Oftentimes people ask me how I make my mixes better in low frequencies. How I ADD PUNCH to my kick, bass, and other low-frequency instruments.
This is a common problem among music producers. They can’t figure out how to handle low-frequency instruments to create the PERFECT PUNCH in the mix.
So, in this article, I will share 9 pro tips to add punch to your mixes. After reading this article, you will also be able to handle your low-frequency instruments better than ever.
Let’s start it,
Table of Contents
1. Record like a pro
First thing first.
The first step of music production is the AUDIO RECORDING.
Without a clear and high-quality recording, you can’t expect good mixing.
You can’t repair any audio if it catches noise during recording. I know you will ask me if there are several noise remover plugins available in the market then why should I take care of it?
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BUT, I would tell you, noise removers also remove a part of the main audio. SO, prevention is better than cure.
Similarly, if you don’t record high-quality audio then you can’t repair it in post-production.
That’s why I always recommend my readers to use keep things in control during recording. Only after that, you will get a good RAW MATERIAL to make it better in mixing.
So, what should you take care of during recording?
- There should be noise free enviroment during recording. This includes, using high quality cables, acoustically treated room etc. (Note: always use grounding when connecticg your equipment to the wall cercuit. This will reduce mic noise.)
- Use High quality audio interface and record in higher sample rate and 24Bit audio format.
- If you are using condenser mics then always use aocustically treated vocal room.
- When recording drums, use drum set mics.
The essence of all of the above suggestions is to record clear and high-quality audio.
2. Sync bass and kick
When I was started my career as a recordist and mixer, I went through countless suggestions and processes regarding the perfect mixing.
One of them is creating a sync between bass guitar and kick drum.
Well, I know it’s not in the hands of a recordist or mixing engineer to sync them if the musicians are not in sync.
So, it’s important to hire good musicians for your projects. Or if you are doing it yourself then at least play the instruments in perfect tempo.
The next step in syncing bass and kick is to give them room in the frequency spectrum and the stereo field.
If you don’t know more about the stereo fields and how to use them to take your mixes to next level then you should read these articles.
- Mono VS Stereo Audio – Which One Should You Use – Why!
- What is Stereo Imaging: Get More Depth in Your Mixes
SO, how will you do stereo field and frequency spectrum manipulation? You should use these types of plugins to do this properly.
- Spectrum analyser
- Stereo imaging plugin
Spectrum analyzer allows you to see what happens in the spectrum and adjust the frequencies according to the spectrum.
Most kicks are prominent around 60 to 100 Hz where the bass guitar plays between the whole lower frequency range which is from 60Hz to 600Hz.
So, syncing bass with a kick is not easy. If you lower down the upper frequencies of the bass guitar then it sounds dull.
So, use your ears when syncing your bass with a kick. Use equalizer presets, and tweak them to achieve what you want.
Use compressor to make tight kicks and tie the bass from bouncing in dynamics. Perfect compressor settings allow your bass and kick to sync well.
USe stereo imaging plugins to put bass and kick in the right place. However, most mixing engineers don’t put them on either side, because it unbalances the load in the LR speakers.
Finally, do your experiment with different presets, tweaks, and apply your own theories. With time you will achieve the perfect sync.
3. Use tight kick
If you are in a genre like Rock, Pop, and Hip-hop then kicks are an important part of your songs.
There are several different types of kicks available in the market. Whether you are using acoustic drum sets or a sample and loop library you will see a wide variety of kicks.
Choosing the best one for your projects is the important thing.
If you choose a loose kick then you will face difficulty syncing it to your bass.
I always use tight kicks in my projects. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule to use tight kicks in your projects. You should choose your kicks according to what your genre demands.
Genres like Hip-hop need tight kicks while in Rock you can play with both soft and hard kicks.
Whatever you choose, analyze it with a spectrum analyzer and if it’s around the low range. Cut the upper frequencies if required.
4. Use Saturation in a right way
Saturation plugins are in trend these days. These plugins manipulate the dynamics and frequency spectrum of the song and add an analog feel to it.
The war of analog vs digital is never-ending. People say the vintage analog audio recording equipment delivers more depth in music which digital studio equipment won’t.
That’s why every digital recording engineer wants his records to feel like vintage analog sound.
Saturation plugins allow us to add some analog feel which adds depth to the project.
But one of the disadvantages of saturation effects is it can distort the original waveform if used in the wrong way.
Actually, saturation plugins add a minor distortion in the waveform which makes the sound feel like analog audio.
BUT, over-using it can damage the punch in the kick drums and other low-frequency instruments.
So, use the saturation effect in the right way to avoid heavy distortion in the sound.
5. Make it Minimalist
That’s one of the secrets of my mixing.
I always try not to use a heavy number of effects. I try not to manipulate the originality of the sound. Every “manipulation”, every “effect” affects the depth of the sound.
As more, you use the effects on a track as the less prominent sound you will get.
So, I always try to avoid overusing the effects in tracks.
They generally use a compressor, an equalizer along the delays and reverb.
If the instrument demands some more effects then I use them, but ideally, I don’t stuff effects in tracks.
If you want to become a good recording and mixing engineer then don’t rely on the effects but rely on the pre-recording arrangements.
I do 80% mixing work on pre-record arrangements. Such as adjusting the gain staging, adding compressors all I set up before recording.
In some cases, I use compressors after recording but generally, I use them during recording.
6. Want to add punch in your tracks? Add Attack in Compressor
A compressor effect is one of the best tools to design kicks as per your need. You can experiment with the compressor knobs to achieve what you want.
To make the kick punchy, you should decrease the attack time of the compressor.
I generally use attacks below 20ms for kicks.
You should adjust the attack and find the best spot.
Lower attack time releases the sound quickly hence you will get a punch in the sound. It’s best for percussion instruments including kicks and hi-hats.
7. Work on Phase
Phase plays an important role in any type of wave. In the case of sound, changing the polarity of the phase can damage the depth of sound.
If you don’t know what is phase and how it affects the sound, then you should read this article on the phase concept.
In this article, I have described the phase in a detailed way that will help you understand its concept and how to use it to your advantage.
To understand how phase reversal affects a sound wave, you can do an experiment.
Look on the backside of your studio monitors and change the input cables from +(plus) to -(minus).
Now play a raw kick in your instrument. You will notice when you hit a kick, the woofer goes backward direction. This dramatically decreases the depth of your kick and you will listen to a choppy sound.
So always check if the phase is in the right direction from start to end of the recording. If you accidentally recorded a reversed-phase kick then you can use DAW’s inbuilt phase reversal feature to turn around.
You can check if the kick is recorded in the wrong phase by checking the woofers on your speaker or using dedicated phase analyzers.
Keep the phase in the right direction and you will get the best output.
8. Remove resonance frequencies
I have written a well-researched guide on removing resonant frequencies. you should read that article to know how to use EQs to remove unwanted resonant frequencies from your recording.
If you don’t know about resonant frequencies then let me tell you that resonant frequencies are those which increase their intensity combined with some nature frequencies.
If not removed, these frequencies take over the original song. It even gets worst if anybody is listening to your song in low-quality speakers or headphones.
Resonant frequencies are also affected by an effect than normal frequencies. Such as, if you are applying a reverb then it can boost resonance frequency more than normal ones.
When working with kicks you should know which frequencies are resonant and try to minimize them.
9. Balance is everything in a mix
The last but very important thing is balancing the tracks. If you can’t balance well then whatever effects you apply, and whatever you do, everything will get wested.
That’s why I encourage my readers to get experience by recording and mixing more and more tracks.
With every track, you will polish your skills and make yourself better at balancing the tracks.
Look, audio recording is a combination of technology and art.
So, you should be better at both.
Above I have shared with you my 9 pro tips to add punch to your mixes. I hope these tips could add value to your audio recording journey.
As I said in the 9th tip, audio recording is a combination of art and technology, you should become better at both.
Experience comes with time. So, recording and mixing more and more tracks every day and you will be getting better results with time
If you have any queries regarding this article, then comment below. I will answer all your queries.