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Mixing Low End in a Hip-Hop Mix w/ Slate Digital Plugins

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com.

You asked for it, you got it, this is going to be mixing Hip Hop using Slate Digital plugins, and I’m going to be focusing on specifically, the low end.

So let’s take a listen to this record, and then I’m going to break down what I’m doing, and how I’m using the Slate products. Here we go.

[mix]

So everything here is using some kind of a Slate product for the processing. I don’t feel like I was really limited in any way, shape, or form just restricting myself to that particular product like, so now I’m going to solo up the low end and explain what I’m doing, and what the concept was, and how I actually got there.

[low end instruments]

Alright, so now let’s take off the Slate plugins.

[low end instruments]

So that low end is really not spectacular, to be honest. First of all, the bass is not really the best playing in the world, and I say that because I’m the one who played it. There was no bass line in this song, so I played one in there, and that’s almost always bad. I’m not a good bass player. I’m getting better. So it’s not the greatest thing in the world, but it’s what I like to call good enough. The kick is a pretty old school sample. Like, I feel like if this was the 90’s, it would be fine, but it’s definitely a little bit dated.

[bass and kick]

But if we listen to this entire record, I would say that the overall vibe of this has a little bit of a retro thing going on anyway, so it’s kind of okay. So alright, let’s get into this with the bass specifically.

Alright, so here’s our bass alone.

[bass]

Now I’m going to activate all of my effects, and explain what each one is doing.

[bass with and without VMR]

One more time.

Now, for me, that’s pretty subtle. I think the tone of the bass is about where it needs to be. It’s more like the fullness of the bass needed to be enriched, and so I’m doing a couple layers of saturation here, and I’m doing a little bit of compression. And that’s really all that I’ve got going. So the first thing that I’m doing is this virtual channel, which has the Brit 4k G mode.

Any time I pulled this up, I try and ignore what they’re supposed to be, and I just kind of go through the different presets here and see which one speaks to me. I liked the 4k G because it had sort of a tight sound, and gave me like, this sort of like, smoother, less like, aggressive sound than some of the other ones, and so I started there. Then most of the saturation is actually coming from this Hollywood preamp emulation. So you can see I’ve got the saturation turned up, I’ve got it on preamp mode, which is a little bit more assertive, and interestingly enough, I’ve also got a high pass on there, which I’ll explain in a moment. So first, let’s just go without the Virtual Channel.

[bass without Virtual Channel]

Now with.

[bass with processing]

So you hear it gets a little bit more present, it gets a little bit fuller sounding, but it still stays pretty smooth. It doesn’t really change much. Now, I’m going to turn on this Hollywood preamp. Before…

[bass with preamp]

It’s not really level matched, so let me level match it a little bit closer. I was doing that, I changed some of the levels around for some gain staging purposes, but if I level match them, you’ll hear the difference a little more clearly.

[bass with level match]

You notice that it gets this sort of fluffy, wooly quality to it. So the reason why I’m doing that is I really want this sort of broad sensibility to the bass. Like, I want this sort of hairy, over toned kind of texture going on, so fluffing it up, giving it a little bit of that haziness, that’s going to give it that quality of being just more pillow-y, and fuller, and spongier. This is what I’m going for.

Now, I’m also using a high pass on this preamp as well to get rid of some of like, the low lows.

I think one of the mistakes that people tend to make very frequently is that they pump a ton of sub into their bass guitar, or into their bass sample, or into their bass synth, and usually, most of the time, we will have either a kick or an 808 in a Hip Hop record that’s really providing the sub energy. We actually don’t need a lot of sub energy at all, and even this bass guitar had too much of it.

I’ll turn this off real quick…

[bass]

Now I’ll bring it back in.

[bass with processing]

So it just tightens up that low end, and by doing that, I can get the kick drum to really sit in there and be that big, full, powerful kick, without having to do any kind of weird stuff like ducking the bass guitar out of the way.

I think we tend to rely on those kinds of techniques, and they ultimately, to my ear, don’t usually produce the fullest low end. Sometimes, it can work, but sometimes, it’s really not necessary, and I’d say, it tends to be an overused technique. So this is just allowing me to keep that sub-range, that like, deep sub. Everything that’s from maybe about 70Hz and below, really available for the kick drum to take up later on.

And then the last thing is going to be some compression. That’s just going to be to even out my really sloppy playing.

[bass with and without compression]

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Also brings out a little bit of the like, upper-mid tone just a touch, so some of those like, little fret buzzy things that kind of make a bass guitar sound like a bass guitar, which I don’t mind.

[bass]

But overall, not a lot of processing. I think over processing a bass guitar is almost always a mistake. Every time I find myself doing any kind of crazy EQ, I almost always end up taking it off later.

So anyway, now let’s move on to the kick drum.

[kick and bass]

So we hear much more difference in the kick. So the first thing that I’m doing again is I’m bringing in this Virtual Channel. One of the things that’s going to do is give the kick and the bass a bit of a homogenized tone, because I’m sort of imparting the same harmonic signature over it using the same channel. The other thing is that because the kick drum is so loud and spiky, it’s actually peaking the channel a little bit, and the channel is acting as a soft clipper, which is rounding out the sound, and giving it a bit more of that like, warmed, spongier kind of a texture. I think I used that word before already, but it’s going for this sort of fat, pillowy low end. That’s ultimately what I’m aiming at.

The other thing that I’m doing here is I’m using this Earth EQ, which is a very low sub EQ to boost up sub-range. Now remember, I took sub-range out of the bass guitar. Now, I’m putting it into the kick.

[kick and bass after Earth EQ]

Cool. So nothing crazy there. I’m basically just boosting up low end. So now, the real sauce to me, for when we’re mixing a Hip Hop record, especially when it’s a Hip Hop record that’s like this, where it’s not trying to be a trap kind of a record.

With a Hip Hop, Hip Hop record, I really like it when there’s this sort of homogenous quality to the low end, and so I’ll send all of my low end information to a single sub-mix here, which I’ve got. This is going to be my low buss.

So in this case, it’s very simple. It’s just my bass guitar and my kick. In other arrangements, it might involve some other elements, but here it’s simple, so that makes it good for demonstration.

Alright, so I’ve got a few things going on here, but it’s sort of the same idea. First, I’m doing a little subtle saturation with this mix buss, which is kind of similar to the channel, but it’s just a slightly different version of the algorithm, and it’s set to again, the 4k G.

[kick and bass]

So here’s without it.

[kick and bass, no processing, then with]

Just gives it a little bit of tone, and gives it a little bit of like, mid-range lift. Nothing crazy going on there, but sometimes, subtle saturation can go far away. Then, I’ve got this London preamp set to console, so it’s a little bit subtler, but I’ve got the saturation turned all the way up, I’ve got it in Push mode, and I’m blending it in in parallel.

So here’s without it.

[bass and kick, without London pre]

With.

[bass and kick with processing]

Notice how the ear focuses a lot more on that low mid energy? That’s because of the way the harmonics are interacting. Now, if I take this mix and I turn it up to 100%…

[bass and kick]

Right? We hear it’s very low mid focused, it’s very pillowy, and that’s kind of what I’m going for. When we think about throwback, 90’s kind of Hip Hop, you know, we would be going into the channel of a board, we would be going into the outboard gear, we would possibly be hitting a tape machine, like, there’s going to be all sorts of points where we’re getting these transformer saturations, channel saturations, just the natural resistance along any kind of wire that’s got any kind of capacitor in there or inductor in there. It’s going to change the tone.

You know, the actual tape itself, if there’s tape involved, that’s going to cause some change. Converters are going to cause some change. There’s all these points of little bits of saturation that we just pick up along the way that we really have to consciously do when we’re working in the digital realm. So if I take off both of these here, even though both of these are subtle, when I bring them on one at a time, if I put them both on and both off, you’ll hear a much more distinct difference.

[bass and kick, VMR on and off]

So to me, that’s pretty clear. It’s a lot fatter, it’s got a certain roundness to it. It’s really, it’s very nice. And then the last thing that I’m doing is a bit of compression, and this is kind of what glues the low end together and gives it that sort of bloomy quality, and this is a really cool compressor for doing that. This new U73b, I don’t know what it’s modeling, I don’t know anything about it. I just slapped it on there and played with it, and this is what I came up with.

[bass and kick, with and without U73b]

I can even grind it a little bit harder if I just push the input up a touch…

[low end instruments, adjusting input on U73b]

Cool. So now let’s go back to our mix here. Now let’s do a quick before and after, and I’ll recap the concepts.

[mix]

I haven’t even really changed the level of the drum and bass, incidentally. Like, I’ve changed the balances a little bit, but the overall peaking level here is pretty similar.

So what I’m really doing is I’m thinking like, “Okay, how can I get this warm, fat, pillowy low end. What kind of devices do I need to do that when I’ve got kick sample and bass guitar, both of which basically sound the way that they need to sound?”

Well, I’m thinking subtle layers of saturation. That’s going to be my first go-to idea, and then maybe a little bit of compression here and there, just to kind of tie it all together. Maybe like, an EQ tweak here and there just to tie it all together, but nothing crazy, it just needs to be a number of things going through — basically, I’m sort of emulating an analog circuit process, and I’m doing that using this virtual analog gear that the Slate company specializes in.

Alright guys, so if you dig what I’m doing, please hit that like button. Don’t forget, if you want to get more fantastic information coming straight to you, you’ve got to hit that subscribe button, and if you want to get more in depth into mixing Hip Hop, you can go to mixinghiphop.com, or if you want to get more into compression, you can go to learncompression.com. All of that has really great stuff in there as well.

Hope you guys learned something, and I’ll catch you next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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