Eqing bass and other thoughts on bass.
One of the most often questions we get concerning hip hop beat production is – how do you get them to sound so loud and so clear? There are many factors that influence the sound of the produced beat. For example, it’s the control room you are mixing in, the quality of the recorded sound material you are using (… well, sometimes we do distort the instrument’s sound on purpose to make it sound cooler, but still the quality is crucial, in other words, you have to control what it gives to the whole picture of the mix), the equipment you are using to listen to your mix, trained ears to hear the difference of the EQ settings, etc. There is, however, one very important aspect which stays present during all of the phases of creating a beat, whether you are recording an instrument, playing VST instrument with your keyboard or spinning the hot rhythmic pattern with your MPC sampler: low end frequency range. The lower we go by frequency in spectrum the longer the wave of the sound becomes and it gets harder adapt that BIG wave to the mix. Let’s go through some basic steps to get us prepared to deal with the low end so it serves the sound of the music we create instead of destroying it.
Monitor the SUBS.
The first thing to begin with is to get the right equipment, so that you can make sure you have the perfect environment for listening to and feeling the sub frequencies, because you do want that beat to be punchy in the end. Having just two speakers doesn’t provide enough clarity in the low-end. You gotta have both monitors plus subwoofer hooked up together in a 3- monitoring system. We suggest active monitors (with preamps) and an at least 6 inches big woofer.
The idea is to have low end frequencies from subwoofer cross over with the output sound from your studio monitors. Even if you have 8’ or 10’ size woofer on your monitors covering as low as 30 Hz frequencies, we still suggest that you get a subwoofer to cover this field, because that is the most reliable way for you to lessen the muddy sound by eqing (aka eq-ing) the bass correctly. Make sure the subwoofer’s woofer is not less than 10’.
High pass filtering.
Now that you’ve got a 3-system monitoring system you are geared to control that low end of your hitz. One of the most effective ways to get a clear low end response of your mix is to use high pass filtering. In the audio example below we took a nice 808 kick sample playing along with a synth chord loop without any plug-ins applied.
As you can hear above, both tracks have pretty much of a low end rumble going on. Basically, we can’t hear the 808 kick sample at all. So what we have to do is to simply clear out the low end from the synth chord loop track so that the low end from the 808 kick goes through the mix. In the next audio snippet you can hear how we let the 808 kick go through the mix by applying a hi-pass filter to the synth chord loop track at 263hz.
But, also we suggest disabling hi-pass filter on the synth chord loop track and bring that low end back if you decide to have it in the bridge parts, when it plays alone. We think eqing bass out in parts where drums are not playing, usually, is not necessary.
Important to note that after mastering both audio examples the difference of the output level gets clearly noticable. With hi-passed synth chord loop the output is louder! This is a huge gain in terms of how loud your track will be when finished. And it’ s simply because we cleared up the low-end.
Last but not least, we would want to bring to your attention the pitch tone aspect of the low end. Most of us know how irritating it is to be on a camping trip with someone who is trying to play the guitar but has neither the skills of playing nor the gift of hearing, What is it exactly about the sound of the poor instrument that drives people crazy?… the guitar is out of TUNE! You guessed right, same rules apply to tha low end frequency range of our mix, so what you need to do is to simply tune your kick. Yes, kick sample (especially in Hip Hop genre) definitely will have a key.
Take the sample you are using for ya hip hop beat, pitch it one or even two octaves up and you will hear the key note of the kick. Usually pitch correction plug-ins’ settings go by semitones. Octave has 12 semitones so tune the kick +12 semitones up and identify the key note. Then adjust the cents to make sure it’s in keuy with all other instruments. When you have tuned the kick, bring it back 1 octave down and hear difference.
Of course, we agree that there are no borders in music creation, but in such genres as Hip Hop, R’n’B and overall in all today’s pop music, producers use those punchy, full of bass kicks. And folks in tha clubs are going to feel it much better if those kicks are kickin’ in tune and eqing bass is done right!