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Pro Tools: How To Beef Up Your Bass

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques
By Julian Rodgers

The high-pass mode in the oft-overlooked AIR Vintage Filter plug-in can be used to add a  resonant boost to weedy kick drums.The high-pass mode in the oft-overlooked AIR Vintage Filter plug-in can be used to add a resonant boost to weedy kick drums.

Pro Tools offers numerous ways to beef up an anaemic low end. We show you how...

In this month's Pro Tools workshop, we're looking at an old issue which in my experience turns up more often than it should: a lack of bottom end. Our appetite for bass has increased enormously over the years, and the depth and level of bass frequencies in old material is positively tame by today's standards.

Great dollops of the low stuff are certainly seductive. We are hard-wired to respond to deep bass as potentially dangerous, and this is why we find it exciting, it's not surprising that one of the most common rookie mistakes in music production is to wind up a low shelving EQ in the mistaken belief that you can't have too much of a good thing. Unfortunately, while a high-pass filter can right many wrongs when it comes to controlling excessive bass, there isn't an equivalent easy fix that can increase the level of bass on sources where it is lacking. Try boosting the bass on a 1kHz sine wave and the self-evident truth that you can't use EQ to manipulate frequencies which aren't there in the first place becomes very clear! So what can be done to rescue a lightweight sound, and can it be done using stock Pro Tools plug-ins?

A Little Boost

EQ is the obvious answer, and it really ought to be enough to fix a lightweight kick — if the drum is properly tuned and generated significant bottom end in the first place, then a little tweak at the right frequency should sort it out. There are two pitfalls here. The first is that if your monitoring environment is less than ideal, you can end up cranking the low end without a clear idea of what you're hearing, only to get a real shock when your mix is played back over a system that can actually reproduce those sub frequencies. Headphones and spectrum analysers can help, but don't...

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Published February 2020