Someone may need this visualisation: the importance of ducking sounds in electronic dance music

How to do this, that and the other. Share, learn, teach. How did X do that? How can I sound like Y?
sircuit
KVRian
817 posts since 15 Jul, 2016

Post Tue Dec 07, 2021 4:38 am

If I had this misconception, so others have it too, no doubt: we'd intuitively think that if we just duck the low frequencies of the audio when the kick hits, then we avoid level buildup and all is fine.

Well is not true: all signals in ALL frequencies sum up in one single time-domain signal and the result is we get gain increase on the master :dog:

I made a very short video showing what happens when we add a 1KHz sine over a 100 Hz sine (so basically a higher frequency sound over a bottom of a kick): the shape of the kick drastically changes and we go well over 0 dBFS when those signals at max level, combine.

In pratice, with no ducking involved, the limiter will start pushing down the mix with quite alot, including the kick's low end so we lose a tremendous amount of punch. This is why almost everyone is against brickwalling a mix more than a couple dBs.

Solution? Make sure we do everything we can do to avoid kick and other elements hitting at the same time: optimal arrangement, proper level automation, eq, dynamics control on each track, ducking full band, a nicely set master bus compressor etc. We just can't rely on the limiter to do any heavy lifting.

Ah_Dziz
KVRAF
3514 posts since 2 Jul, 2005

Post Tue Dec 07, 2021 5:11 am

I don't see why you would want to never have anything else happen at the same time as a kick. There are very many Compressors that have a fully featured EQ on the sidechain signal ( whether it's internal or external). You can use this to stop the compressor squeezing on frequencies that you want to leave alone.

If you set a compressor properly for the kick to make it things pump ( whether it's the whole track, or sidechaining some bass, chords, pads or whatever) then you will have no issues with the overall level. It's just one of thousands of mixing tricks that's popular these days.
If you are using a bass sound with a fundamental frequency in the lowest couple octaves, then it definitely makes sense to never, or almost never have the bass play a note at the same time as the kick drum.

It should not be a surprise that having a kick and a baseline in the same general frequency range is gonna dirty things up then you should look into your arrangement as well as the sounds you are using. A song in G# that has a kick tuned to G# and a bass that's right around there most of the time as well you should look at maybe bringing the bass up by an octave and then adding a bit of sub osc but just a tiny bit.

Low end takes more energy than anything else in your mix. Most data below 100 Hz should be focused on a baseline or a kick but not both. That's asking for trouble. Also one of these elements should be very simple while the other has a bit more movement and variety ( just a general rule I use when I'm doing bass heavy music).
Don't F**K with Mr. Zero.

chagzuki
KVRAF
2453 posts since 26 Mar, 2002 from london

Post Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:38 am

Ah_Dziz wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 5:11 am
nal).
Low end takes more energy than anything else in your mix. Most data below 100 Hz should be focused on a baseline or a kick but not both. That's asking for trouble. Also one of these elements should be very simple while the other has a bit more movement and variety ( just a general rule I use when I'm doing bass heavy music).
A kick with little or nothing below 100Hz is going to sound like a toy if played without overlapping bass. Since my arrangements move around a lot the best I can to to clean the low end is just a simple sidechain on those frequencies. As for ducking higher frequencies, I don't generally see the need, so long as the arrangement is good. In fact, ducking higher frequencies tends to sound artificial, or so I've found.
Every day takes figuring out all over again how to f#ckin’ live.

Ah_Dziz
KVRAF
3514 posts since 2 Jul, 2005

Post Tue Dec 07, 2021 1:43 pm

It just depends on the genre and such. Certain genres are lead by a heavy bass down mostly in the lowest 2 octaves and a kick that sits mostly in the octave above. Drum and bass and jungle styles come to mind. The trick is generally to have only one "leading element" that reaches down into the subs. These f**king tricks are to allow the less bass heavy element to still pump a wee bit of power down towards the sub region.

For example you can basically set up a compressor with filters on the sidechain to almost exactly follow the envelope of a kick that has just enough sub energy to let a few cycles of the lowest frequencies through. This allows the "higher lows" and mids to help keep the rhythm going while only ducking the main bass during the body of the kick. The longer you make the release of the compressor's envelope, the more perceived separation between the two elements.

The same tricks can work higher up the spectrum but they are trickier to make transparent (live drum recordings come to mind). For a strictly "let's make room for my vocal in the mids" type situation, there are great tools like WF Trackspacer that can he very transparent.

Anyway, Lots of electronic styles make use of the " unnatural" sound to add overall rhythm while buying some headroom for later. This is usually done with a broadband process rather than a sidechained dynamic eq or some other frequency dependant ducking as the obvious pumping becomes part of your rhythm.

Anyway there are tons of ways to get to whatever place you want. Using a sidechained transient shaper to clear up the attacks in a place where you have overlapping frequencies is a good one too.

Anyway. I'll stop rambling. The main point I was getting at was that is usually a mess when you have two low bass parts however you decide to process them. They often just end up sounding like one big sustained note in the low end.
Don't F**K with Mr. Zero.

Return to “Production Techniques”