This extensive and in-depth eBook explains so much more than how to process your kicks and bass sounds!
Choosing, moulding and manipulating kick and bass sounds can make or break dance, pop, urban and hip-hop music, and this comprehensive 310-page Low End eBook from producer, remixer, sound designer and SOS contributor Eddie Bazil aims to dispel the myths.
Focusing primarily on the frequency spectrum between 30 and 300 Hz, the intro neatly covers the basics of fundamentals, overtones, masking, and the frequency ranges occupied by various bass and drum instruments, before moving on to examine how to clean up redundant and overlapping frequencies to reduce low-end clutter. We then move on to compressing the bass sound with a side-chain driven from the kick drum, exploring different EDM styles from enhancement to more extreme pumping effects, and various urban-music techniques to merge both kick and bass, using tonal drum sounds. To give you an idea of the depth of this book, this chapter alone runs to 46 pages. Like all the others, it includes loads of screenshots and associated audio examples, using plug-ins from 16 different developers, so you can hear exactly what the text is explaining and instantly get your head around the various improvements.
Next we turn to ‘Filtering & EQ’ and, once again, we leap straight into practical ways to improve separation of our low sounds, using cuts and boosts at particular frequencies, plus compression and limiting to shape the sound envelopes. This time, the demos follow six audio stems that, together, form a complex dance groove, and which need manipulating, and in some cases mauling quite severely, to achieve a homogenised whole.
‘Working In Parallel’ covers drum layering, using phase cancellation and EQ to avoid masking effects, parallel (‘New York’) compression, sample-nudging of layers to thicken and tighten sounds, and the use of mic preamp and amp/cab simulators for further blending. ‘Dynamic Management’, meanwhile, introduces us to the merits of splitting sounds into attack and body elements, scooping/hollowing techniques that create space for low-end movement and percussive reverb, and using saturation to add definition to your various layers.
The chapter on signal paths focuses on maintaining clarity, even when layering or changing the sound ‘colour’ or when adding motion, while ‘Middle & Side’ explores various ways to add width/depth, side-to-side and front-to-back movement, and the use of Mid/Side psychoacoustic effects, which sound amazing as your beats swell and contract in different directions!
Concluding the book are specialist chapters on how to make the best use of classic 808 and 909 drum sounds in the mix, more advanced mix-bus techniques on the combined low-end mix, adding groove ‘bounce’, and ways to massage pad sounds to prevent them destroying your now beautiful low end.
So this is not just a book about bass instruments, then! There’s a lot to take in, and occasionally you might find you get a little lost switching back and forth between the before/after audio demos while following the host of examples — but the rewards are worthwhile, and perseverance really does pay off here. Being picky, some might argue that there’s a little too much reliance on FabFilter’s products for some of the treatments, but I can see why Eddie’s chosen them: their graph-based GUIs display exactly how the signal has changed, and the excellent audio results speak for themselves.
Overall then, it’s quite obvious that a huge amount of effort has gone into writing this book, and working through the various treatment and remix demonstrations also gives you a huge insight into how producers repurpose the same sounds to make them fit different mixes and genres. While I thought I already knew a fair bit about many of these techniques, I gained a huge amount of new knowledge to help me combine my own low-end components to maximum effect, and most of all how to inject life and movement into my grooves. I shall be returning to this Low End eBook again and again — and at just $25 it’s an absolute steal. Martin Walker