the sub-bass exploration unit

Welcome to the sub-bass exploration unit.

This Ableton Live device rack will help you bring your sub-bass sound up loud and get it working with your kick drum in the mix.

In the tutorial video I show you how the rack works by explaining WHY I picked each plugin, telling you WHAT each plugin does, and showing you HOW they change the sound.  

The plugins I used to build the rack all come from the built-in Ableton audio effects list.  The reason I did that is so you can learn how to use the basic tools while you're tweaking bass -- because you will find these tools in every DAW and also in analog studio hardware.  

Watch this to see the rack in action and learn some audio engineering skills:


How to use this rack:

Go through the devices from left to right.  Start with the MONO switch, then use the high-pass filter to cut out the part of your low low low sub bass that isn't important.  Use spectrum to find out what is important and what is not. (Don't worry, I show you how to do this in the video.)

When you find the HPF frequency, add some resonance to boost it up a little bit.  Not too much!

Next play with the low-pass filter.  This one is more fun, not as critical.  You can bring it way down to get the ooom-wooom sub sound, or leave it up high to keep the low-mid range of the bassline.

Then we compress and limit, and sidechain the kick drum.  Make sure you set the sidechain compressor "Audio From" chooser -- input needs to be your kick drum channel.   

Compression is too big a topic to explain here.  Play around with the threshold and makeup gain to hear what they do -- but listen to them affect the bassline in the full mix, not in solo.

REMEMBER --  a sounds that fits perfectly in the mix will probably sound a little weird in solo.  You can't have every sound be perfect in SOLO, and also have a great mix.  It doesn't really work that way...   


no EQ8?

The big obvious thing missing is an EQ8 plugin.  I left this out because it's not easy to macro-map one knob for all the things that an EQ does... and you can make your sub-bass work without it.  Surprised?   We will talk a lot about EQ later.

Note on the limiter

the Limiter Gain pushes up the volume BEFORE the limiter.  This means the limiter gain will not make your bassline get louder.  The Gain knob drives the bassline up into the limiter to make more of the bass get squashed.  It's like a CRUSH tool, not a volume tool.

Final note

Most of the decisions in the audio engineering world result in very small changes.  Don't try to do massive huge adjustments with this rack.  

Learn to listen, and do a lot of A/B comparisons when you mix.  Make a small change, then bypass the device to hear the change in the whole mix.  It's easy to hear it in SOLO, but make sure your changes help the whole mix, or else you can really waste a lot of time.

A great-sounding track comes from making thousands of small decisions along the way... not from one magic plugin or audio effect.  

Little mix tips from Steve.  Have fun!

Steve Knots

mixitecture, Pittsburgh, PA

seriously, as soon as I find out how to delete this author bio from the blog, it's gonna be gone.  mixitecture is not about me, it's about YOU and how you get the sound you want from Ableton.  Thanks for your visit.