Keeping an uncluttered low end is important. Find out how and why making room in the low end is important.
The low end frequencies in a mix are long waveforms sitting from 0Hz up to 150Hz. Due to them being long waveforms, they can build up and make the low end of a mix particularly busy, with differing elements of the mix fighting for space. Making room in the low end of the mix will allow more space for these waveforms to move. This in turn will mean your bottom end of the mix will not sound cluttered.
This means when instruments and samples are battling with each other for room in the mix, their effectiveness and punch requires more energy to pop through. So what can you do about this and how can you fix it in your mix?
Equalisation or EQ as it’s known in the biz is a mixing technique where parts of a track are filtered out to allow only those required to be able to get through. We can use this as a technique for making room in the low end of our mix. This can be achieved in various ways using a number of different methods and plugins, but for this post I’m only going to focus on two things – low end and EQ.
Bitwig has a fantastic EQ plugin called EQ-5 which since Bitwig 3.2 it has had a major overhaul and features a number of tools normally not seen unless money is spent on plugins such as Fab Filter PRO-Q or similar. This is my tool of choice when it comes to sorting out a low end of a frequency spectrum.
So what about the low end?
As stated earlier, the low end of a mix features big wave forms fighting for space but really there should only be two elements of a track with and truck down this end of the spectrum (by the way – get your free frequency spectrum cheat sheet by clicking the link in the footer – it details a number of points to be aware of in your mix).
These two elements you want presence of down here is Kick and Bass. The kick should pop and the bass should rock. Anything else wanting some business below 100Hz will have to ask nicely and be justified down there.
How to keep others out?
To keep other instruments out of this area the EQ should be set on each track with a High Pass filter. There are a number of presets in Bitwig but these can be easily tweaked.
The Filter preset will either be called a High Pass or a Low Cut filter (these are both the same thing – ‘high pass’ allows everything but low, where are ‘low cut’ cuts everything low!)
Pop one of these on every track apart from kick and bass and then adjust accordingly to aid making room in the low end. A synth might still need low end, but start by filtering it out then watch the spectrum to see what it’s asking for. At that point then you can filter just that frequency range using a bell shaped filter.
High passing anything which is not kick and bass will always help. This is a very useful technique on vocal tracks and will certainly help with making room in the low end of your mix. The amount of low end excess in a vocal stem can cause problems which are just not necessary.
Try a few of these techniques and see just how clearer the mix sounds and see how making room in the low end of your mix improves things. Your low end will have more power and the kick will cut through for that added Uoomph.