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How do you clear out the low end to make your drums massive?

NoamL

Winter <3
Hi folks!

I'd love to be able to share this track in progress in order to ask your advice, but I'm under NDA, so pictures will have to do.

A feedback that I've been getting consistently is "Could we have even more low end in the percussion?" This is a trailer track with massive whacking gran casa + mid/snare hits in the finale (think the recent Avengers: Infinity War trailer among others).

This is how the percussion looks in my spectrum analyzer.



here's what it is competing with.

At the top of the track are vln/viola spiccatos and a violin countermelody. They stay exclusively above 500 Hz:



Below them are some cello spiccatos for harmony:



Massed horns a12 are leading the track with their melody, which goes from the A below middle C up to treble C:



Trombones and low brass play block harmonies:



There is also an extra octave of sub bass during the second half of the finale, provided by Trailer Brass "The Horde":



There is also a synth bass:



There are also some other synth elements, mostly bell-like and pluck instruments that are adding to the ostinatos. They don't have much volume:



Finally there is cello and contrabass playing in octaves, doubling the brass bassline:



Looking at it analytically like this, it seems that the only elements with presence below 150 Hz are
  • Trombones and low brass
  • Epic trailer "Sub Brass"
  • Synth Bass
  • Cello and contrabass
  • the low end of my percussion (gran casa, gong drum etc)
Maybe I should just get rid of the synth bass? Is there also a way to "carve out" room for the percussion inside the brass and strings? I'm wary of doing obviously audible things like pumping them down with sidechain compression.

All of your advice is much appreciated! Thanks everyone.
 

SillyMidOn

Active Member
Hm, I would only have two instruments occupy the low end: sub bass (if needed, as in a sub synth line doubling the bass line/lowest part), and a dedicated sub hit that follows the percussion, but only on the main accents, as low sub hits tend to sustain longer, so no crazy 8th/16th note patterns. Everything else cut somewhere below 50Hz, even the percussion, as a Gran Casa is not going to have the same low end "umphh" that a dedicated sub hit patch will.

You could use one of the low end perc instuments, copy it, cut out anything above 50Hz and wack on a specific sub-booster, such as LoAir (either on the channel strip, or on an Aux, if you want to dial it in, with LoAir, I tend to use an AUX), I sometimes do that instead. Trailer folk neeeeeed weight in the low end, and it can get cluttered down there very quickly and you end up using up all of your head-room before you know it.

Hope that helps.
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
How do you clear out the low end to make your drums massive?

Hi Noaml
I do not know your workflow. If you make your mix with audio files (which in addition to the extra effort would also have many advantages), then there is the way through an audio spectrum editor. This would allow you to erase everything that is not music - without the bad phase shifts that EQs produce. That would be a really clean thing.
Further: The analyzer display, as you use it, is usually very inaccurate below 50 Hz. A spectrum editor would be better for the analysis as well.

Best Beat
 
OP
NoamL

NoamL

Winter <3
Thank you, that helps!

a Gran Casa is not going to have the same low end "umphh" that a dedicated sub hit patch will.
Yes, that's what I've been running into... I'm using Cerberus, Iceni, Albion and Heavyocity Ensembles and nothing seems to go lower than 80 Hz or so! What do you generally use for sub hits? is it something that has to be designed in a synth and can't be sampled?
 

aaronventure

Active Member
What I think they're looking for (what's usually the case with my clients) is just for the low end of the percussion to cut through more. If you just boost it like it is, it's probably gonna clip and sound way over the top. So you have to maximize your entire low end, without actually causing trouble down the chain when percussion starts hitting on top of it all.

Try sidechain compression.

Basically you set a compressor on whatever you want to duck and set it into a sidechain mode, so that it reacts to sidechained signal instead of its input signal, while still processing the input signal. But here's the catch: if you plunk the percussion out directly as the sidechain signal, you're going to get a reaction to the overall volume, which will undoubtedly mess up the overall compressor response. What you want instead is to use a click, hihat or even a short noise burst. Really, really short, enough to trigger the compressor (the overall volume of it is what matters). You can then copy your low percussion MIDI over to your newly created sidechain trigger (mute it on the mixer, of course). It will be sending signals at the same time as your percussion is playing, while being short enough to allow you to shape the compressor response yourself via its attack and release controls. I prefer using white noise from a synth as the signal, since just extending the MIDI notes will allow be to add a "Hold" value to the response as well.

Whether you'll use a single-band or multi-band compression is totally up to you. I feel like single-band might feel unnatural for orchestral music, and just compressing the low end might do the same. So I'd suggest the middle ground: have the low band compressing fully, the mid - low mid band at a reduced value, and leave the high end as it is.

You'll have to fiddle around to find and carve out the perfect hole that's not too jarring, but is big enough to allow the low end of your percussion to cut through, while also not being too deep and removing too much of the low end from your basses, synth basses etc.

You'll then have a cleaner low end punch for your percussion while maintaining roughly the same low end levels.
 

SillyMidOn

Active Member
Thank you, that helps!



Yes, that's what I've been running into... I'm using Cerberus, Iceni, Albion and Heavyocity Ensembles and nothing seems to go lower than 80 Hz or so! What do you generally use for sub hits? is it something that has to be designed in a synth and can't be sampled?
The Easter Island Hits 1 from Spitfire Albion1 (I use the original version) have some great low-end on them, and then add either the Logic SubBsss plug-in and fiddle with the knobs until you find something that works for you (I have my own preset), or LoAir by Waves, but as mentioned I find it sometimes easier to use an Aux with LoAir, as it can get very intense quickly, and focus the sound too much on the low end.

Heavyocity Gravity has some great Low Hits and some of the ones that come with Atlantica and Evolution Atlantica are ok, too, but Easter Island are my go-tos. You probably only really need to accent the first beat of each bar or every other bar, that's usually enough to give it that weight trailer folk are looking for.

I don't usually give out such detailed info, but I've always really enjoyed your posts and insights on vi-c, Sir Noam :), and we both seem to be Henry Jackman (esp Winter Soldier) fans.
 
OP
NoamL

NoamL

Winter <3
Awesome, thank you! I'll try both the multiband sidechain compression and some Easter Island hits.
 

LowweeK

Loïc D
I'd suggest as above :
- Leave low-end from the obvious hi-energy hits (sub & low hits). Clear the other tracks from low-end (starting below 100-150 Hz with 12db/18db oct hi-pass filter). Hard cut under 30Hz to get more dynamic range.
- Use side-chain to lower the conflicting elements to leave space for sub hits. Find the sweet-spot on threshold to leave some room but not pump too much.

In addition I'd recommend working your low end on 2 frequency ranges :
- 30-80 : for sub hits. Used scarcely.
- 80-150 : for low / low-mid (tuned percs, bass, lo brass, double bass, etc.).
Hence a multiband compressor might be handy.

My 2cts as usual :)
Good luck !
 

fixxer49

Bouncing Consultant
Thank you, that helps!

Yes, that's what I've been running into... I'm using Cerberus, Iceni, Albion and Heavyocity Ensembles and nothing seems to go lower than 80 Hz or so! What do you generally use for sub hits? is it something that has to be designed in a synth and can't be sampled?
Sometimes what feels like low end is not truly (technically) “low end”, per se - you can fool the ear w psychoacoustic effects that won’t create frequency bandwidth nightmares for you.

Specifically: Have you tried the Waves MaxxBass plugin? Oxford inflator can be nifty too.

Also, instead of (or, in addition to) Easter Islands hits from A1, I would actually suggest End of Days perc from Albion 2. I think they were probably recorded quieter, and thus have more low end signal, as counterintuitive as that may sound.

[disclaimer: i haven't done a trailer in a while...]
 
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karelpsota

http://karelpsota.com/
If you're looking for that Avenger Trailer Sound: psycho-acoustics effects are the key.
  • Use low instruments that have lots of harmonics. Low/Monster Brass are great for that. They feel really low, while not taking much room in the low end. Distorted bass synth are also good.

  • Excite drums with harmonic distorsion (post reverb). Really helps low drums cut in a mix.
By now, your mix should already sound "heavy" on laptop speakers.
  • Then, you can leave the sub region for the huge FX hits every 1-4 bars. Kind of like the LFE channel in theaters.

  • Lastly, you can always add a sub sine to double the bass line, but make sure you side-chain it to the hits.


Here's a quick track I wrote that demonstrates those ideas. Mastering is a bit squashed for my client, but hopefully you get the idea ;)

 
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OP
NoamL

NoamL

Winter <3
Thanks so much Karel. I think I was just relying too much on orchestral perc and "realistic" writing instead of delving deep into hybrid techniques. That Ghostbusters track is killer!
 

karelpsota

http://karelpsota.com/
Thanks so much Karel. I think I was just relying too much on orchestral perc and "realistic" writing instead of delving deep into hybrid techniques. That Ghostbusters track is killer!
Thanks for the kind words!

If you have any mix references with good drums in the more realistic category, I would love to hear them. Also curious to how one would mix these.
 
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S.M Hassani

Member
Good suggestions by everyone. Allow me to add these:

1- Control/Expand low end: bx_Opto from plugin alliance

Try the side chain in low pass mode. Set "Speed" to a fast response, solo and compress as needed. Once you contain them, push the makeup gain to taste. Great way to conform the subs in libraries like Action Strikes, Damage, or Easter Island hits. (Yes Loegria has some real big drums stashed in there) The optical circuit emulation sculpts the subs in a very natural way.

2- Synthesize Low end: bx_SubSynth from plugin alliance

This is a much deeper subharmonic extender than the offerings from Waves. You can learn all about it here:

https://www.plugin-alliance.com/en/products/bx_subsynth.html

The videos from Point Blank and Michael White are the ones to learn from.

3- Control transients and expand dynamic range: KClip3 by Kazrog

This is my favorite Clipper all around. Use it to control transients and manage the dynamic range of your track. NOTE: Try the demo version before buying. Some users have an issue with the multi-band mode in certain DAWs. Otherwise the wide band mode still works perfectly.

If you master these three, you'll be well equipped for trailer Sub/Bass mixing, and a host of other things.

Best of luck,

S.M
 
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SillyMidOn

Active Member
  • Lastly, you can always add a sub sine to double the bass line, but make sure you side-chain it to the hits.
[/MEDIA]
All good suggestions in your post, and logically it would make sense to side-chain the synth sub to the sub hits, the only problem that arises with that is that trailer editors rarely use the full mix, tracks or even all the stems, so if he is using the synth sub stem, and not the sub hits stem, and assuming he's going to cut the stems up (which, let's face it, happens most of the time) he's got a sub synth stem that is ducking in odd places, if you see what I mean,
 

storyteller

Senior Member
Awesome, thank you! I'll try both the multiband sidechain compression and some Easter Island hits.
Also, try Waves Maxx Bass and RBass. They each do different things to help out the low end, but I find them to both be indispensable.
 

Gerhard Westphalen

Scoring Mixer
A lot of the time "low end" doesn't really mean low end. By that I mean that it's normally much higher frequencies that they're really looking for more.

A couple of ideas which come to mind -

EQ out what you don't need so you're left with just the core sound. You can boost it a lot more that way since you won't have nasty unwanted stuff getting in the way.

Multiband compression can really help similar to an EQ.

The Waves plugins mentioned can help bring out the "low end" which people are asking for.

When I really want more low end I'll use the Lowender but that's a dangerous beast. As much as I love everything in my room shaking...
 
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