in the 20-80 Hz range, but when mixing, just use your ears and you'll be fine. Both kicks should mesh together and not sound like a kick drum with an 808 underneath.

Some producers like to use analog bass notes, others rely more on synth bass, and it really doesn't matter which you use, just make sure it goes well with your drums. For example, some beats sound great with the "Impeach The President" drum break, but those drums are a bit thin, especially for today's music. You could add a bassline behind that break, but will it sound good? In that situation, you could EQ the break so that it sounds thicker, but it might not mesh with a synth bassline. See what I mean?

Conclusion

My advice is to let your ears guide you (and common sense too). A synth bass might work with an analog drum break, but it might not. If you're going to use synth bass, then use synth drums, and the same goes for analog. But once you have the right combination of kick and bass, it's really just a matter of EQing and mixing them properly until they sound dope. Good luck!

Further Reading Related to Hip Hop Production
 
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DeeDy

Guest
Hellooo!
Thanks for this article ! But i ve a question tho, if you add on top of your well mixed bassline and kick some middlebass instruments and then they loosing clearness and thump ('cause of the middlebass) how do you do to try to boost the kick and bass without loosing the fatness of the middlebass ?
 

Sucio

Old and dirty...
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One thing I've learned to help with getting this easier, is have the kick and bass in the same key.... DeeDy, you may want to take out some of the low end and keep the parts where you're lacking on either the kick or bass... You might be using too much bass....check the key they are in.......use a graphic eq, so you see where frequency range everything is falling in and make the adjustments to make space for each instrument.
 

SweetzBeat

Newbie
I'm super late but this article was very helpful. When I'm EQing my bass and kicks they usually flow alright but it's not smooth. It's always hello "woofy" on the higher ends, causing one to drown out the other. Im mos def going to try this technique.
 

2GooD Productions

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Things to take into consideration...
Key. Make sure the kick is in key with the song.
Frequencies. Every sound has different properties, there are ballpark numbers as named by fade, but the important thing is to use your ears, it is music after all. Mixing a track with an 808 sub, would be different to mixing a track with a bass guitar.
But the bass area has two main regions, sub bass and bass. The kick would usually occupy the higher end and the bassline the lower end and you would eq as described by fade, whatever you add to the bass you take from the kick and vice versa.

The important parts of a kick are the formant,(the initial peak of the sound), and the tail of the sound.

Which leads to compression. When compressing drums, start with a quick attack, and quick release. Slow down the attack until the formant becomes more prominent, the goal of compression is to increase the perceived volume of a sound without actually increasing the volume of a sound. By compressing the kick sample you raise the level of the tail, by slowing down the release time, this increases what we perceive to be louder, without actually making it louder, after compression use the gain on the compressor to match the output level to the input level. We can then have a duplicated output of the kick sidechained into another compressor on the bass, which compresses the signal of the bass whenever a kick hits, this allows the kick to cut through the mix. You can then have another compressor on the bass to tune its formant and tail.

I wouldnt say use compression sparingly, Id say use it a lot, but USE IT CORRECTLY.
Then you have new york compression on the drum track as another option to get the drums to cut through the mix. Which is having a duplicate drum channel which you massively compress, then fade up next to the original to get thicker, nicer drums that cut through the mix.

I would say that without a doubt, the low end part of mixing is one of the hardest parts to get right and takes plenty of practice and taking your mixes to the car, to headphones, to a single full range speaker, on as many different devices as possible to see how it translates across different limited audio systems. For example, you would like the kick to cut through the mix even when on a shitty full range speaker with limited frequency response. For that you would boost the kick in higher frequency ranges, usually at the resonant frequencies of the kick but much higher in the spectrum.
This is such a complicated subject and I have spent a few years trying to get to grips with it all and I still have a long way to go. Mixing is one of my favorite parts of the music making process now. There are no one click presets, always try to use your ears not your eyes, and watch lots of videos of pros that describe their process on youtube. You can learn how to use a compressor correctly, how to eq correctly, and how to get the bassline to work with the kick. I find it really challenging to get a good mix, and I love the challenge, and its really satisfying to see how my mixes have improved.
 

Beaubeats

Beau Beats
Battle Points: 2
The kick and sub relationship is super important. I spent years making muddy music and had no idea why it would sound great solo and awful when everything played at once. That was before youtube and I had no real mixing knowledge back then. Just tweaked knobs until I was happy but it always became muddy.
I use the side-chain compression now when needed but just ever so slightly as I don't want to create a pulsing effect usually.
I spent a few months researching and practicing mixing and once I actually learned something about mixing my beats leveled up big time. Minimizing clashing frequencies and stereo separation have made HUGE difference in the quality of my productions. It really is the difference between a professional sounding beat and a lacking, quiet beat. I use to always wonder "why do their beats pop and every instrument stands out and mine sound like a muffled, low energy version as soon as I play it on another device. It is all about the mix. So much to learn still. I hate the one knob approach to mixing. I am the kind of person who wants to know the WHY we do these things.
 
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