Tuesday, November 23, 2010
If you're doing club music, you know that getting the low end just right is extremely important. Of course, you're much better off spending some time auditioning sounds at the beginning to find a sound that is close to what you want already than trying to whip it into shape with plug-ins, but sometimes you still need to do some tweaking. It's no surprise that there are a number of bass enhancement plug-ins out there, each of which work in slightly different ways and vary in quality. But if all you need to do is add some sub to your kicks, you probably already have the tools to do so.
I'll be working in Logic, but you should be able to replicate this fairly easily on any DAW that allows side-chaining and includes a noise gate.
1. Select the track containing the kick drum you want to beef up. Side-chaining in Logic needs to be done via buses, so we need to send our kick drum to a bus. Under the SENDS section of your track's channel, select Bus 1 from the drop down menu and dial the send knob all the way up.
2. We don't need to actually hear the signal coming through the bus, though, so on the channel strip for Bus 1, change the OUTPUT from STEREO OUT to NO OUTPUT. You'll find this menu right below the name of the bus. Now we have the kick drum being sent audibly through our audio channel, and being sent silently to Bus 1.
The reason we don't want to hear the output of the bus is because we're just going to be using it as a control signal, not an audio signal. SIDE-CHAINING is the process of using the audio from one channel to control some aspect of a plug-in on another channel. This is most commonly used in dance music where a kick drum is side-chained with a compressor on a pad or strings to create a pumping effect. We're going to do something similar here.
3. First we need something to side-chain, though. So create a new instrument track and insert an instance of any synth that has a good sine-wave on it. If you can't think of any and are using Logic, just called up an instance of EXS-24. It defaults to a sine wave sample. Record a long, sustained note. Be careful to choose a note that fits the key of your song. This is where the beef if going to come from, so having an 'off' note will really make a mess of your low end.
4. On the channel strip of your sine wave instrument, insert a side-chainable noise gate. I'm using Logic's included NOISE GATE. Firstly, we need to select a source for our side-chaining. So hit the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner of Noise Gate and select BUS 1, where we sent our kick drum. You'll need to experiment with different settings, but initially start out with your ATTACK at o, your HOLD at 60ms, and your release at 12ms. It's especially important to have a bit of a release at the end, as this prevents annoying clicks. Now, press play and adjust the THRESHOLD value until you can hear your sine wave coming through right beneath the kick drum, hopefully adding the sub energy you're looking for.
Don't stop here, though. Try effecting your sine wave channel in different ways - overdrive it or saturate it to add harmonics, sculpt it to perfection with EQ, etc.