I recently wrote this piece for our friends at Liveschool, but realised its relevant to our audience too.
A wonderful thing about music production these days, is that you can do it without the need for a big studio. But if you’re interested in making bass heavy music, then there’s nothing more important than getting to know your bass better.
One of the main reason people struggle with getting their mixes to sound tight and punchy is because of poor monitoring environments, especially in the bottom end.
One way to hear whats down there is to turn it up, and if you don’t have the luxury of an acoustically isolated space, you’re going to piss off your neighbours, girlfriend, parents, etc. Another way to do it would be to fork out on absurdly good headphones or a subwoofer (and again, piss off your….).
But there is cheap and effective solution!
I discovered this years ago by accident but got so used to it, that I still rely on it to this very day.
I used to place my monitors on my desk in a fairly small room; this created all sorts of negative issues, such as causing the table to resonate, and given how close the speakers were to the back wall, the entire room would sometimes resonate at certain frequencies, especially at higher volumes.
But at lower volumes when the room didn’t resonate, I noticed something else. The speakers were sitting directly on the wooden table because I couldn’t even afford any acoustic sponge to sit them on. This in turn caused low-frequencies to vibrate directly through the table. Another way to do it, is to actually touch the speaker cone, ever so carefully. This gives you a very precise sense of any bass movement, but be sure not to apply too much force, or you could damage the drivers!
Through this, I found myself *feeling* the bass. This became especially useful even when they were turned up, because even though I didn’t have a subwoofer, I could feel what was going on below 40Hz.
Another way is to actually look at the woofer. If at a moderate volume, you can visibly see the woofer moving back & forth (~5-15Hz) then you need to hi-pass something.
Doing this, I was able to have a sense of how fast the low-end was moving, or feel the separation between the kick and bass. I could also feel just how low the bass went. This in turn affected sound design and mix decisions… and when you get the low-end sounding good, the rest is a lot easier to build.
At first, it takes some getting used to… ie, knowing how much movement is *just right*, but you eventually pick it up, and it never leaves you. In fact you’ll start to be more aware of sub-sonic in clubs and other loud spaces. Lastly, you may have seen this technique in this part of that film “It’s All Gone Pete Tong” – I still use do this today and swear by it.
Written by Sameer Sengupta.