One of the most challenging tasks during mixing is to control the low end. Low frequencies can accumulate easily and ruin the whole mix.
But if you know and understand how to control low frequencies, then your mixes will be clear and you will avoid muddy mixes.
In this guide, you will learn some of the best methods to control the low end. It will help you to create better-sounding songs.
What Does Low End Mean?
A low end in music is a term for low frequencies. And low frequencies span from 20Hz to about 200Hz. Also, instruments that live in this area are many times called low-end instruments.
Low frequency is very important in music and it gives weight and heaviness to songs. But if there is too much low end, it can cause many problems.
And because of that low-end control is very important. It’s the first thing to do when mixing tracks.
Every song might have several instruments that occupy low frequencies. And most times there happens low-end build-up that can ruin the song. Mixes become muddy and hearing different instruments is harder.
Low frequencies are problematic in recording studios too. Additionally to acoustic panels, engineers use bass traps to avoid low-frequency build-up in rooms. Also, badly treated rooms can have an impact on the sound.
So, low frequencies require control and also different instruments must be separated from each other to avoid frequency overlap. The low end should be punchy, clear, and hearable.
Several instruments occupy low frequencies. Some low-end instruments occupy very low and some of them live in the upper-low range. The goal is to find the best spot on the frequency spectrum for each instrument.
Some instruments such as guitars or pianos can cover almost the whole frequency spectrum. But the bottom end is not as important for these instruments. They might have some low frequencies, but not too much. So, you can cut these frequencies and reduce the amount of low end.
But some of the prominent instruments that need to have low end are:
- Bass guitar
- Double bass
- Kick drum
Many other musical instruments occupy low frequencies. But most used in popular music are bass guitar and kick drum. But the approach is the same for all of them.
These instruments will occupy the low end of your mix. It’s crucial to know how to mix these instruments and how to control low frequencies to have clarity in your mixes.
5 Ways To Control Low End
In this low-end control guide, you will find the five best tips to control the bottom end. It will help you to free your mixes from excessive low frequencies, avoid muddiness, and give your songs more clarity.
1. Create A Good Tone
The first and most important thing to control the low end of your mix is the tone of the instrument. A bass guitar or kick drum with a bad tone will cause many issues. It may ruin the whole mix.
Controlling the low end from the start is very important. A good tone means that it fits in the whole mix but also has balanced frequencies. Especially if it’s a low-end musical instrument.
When you create a tone for a bass guitar or a kick drum, try to create a focused and tight low end. It will be easier to control it during mixing and the possibility of low-end accumulation will be reduced.
These types of musical instruments already have a low end. So, adding more low-end with an amp or EQ is not necessary. Other instruments will also have some low frequencies and it will cause problems.
So, try to create a good, pleasant sound with enough low frequencies. Make them tight and focused-sounding. Control of low frequencies will be much easier.
2. Apply High Pass Filter
An equalizer is a great tool to control different frequencies. And for lows, there is an option of a high pass filter a.k.a low cut. HPF is essential for almost every instrument and you should start using it.
HPF is a special option where you create a specific cut for low frequencies. You can control its curve, shape, and frequency. It’s used for removing unnecessary low frequencies. Every modern EQ plugin comes with an HPF option.
When you apply HPF to a sound, it removes low frequencies that are not essential for that instrument. It cleans the sound and leaves space for another instrument that needs to live in that section.
High-pass filters are used all the time for every instrument or vocals. Especially it is useful for guitars, bass guitars, drums, etc. HPF is a great tool to control the bottom end of the sound.
3. Cut Unessential Low Frequencies
After you apply HPF to your sound, then you can start using default EQ bends to cut unnecessary frequency sections. This will add more clarity to the sound and reduce low-frequency accumulation.
Because a musical instrument is a low-end instrument, it doesn’t mean that it needs to have a whole low-end spectrum. Different instruments sound the best in specific areas.
For example, in general, bass guitars mainly occupy frequencies between 60Hz and 500kHz. But the juice and the best sound of the bass guitar are between 70Hz and 120Hz. There might be variations depending on the bass guitar tone.
But above that frequency, the bass guitar sounds muddy and boxy. Especially around 150-250Hz. That means that it doesn’t need that frequency. With EQ, you can cut them and clear the space.
The goal of EQ is to find the best spot for a specific instrument and enhance it. After that, just remove the unessential frequencies. This will make sound cleaner and it will free up the space for other instruments that need that frequency.
But don’t overdo it. A couple of decibels will be enough. Just listen to the sound and trust your ears.
4. Use Multiband Compressor
Another great tool to control the low end is a compressor. Particularly a multiband compressor that works slightly differently than a normal compressor. It can do a great job regarding the low end.
A simple compressor reduces the dynamic range of the sound, compresses it, and makes it more even. But multiband compressor works differently.
Instead of compressing the entire signal, with a multiband compressor, you can select a specific area of the sound and just compress that section. It’s more flexible and gives you more control options.
And because of that, you can just choose the low-frequency area and compress only that section. You have more control options and the low end won’t go out of your hand.
Multiband compressors are a great solution for heavy guitars, and palm muting sections. Palm muting causes some muddiness and low-frequency accumulations. But with a multiband compressor, you can control it.
You can compress as many sections as you want with multiband compressors. It makes low-frequency management much easier.
5. Use Dynamic EQ
Another great tool to manage low frequencies is the dynamic EQ. Like compressors, there is a difference between default and dynamic EQ that allows you to control sound more.
When you create frequency bands with a default EQ, it’s static. It cuts or boosts no matter what. But with dynamic EQ, you can set a trigger for a specific EQ band and it will cut or boost accordingly.
The trigger can be a decibel or another signal. For example, you can tell it to cut a particular frequency if the sound exceeds -3dB. If not, it won’t cut that frequency.
Or you can make another instrument a trigger. For example, you can sidechain a bass guitar to a kick drum. And dynamic EQ will cut that bass guitar frequency when the kick drum uses it.
This gives you more options to control your low end. You can have a wide range of low frequencies and cut it only when another instrument needs it.
This way different instruments won’t battle for the same frequencies. The sound will have more clarity and every musical instrument or vocal will be bearable.
Dynamic EQ like the multiband compressor is a great tool to make more edits to the sound. They allow you to have more control of your sound.
The low end is very crucial for any song. However, at the same time, the most challenging to control. When you have uncontrolled low end your mixes and songs won’t sound good and they won’t have clarity.
You need to know how to control the low end to make songs clean and listenable. Because songs need to have a low end. It’s the power and soul of any song. But a bad low end will create many issues.
The tips and suggestions in this guide will help you to manage and control the low end of any instrument. Just follow these tips and remember that not every instrument needs to have a massive low end. Just enough to give songs more power.