- Basics: Better Performance
- The Step Sequencer
- What is Compression?
- Sony Oxford Limiter
- Reverse Reverb Effect
- Whoosh Sound Effect
- Mixing Drums:
The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need
- EQ: Before or After Compression?
- Using a Multiband Compressor
to Bring your Bass Back to Life
- 4 ways to instantly improve
your claps and snares
- My Guide to Drum Layering
- Daz Bailey Interview
Using a Multiband Compressor to Bring your Bass Back to Life
Why You Shouldn’t Use EQ as a Bass Booster
In dance music and all other popular modern forms of music, the low-end is paramount for the mix to work. If your track is lacking in low-end presence it will lose energy and drive and will ruin the groove that you were trying to implement into your track. The low-end is probably one of the most difficult areas to mix and you often find inexperienced producers panicking and instantly turning to an EQ on the master to fix their wimpy bass. On the Master, EQ should only be used to remove frequencies (below 40 Hz) that can’t be reproduced by Loudspeakers as any EQ boosts will only make the low-end muddy, too loud or undefined.
The better alternative to EQ is a multiband compressor. The multiband compressor behaves similar to an EQ as you can control what bands of frequencies you want to treat, however it is far more transparent and natural. The main benefit of the Multiband compressor is that you can compress a mix without any audible side effects, meaning you can compress an area of the frequency spectrum without affecting the others. This is perfect for adding additional low-end energy to your mix as you are able to heavily compress the lows while the mids and highs are untouched.
Getting Started with Multiband Compression
Okay, so you now know why it’s important to use multiband compression rather than EQ to improve your low-end while mastering, let’s start with the fun stuff. To start we need to insert a multiband compressor into the master bus, this can be the Fruity Multiband Compressor or any external multiband plug-in of your choice. I personally enjoy using the multiband compressor that comes with Izotope’s Ozone 4 Mastering Suite, as it visually depicts your compression setting and allows you to have up to four frequency bands or remove them as you like. Now that you’ve inserted your compressor you need to set the crossover cutoff for the lowest band, I would recommend around 120-130 Hz but experiment yourself by soloing the band and moving the cutoff until you capture all the low-end presence of your mix.
Settings That Work Every Time
I use this technique regularly on most of my tracks as it makes your low-end sound much beefier and tightens up your kick and bass, so they collaborate far better. I start with a ratio of around 3:1 and bring the threshold down until I am getting around 3-5 db of gain reduction. This is usually enough for you to feel the extra punch the compressor has added to your bass, however feel free to increase the ratio if you are not getting the level of bass you require.
This is the most important setting, as the level of attack will determine whether you hear more of your bass or more of your kick drum. A kick drum usually has a quicker attack than a bass guitar or synth, so if you are wanting to produce a track where the kick is at forefront of your mix, use a slower attack on the compressor to allow the transients to come through intact. Alternatively if you want to make your low-end have more bass, use a quicker attack on the compressor to soften the transients of the kick drum.
Unlike EQ the attack setting on a multiband compressor can effectively control the relationship between the kick drum and bass. Mixing is all about contrast so by using the attack setting to control the level of the kick drum against the bass and vice versa, we are creating a good relationship without low end frequency clashes.
The level of the release setting on the compressor will determine how ‘pumpy’ you want the low-end to be. Generally in a dance track you will want to have a quicker release so gain reduction will become audibly apparent whenever a signal peak exceeds the threshold, causing a pumping effect.
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