For today’s production tip I want to pass along a brief but very helpful bit of advice I got last year concerning how you can improve the groove and impact of your low end (drums and bass) in a dance mix. This is incredibly easy to do and one of the quickest ways to improve the overall sound of your track.
Once you progress to an intermediate level of production, you’ll likely get in the habit of routing similar tracks to a bus or group channel, for example, routing all of your drum tracks to one bus. Aside from keeping things organized and making stems easy to export for a mix or mastering session, this is generally just a good practice to get into for a number of reasons. Generally, it’s a good idea to lightly compress these bus tracks, EQ them, and so on, as you will get a more full and cohesive sound when compressing all of a certain kind of track together rather than doing so individually only.
This particular tip is simply about routing your drum and bass subgroups or busses to one track before they hit your master channel. So, the signal flow is route all drums to one bus, all bass tracks to another bus, and then route those 2 busses to one final bus. Once you have your drums and bass on one bus/aux channel in your DAW, you’ll want to compress and limit them together. This is where the magic happens. I’m not sure if there’s a technical explanation I can give beyond this: it just sounds really good. A few dBs of compression, and adding a few extra dBs with a limiter on this bus will simply make your low end more cohesive, full, and often it will help the entire thing groove just a bit better.
You can also take this tip a bit further by using a plugin like Sonalksis StereoTools, Vengeance Sound Stereo Bundle, or Brainworx M/S EQ to make the very low end of this track even more powerful. Although all of these plugins work in slightly different ways, they all offer one very powerful feature: the ability to set a crossover point (frequency) below which all material is forced to mono. Back in the days when all dance music was cut to vinyl, this was essential: stereo bass information will actually make a proper vinyl pressing impossible.
Now you may be asking, why does this matter since we no longer (typically) press to vinyl? The simple answer is that anything below 60-80hz just should not have stereo information. It’s fine for your kicks and bass to have stereo information above this range, but any stereo sounds in this area or below will really decrease the impact of your kick and bass. You can apply this mono-making tip to either your drum and bass bus, or simply to your master track - I’ve yet to do this and have a track come out sounding worse, so it’s something I generally recommend doing. Do be careful not to cut above 80hz or so, as this will thin out your stereo imaging on an overall mix.