Video: 3 Tips for Balancing Kick Drums and Bass in Your Mix

Getting your kick drums and bass track to play nicely together is an essential task if you want a strong, balanced mix. Jay Maas is back with Reverb today to share a few tips and techniques that you can use to do so, in whatever DAW you prefer.

1. Check Your Levels

As Jay says, this may seem basic, but it's not always so simple.

If you pull up display meters for both your kick and bass tracks, you'll be able to determine the peak volume levels of each. The sweet spot, according to Maas, is to have your bass peak value to be about -1.5 to -4 decibels away from your kick drum, with your bass being on the lower-end of that spectrum in genres like rock and a little closer to kick volume for hip-hop.

"As you're putting your mix together and you start pushing your bass up against your drum, take a look at those numbers, because you'll probably want to start somewhere around -4 in terms of the relationship between peak volume of kick and peak volume of bass. Then you can start inching it up if you want to," he says.

2. Carve Out Complementary EQs

Next, you'll want to use an EQ plugin (Jay's using FabFilter Pro-Q 3) to carve complementary EQ ranges for both kick and bass.

Pro-Q 3
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When comparing the frequency ranges of these tracks, keep in mind that you'll want a peak around the low-end fundamental note of the bass, a low-mid-range peak for reinforced clarity, and higher-frequency peak to hear the attack. Similarly, with the kick drum, you'll want to have a powerful low-end and a high snap of the drum's attack around the 3kHz range.

But once you find the general peaks of each track, you can use the EQ to carve out separate areas for each. For example, setting a low-end peak for the bass at around 120Hz and one for the kick drum slightly lower. Because the bass is changing notes throughout the song, keeping the low-mid-range area relatively clear in the kick drum EQ will allow the bass to be heard more easily.

3. Blend Into Your Overall Mix

Jay likes to start this process by muting all of his close drum mics and seeing what the mix's peak volume level is without them. Then, when bringing the kick drum into the mix, you'll want to see that peak volume level raise by just one decibel.

Once the kick drum's fader value is in the right place to achieve that one decibel difference, you can bring in the bass. And, because you've already determined a good ratio from Step 1, you'll be able to use that same ratio here. If you wanted your bass to just be two decibels away from your kick, bring up the volume until your overall peak volume has raised two decibels. Now, you can bring up the rest of the tracks knowing your kick and bass are well-balanced.

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