How to use Automation to Create Space for your Kick Drum

May 24, 2012

Ableton Live Tutorials

Creating a harmonious kick-to-bass relationship is often the hardest thing to get right in a mix.  This has a lot to do with both parts commonly sharing a lot of the same frequencies.  Without some TLC, the typical end result is either a bass that drowns out your kick, or extreme spikes in volume where frequencies overlap.  Neither of which, will help you get a clear, loud mix.

With that being said we’ll look at how to automate volume envelopes on your bass to create space for your kick drum. These techniques can be heard in use with many of the Dubstep Samples from Platinumloops.

Lets compare these two examples –

Example 1 has No volume automation on the bass synth:

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Example 2 has been automated to create room for the kick to punch through:

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As you can hear the kick drum has much more punch and room to breath in our second example.

Getting Started…

Step 1 – Set up your tracks.

Stack your bass and kick tracks on top of each other.  For your bass track, make sure your automation lane is set to Volume.

Step 2 – Start to draw in your Volume envelopes.

Draw in your volume envelopes.  You’ll want to ‘duck’ your bass any time your kick is played.

For this particular bass sound a volume dip around -9dB seemed to work well, but that can change quite a bit based on the nature of your sound.

Double clicking in your automation lane will create a hit point.  Creating several hit points allows you to create an envelope.

As you can see in the image above, our bass drops immediately and then starts to fade in as our kick fades out.  Essentially, we’re creating a cross-fade between the decay of our kick drum and the volume of our bass.

NOTE: You don’t have to draw in every single envelope.  Draw in an envelope, then highlight it, right click and choose Duplicate Envelope.  You can also highlight multiple envelopes and do the same thing.

Tweak your envelopes until you have a unified, cohesive sound.

Step 3 – Check the effectiveness our sidechaining.

Bouncing our kick and bass to a single audio file is a good way to check how effective and accurate our volume envelopes are.  We want a fat wall of sound with little competition between our bass and kick.

Here’s visual feedback of this relationship with our volume envelopes created:

The track titled “automation” is our kick and bass bounced to a single wave file.  Here are some observations we can gather from examining this wave file.

For starters, you’ll notice we have a thick, even wall of sound with out any extreme peaks or dips.  Secondly, it almost looks like we had used some Compression, but because our kick and bass were no long fighting for space, we were able to get them very close in loudness levels and still maintain clarity.

Now let’s examine our kick-to-bass relationship without any volume automation.  We will repeat the process of bouncing them to a single wave file.

The track titled ‘no automation’ is our kick and bass bounced to a single file.  As you can see, we have some unwanted volume spiking.  This is from frequencies overlapping and compounding when both parts are playing.

Now, lets compare both of our merged wave files.

It looks like we have a much bigger and louder kick in our track without any automation but listen to the examples again:

Example 1 has volume automation:

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Example 2 has no automation:

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Clearly, the kick is much punchier in our example with volume automation.

Wrap Up…

Getting a tight bottom end is often the hardest thing to tackle in a mix.  Too much bass will muddy up your mix and drown out your kick, while too little bass will make your mix sound weak and thin.  This technique is a great way to create a harmonious relationship between both parts so they compliment each other.  Getting this relationship right from the get-go will save you a lot of time and headaches down the road.

We hope you found this tutorial helpful!  Be sure to check back for more great articles from Samplepacks.ca!

 

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