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How to make your bass dominate your mix

DnB producers such as Noisia and DLR are experts at increasing bass perception through clever mix interactions. Here’s a simple, effective way to replicate the effect.

(Image credit: Future)

Step 1: To demonstrate a quick trick for increasing the perception of low-end weight and power in a mix, we’re going to use a typical sub-bass part to trigger distortion over other track elements across this 174bpm drum & bass mix.

(Image credit: Future)

Step 2: It’s worth noting that the track’s lowest bass notes are fairly sparse – every two bars, they leave room for a higher-pitched, snarlier bass note to poke through now and then. This sparsity is essential, as you’ll find out…

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: All of the track’s high-frequency percussion elements are packaged in a single group bus for collective processing. On this particular bus, we’ll insert an instance of FabFilter’s Saturn: a multiband saturation/distortion plugin that allows for the input of an external sidechain signal.

(Image credit: Future)

Step 4: Within Saturn, we call up an Envelope Follower modulator, engage its External Side-Chain button, then key the track’s low bass signal into Saturn’s sidechain input. Once set up, we assign the Envelope Follower to increase the plugin’s Drive amount over a band targeted to affect only frequencies above 4-5kHz.

(Image credit: Future)

Step 5: By using this bass-triggered Envelope Follower to push up the drive over our high frequency percussion, the track’s hi-hats and rides distort only when that punishing low bass enters the fray, while the effect relents during those bass gaps, causing the bass to ‘crush’ the hats in the mix.

(Image credit: Future)

Step 6: From here, the trick is to tailor the effect by experimenting with the various drive modes on offer, and tweaking dry/wet mix and mod amounts to temper the effect. You can also use the same key input (ie, the bass) to push or pull other parameters such as EQ/tone or dynamics amounts.