Monday, February 7, 2011

Kick And Bass - Bass-Boost And Side-Chaining

The harmony of kicks and basses is important, its the driving factor and gets people moving in clubs. People like bass sounds more as apposed to high sounds, ever notice people stop and stare at you during a massive breakdown, wishing the kick and pumping bassline would just start again? Yep, its THAT important.

Getting a kick and bass tight and sitting well together can be a challenge notationally but with the acquired use using the technique ( not "special effect") of side-chaining you get everything rolling along quite well in those face down, driving parts.

The kick and bass have to share a common key (yes kick drums have keys as well), choose a kick you like, prepare it at -3db so you have a lot of play when you are happy with it. Add a Vsti and program your rough bassline or use a sample based one from one of the popular sample packs.
The image above is a kick and a midi clip with a simple arpeggiated baseline (2 saws -0 and -1 with filter), When its played right now we have frequency conflict, a problem when frequencies of the kick and bass clash making it muddy and bleh. A common mistake is to compress the track to make the bass more pronounced again but this makes it worse and it caused me to become frustrated. You must always remember that production is reduction and instead of boosting one sound, cut the others back. In time you will get it.
This is what my bass channel strip looks like, a small cut and boost in the top that will be changed later and a standard Ableton compressor at the end. Notice that everything is at a quiet volume, must not "pump up the jams" in the beginning.
To enable side-chaining theres a hidden triangle in the top left of the plugin. Click on that bad boy like I did in the image above. 
In the "audio from" section on the right of the menu that has appeared you need to select the audio channel that the kick is in. do that. In my case its "4-Audio".
Now the kick is being routed into into the compressor like magic. You wont hear much difference until you adjust the threshold to taste, turn up the monitors a bit, solo the bass. You now have the pumping sound present in almost every modern dance track. It saves you frequency conflict by ducking the sound so each kick and bass gets its own turn. Its a beautiful thing.
You can also automate the volume slider in the compressor as an alternative to setting up the side-chaining feature. I sometimes do this for a quick and more manual way to duck sounds, mainly out habit from when I did it this way in my FL Studio days. Keep in mind you can get latency issues doing this when using third party plugins. I do this on loops mostly or on effects when setting up the compressor takes too long or would take up too many resources. Ctrl + Alt + D to quickly paste automations along the strip FYI.
Here is where a lot of Trance and House guys get the meat into their tracks. Waves Renaissance Bass is a magic wand for bass sounds and is a more simpler to use than Maxxbass, don't ask me how it works. To use this effectively you have to play around to see what the original lacks in terms of the frequency and how much you are going to boost. Be careful, this can play tricks on you. Don't go for the MOST bass but boost and use your best judgment until you can say "Yep, this brings the bass and kick together juuuuust right" instead of "MOAR BASSEZ!!!" . Do not make this work too hard or you will get mud.
A bass booster plugin does not always apply or could be too extreme for a sound or sample you already have. If you are looking for a more subtle boost in your low end you can do it easily with the Ableton Auto Filter adding a bit of resonance to the lower frequencies. It works great because its a native plugin and boosts bass less intrusively, You can also do this with the regular EQ-8 but the filter is my preference as it has an LFO for a more advance approach if needed.

You should have a tight combination of a kick and bass that you are going for. Be prepared to change and adjust later but its excellent groundwork if you want a driving, face down Simon Patterson groove. Add some stabs, hats, claps, bleeps and bloops. What matters is that everything in the track has a place and gets along well. You can make everything loud and comparable to other tracks when you are mastering at the end.


  1. wich is the tool that you use here, or wich tool i can use for this if i have the fl studio.
    Thanks in advance