Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of updates and tips & tricks the last few months. While 2020 has already been crazy busy for us at the Ghost Producer NL studios, 2021 has been even crazier. With the music industry picking up we’ve been living in the studio, churning out new tracks for our artists. But I figured it was about time for a new tips & tricks. And this time an important one; getting that perfect kick & bass glue.
What do you need?
- An Oscilloscope
Okay, so.. you do need to get a few things in order to get this just right. Starting with a decent oscilloscope plugin.
I can recommend both Oszillos Mega Scope as well as Psyscope. The latter I personally use, but both will work just fine.
- A Spectrum Analyzer
A decent visualizer. Honestly, the free Voxengo Span is all you need for this one. Especially with the low-freq inspection setting.
- A Sidechain Compressor / Volume Shaper
Furthermore you need a way to sidechain your bass or shape the volume of your bass. You can of course use any compressor with a sidechain input. Or simply use tools like LFO Tool or Nicky Romero Kickstart. Ideally though, the sidechaining (or volume-shaping) can be done in a multi-band way. So you can shape your subs independently. You can do this with a lot of multiband compressors. Or with specific tools like Vengeance Multiband Sidechain or a tool like the Cableguys Shaperbox. The latter I personally use. An alternative I also use on occasion is Trackspacer, which basically creates a sidechaining effect by inversing the source signal’s EQ curve on the target signal. So only the content that needs to be pushed back will be pushed back, whenever needed.
- A General Purpose (multi-band) Compressor
Finally you can choose to compress the sound a bit, to give it a bit more uniform sound. You can catch the peaks of the transient on your kick or colour the sound just a bit. This isn’t always necessary but it can help glue it together a bit more. And honestly, personal preference are very much key here. If you don’t want to color the sound too much, you could choose a compressor like The Glue, or any other transparent compressor. Alternatively you can choose to go with a compressor like MJUC, which can shape the tone and overal sound quite a bit more. We’ll get into the compression a bit more later on. Personally I tend to prefer very subtle transparant compression, if I compress the signal at all. An alternative could be to heavily compress and possibly saturate the signal on a parallel path. Then mix it in subtly to get some additional harmonics. But we’ll get to that later. Another option is to use a multi-band compressor to only compress the low-end (sub) content of both the kick and the bass together. This is an easy way to get that glued uniform sound in your low-end.
- A Clipper
This is basically the latest stage you can use to really to really control your kick and subs. You can use it to subtly catch the first peak of that kick transient. Or you can push it some more and ‘flatten’ the signal, coloring the sound in the process. I can personally recommend both Clipped-MAX as well as StandardCLIP for this. I personally often use the latter due to it’s simple workflow. The former is a lot more flexible though, so it all depends on the specific tasks.
The Time Domain
The reason why I recommend using an Oscilloscope, is because we want to visualize what the kick and the bass are doing. More specifically, the sub frequencies of both the kick and the bass. With an oscilloscope you can easily see the waveform of both. Plus you can see their relation in the time domain. This way you can make conscious decisions on the length of your kick and the intensity (and/or shape) of your sidechain signal on the bass. A shorter kick leaves significantly more room for a longer and bigger sub bass sound. Reversed; a longer kick doesn’t leave a lot of room for the (sub) basses.
As for the sidechain signal. I personally prefer to use a multi-band solution for this in the form of Shaperbox Volume Shaper. This way I can have my sub bass sidechain follow the exact opposite curve of the tail of the kick, and make it shorter or longer when needed. At the same time, I can still shape the sidechaining on the rest of the bass signal to my liking. This way I have maximum control over the subs. While still being able to make a creative decisions on the pumping sidechain sound on the rest of the signal.
At this point the Oscilloscope can give you a good view of both the kick and bass signals independently, as well as combined. So you can see what happens when the sounds are playing together. Are they still overlapping? And do you see something happening at the point they overlap, like an increase or decrease in volume? You can easily tweak a few things! An increase in volume means the signals of the kick and bass at that point are in phase and are adding up. You can easily shorter the tail of the kick or increase the shape of the sidechain signal on the sub. Is the volume decreasing (too much); this means you have room to fill up some more sound. Make the tail of the kick longer, shorten the sidechain signal on the bass until you get a uniform result.
Watch out though; a decrease in volume at the point where your kick and bass overlap, could mean they are out of phase, and the signals are cancelling out. One easy way to easily check this is to flip to polarity on one of the signals. Or you can check it visually in the oscilloscope.
The Glue Processing
After all of this; simply by using the spectrum analyzer you can see exactly how and where the root note of your kick is, and how loud it is. The same thing goes for your sub bass. This way you can easily match the overall loudness of your kick and bass sub content, even visually. Simply by increasing or decreasing the volume of your kick and/or, bass (or dedicated sub bass). Or use an EQ to tweak some things. I had already matched the overall loudness on the low-end on the example above and they matched up pretty nicely.
So now we can process the low-end on the kick and the sub together for some extra glue and loudness. This is also the stage where you can decide to add some saturation to create some new harmonic content that glues the sound. Or to make certain low-end frequencies more audible in higher areas of the frequency spectrum, if needed.
If you look at ‘Image 5’ above (and by referencing by ear of course); there are I few things I noticed that could be tweaked. For instance, the kick could have a little bit more transient and a little less low-mid punch. While the bass had a bit too much harmonic content in the highs for my liking. So for the last steps in the process I enhanced the transient on the kick (can be done with a transient shaper, or simply with any regular compressor). And tweaked the EQ on both the kick and the bass.
After that I compressed the kick and the bass together. In this case I used a multi-band compressor that solely compressed the low-end sub content. Alternatively you can use a normal compressor, but keep in mind this will also be triggered by the higher frequency content in your bass stem. In that case; also keep an eye on the attack and release settings. With a faster attack you can catch the transient as well. Yet with a slower attack and a timed release you can keep that strong transient on your kick, but heavily compress all content in between.
Personally I try to make a (mental) division of various parts of the sounds though. The transient of the kick, the low-end content on the kick, the higher frequency content on your bass and the sub content on your bass. This helps me visualize how I can process them with maximum control and create the exact sound I’m looking for.
After all of this, I’ve fed the signal into my clipper just to trim off some of the transients on the kick that I’ve added earlier. I could of course turn down the transient shaper (or compressor) a bit. But by increasing this first and clipping it later you get some extra coloration from the clipping process itself. This creates some extra harmonic content around that transient that gives the kick a nice ‘clicky’ sound. You end up with a kick that has just the right transient to low-end punch ratio.
In the image below I’ve fed the signal into my final limiter. As you normally would at the end of a master chain. I did exaggerate it a bit for this example. But it shows you how far you can take the signal while still keeping it sounding relatively clean. Using this as a strong foundation for the rest of your mix, will make your entire mix sounding cleaner instantly.
Okay, so that’s it for now. Hope this information helps you with your own tracks as well. Happy producing! And if you need any help, you know where to find me!