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Mixes without basslines? Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 12th August 2008
  #1
Mixes without basslines?

EDIT: first off, my title was poorly-chosen. I should've titled it something like "Mixes that have arrangement issues", or something similarly all-encompassing. It's just that I had just finished a mix that didn't have any 100-180Hz info and it was a pain in the ass getting it to work. But anyway, moving on...




I was mixing a track today that didn't have a proper bassline, and it took some doing to really fill out the bottom end.

The kicks were obviously providing some thump, but there was no sustained "oomph" to fill the track out and give it size and support for the vocal.

I ended up using a sub-harmonic generator to add some balls to the lead synth line, and I got a bit fancy with filtering and stereo processing to thicken up some orchestra stabs, but it got me thinking: what other approaches might there be for a poorly-arranged (in this case, lacking sustained low end) hip hop track?

I was actually considering just overdubbing a bass guitar part, but I know the producer and manager would've been uncomfortable with me altering the track. It features a high-profile guest artist, and apparently it took some work for my clients to impress that featured artist enough to get him on the track...Changing the track could upset that fancy-pants feature artist.

What do you guys do in when you get a track like this? It would seem working with the producer to tweak the arrangement would be ideal, but this isn't always feasible. So do you add parts on your own? Add a bit of Rbass that 16th-note hi hat part? Layer in kicks with longer decays? Or do you just live with it?
Old 12th August 2008
  #2
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live with it. bring out as much bass like you were saying. what are some "sub harmonic generators"?
Old 12th August 2008
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by termtables View Post
what are some "sub harmonic generators"?
dbx 120 is pretty classic as far as hardware goes. So is the Aphex Big Bottom processor and bass processor section of the BBE Sonic Maximizer.

In plugin land, there's Maxbass and Rbass, and probably others.
Old 12th August 2008
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by termtables View Post
live with it. bring out as much bass like you were saying.
Are you a beatmaker?

If so, I truly don't mean to offend you with this next question, I'm genuinely just curious:

As a beatmaker, do you feel that the sanctity of your composition should not be altered in any way, even if it's by a mix engineer you trust? If there's no bass to be brought out, and the arrangement is really lacking in it, wouldn't you welcome a competent mix engineer's suggestions?

I'm sure there are times where a producer/beatmaker is intentionally leaving a bassline out, but I also feel that sometimes the attitude of "just live with it" is lazy and/or plays to the fragility of the beatmaker's ego. I'd much rather do a great job than indulge a client's ego, however, if the client is unwilling to take constructive criticism I'll keep my mouth shut.
Old 12th August 2008
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Are you a beatmaker?
I'm sure there are times where a producer/beatmaker is intentionally leaving a bassline out, but I also feel that sometimes the attitude of "just live with it" is lazy and/or plays to the fragility of the beatmaker's ego. I'd much rather do a great job than indulge a client's ego, however, if the client is unwilling to take constructive criticism I'll keep my mouth shut.
I certainly welcome input from an experienced person.. even unexperienced people (you gotta read between the lines.. just because their words don't make sense, doesn't mean their thoughts don't make sense.. a lot of people can't describe the problems they hear if they're not pros)

I suspect term was suggesting to do what you did, because that seemed like the only option.. not because he would want that for himself were he the person who'd submitted the track to you.

People are ****in pussies, and they definitely get scared when they have something on the line (such as "important guest rapper").. Sometimes it's too much work to reason with them.

If the track is really special, being a music lover, I would always fight for what I right.. otherwise, if I thought they were going to be trouble about it, I just "do my job" how "they" think my job should be. Gotta pick and choose, and I'm sure you've been doing all your years in biz.
Old 12th August 2008
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by coyotekells View Post
I certainly welcome input from an experienced person.. even unexperienced people (you gotta read between the lines.. just because their words don't make sense, doesn't mean their thoughts don't make sense.. a lot of people can't describe the problems they hear if they're not pros)

I suspect term was suggesting to do what you did, because that seemed like the only option.. not because he would want that for himself were he the person who'd submitted the track to you.

People are ****in pussies, and they definitely get scared when they have something on the line (such as "important guest rapper").. Sometimes it's too much work to reason with them.

If the track is really special, being a music lover, I would always fight for what I right.. otherwise, if I thought they were going to be trouble about it, I just "do my job" how "they" think my job should be. Gotta pick and choose, and I'm sure you've been doing all your years in biz.
Cool response!thumbsup
Old 12th August 2008
  #7
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I really don't have any input for the first question as I love basslines, for the second question although it wasn't aimed at me, I think that if it's an ME that you trust and have worked with before or at least know of his work and trust his ear, that you should just say, "dude just do whatever you need to." and hope it comes out as good as you hope, really that's what an ME's job is and if your paying him to make sure your sh*t sound good, then let "HIM" make your shi*t sound good.
Old 12th August 2008
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by majestic1juan View Post
I really don't have any input for the first question as I love basslines, for the second question although it wasn't aimed at me, I think that if it's an ME that you trust and have worked with before or at least know of his work and trust his ear, that you should just say, "dude just do whatever you need to." and hope it comes out as good as you hope, really that's what an ME's job is and if your paying him to make sure your sh*t sound good, then let "HIM" make your shi*t sound good.
I agree and disagree...I'm not sure that a mix engineer's job is to do whatever he needs to do. I guess it sorta depends on the client.

Unless I was familiar enough with the client to know their answer would be no, I'd always make a suggestion like "add a bassline" or whatever. But some people hire me just to polish what they've got, and I respect that. I guess that's why I'm curious as to how other mix engineers approach the task of filling out a wimpily-arranged track. Rbass and the dbx 120 only get me so far, and I can only add so much bottom end with my Tube Tech PE-1C (plus I only got one of em!), so I'm interested in others' techniques to create the illusion of lower-end support.
Old 12th August 2008
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Imagine Prince's engineer would have added a bassline to "Kiss" tutt
I understand where you're coming from tho.
Old 12th August 2008
  #10
CDS
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riteup3 View Post
Imagine Prince's engineer would have added a bassline to "Kiss" tutt
I understand where you're coming from tho.
Or When Doves Cry for instance which he tried to add a bass and just tossed it because it didn't work..

I say do the best with what you have and warm up and beef up the other elements there. this also allow you to add some depth to the drum mix so something can stand out...

On When Doves Cry it was the synths.
Old 12th August 2008
  #11
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I'm a big fan of RBass for thickening up low range synth lines.

I do this a lot when i get tracks with thumping 808s, but nothing in the 120-150 hz range.

Considering that I'm both a beatmaker and engineer I usually end up mixing my own tracks.

On the engineering side, I usually dont add sounds to tracks unless asked to. I will however layer a punchy kick to beats that have nothing but sub 808 kick, and replace or layer other ****ty drum sounds.
Old 12th August 2008
  #12
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i've been in positions where ive seen engineers start turning instruments into different sounds, completely robbing them of their purpose, for the sake of 'frequency enhancement' or because they were dying to drastically change things regardless of weather it needed anything. Not saying you are like that, but I think you really need to ask the producer if he's AWARE theres no bass, and if he's happy with it that way... The producer knows best, by definition, and as the engineer, i think SUGGESTIONS are definately cool, but i think you need to find that area between truly CARING about the song and giving the producer what HE wants regardless of how you feel about it...

PS

as to the 'bass' question... Sometimes, if a kick drum is a fatter, longer sample, and playing a pattern that hits enough, as long as its chunky and hitting hard, you can go without bass... even without an 808...

Aslo, if you REALLY think it needs a bass, why not run a mix down at the end of an added bass line? Maybe he'll love it...
Old 12th August 2008
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Are you a beatmaker?

If so, I truly don't mean to offend you with this next question, I'm genuinely just curious:

As a beatmaker, do you feel that the sanctity of your composition should not be altered in any way, even if it's by a mix engineer you trust? If there's no bass to be brought out, and the arrangement is really lacking in it, wouldn't you welcome a competent mix engineer's suggestions?

I'm sure there are times where a producer/beatmaker is intentionally leaving a bassline out, but I also feel that sometimes the attitude of "just live with it" is lazy and/or plays to the fragility of the beatmaker's ego. I'd much rather do a great job than indulge a client's ego, however, if the client is unwilling to take constructive criticism I'll keep my mouth shut.

I'm a beatmaker and engineer. I have not had to have the opportunity of a ME fixing my tracks because I don't think anyone in this town can mix my beats better than me. If it's someone I trust though i would go with their opinion. There are a few producers that I do quite a bit of work to THEIR tracks and they really appreciate it. They are usually sitting there though as I mix the beat and they give the okay on everything I do. I almost always add a bassline to my beats and if I don't I still understand that the beat needs some type of sustained lowend so I might take the easy route and put the 808 in. If I can't figure out a bassline I'm happy with and down the road the ME knows a bass player, I'm all for it.

I think intially you have to develop that trust with the producer and once they see that you have the best of intentions they will trust your gut opinion on shaping the track into the best thing it can be.

I admire your work ethic from what I just read though.
Old 12th August 2008
  #14
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from a beatmaker point of view... i only like people to mess with my stuff if i'm not sure what's wrong, can't get it right myself or have no clear vision.
also, most beatmakers i know are quite narrow minded and very sensitive to (even) suggestions.

from what you've explained i'm sure there is something lacking.
is it an option to present them with 2 versions?

1 "just" mixed.
2 added bass (bassline kick sustained sub stab or whatever) and mixed.

Old 12th August 2008
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by riteup3 View Post
Imagine Prince's engineer would have added a bassline to "Kiss" tutt
I understand where you're coming from tho.
I don't understand your point; "Kiss" has a bassline.
Old 12th August 2008
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjasoards View Post
I'm a big fan of RBass for thickening up low range synth lines.

I do this a lot when i get tracks with thumping 808s, but nothing in the 120-150 hz range.

Considering that I'm both a beatmaker and engineer I usually end up mixing my own tracks.

On the engineering side, I usually dont add sounds to tracks unless asked to. I will however layer a punchy kick to beats that have nothing but sub 808 kick, and replace or layer other ****ty drum sounds.
You nailed it! That 120-150Hz (actually, in my experience, 80 or 90Hz up to 150 or 180) range is often not considered or accounted for properly in hip hop arrangements. Everyone these days wants a huge 808 sub boom and a buncha 3-5k and 12k, which makes mixes sound small and tinny on systems that can't reproduce below 60 or 80 cycles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by filterayok View Post
i've been in positions where ive seen engineers start turning instruments into different sounds, completely robbing them of their purpose, for the sake of 'frequency enhancement' or because they were dying to drastically change things regardless of weather it needed anything. Not saying you are like that, but I think you really need to ask the producer if he's AWARE theres no bass, and if he's happy with it that way... The producer knows best, by definition, and as the engineer, i think SUGGESTIONS are definately cool, but i think you need to find that area between truly CARING about the song and giving the producer what HE wants regardless of how you feel about it...
I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but a HUGE part of being a mix engineer is, to me at least, knowing and executing a good arrangement. Turning instruments into different sounds is not at all cool; I really do believe you should respect the integrity of the beatmaker's work. Which can be hard, sometimes, because I come across some real hacks. BUT, if a client is seeking a certain result, and has not provided me with the material to generate the result (let's face it, very few people understand the recording process and what makes a good-sounding record), I'd much prefer to offer to add a new part than mangle an existing one.

But I feel like we're getting OT; I don't want to debate the morality of adding a part vs. letting it go. I'm more interested in others' approaches to dealing with poorly-arranged tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by termtables View Post
I'm a beatmaker and engineer. I have not had to have the opportunity of a ME fixing my tracks because I don't think anyone in this town can mix my beats better than me. If it's someone I trust though i would go with their opinion. There are a few producers that I do quite a bit of work to THEIR tracks and they really appreciate it. They are usually sitting there though as I mix the beat and they give the okay on everything I do. I almost always add a bassline to my beats and if I don't I still understand that the beat needs some type of sustained lowend so I might take the easy route and put the 808 in. If I can't figure out a bassline I'm happy with and down the road the ME knows a bass player, I'm all for it.

I think intially you have to develop that trust with the producer and once they see that you have the best of intentions they will trust your gut opinion on shaping the track into the best thing it can be.

I admire your work ethic from what I just read though.
Thanks!

I believe the mixing process should be a collaborative one, and it sounds like you've found a good network to exchange ideas amongst; I'm of the mindset that every mix should take a similarly open-minded and symbiotic approach. I've said it a thousand times: the most important thing an engineer can provide a musician with is a sense of trust.

Quote:
Originally Posted by beat you down View Post
from a beatmaker point of view... i only like people to mess with my stuff if i'm not sure what's wrong, can't get it right myself or have no clear vision.
also, most beatmakers i know are quite narrow minded and very sensitive to (even) suggestions.

from what you've explained i'm sure there is something lacking.
is it an option to present them with 2 versions?

1 "just" mixed.
2 added bass (bassline kick sustained sub stab or whatever) and mixed.

The problem there is in my case, I'm being hired to do the mix; if you as my client knew there was something wrong with the arrangement, but couldn't figure out what the problem was, you probably wouldn't go ahead and complete the song and send it off (along with a check!) to me to get mixed. I think in most cases, people just don't realize the flaws of their music.

As for providing two mixes: that would be ideal, the problem is time and budget constraints make it difficult for me to dick around adding parts unless I KNOW the producer will be happy with it. If I mix the song, then add a part and remix the song, and the producer doesn't like the added part/remix, he won't be very happy when I send him an invoice that's twice what he planned on paying.




Beatmakers are sensitive, which is why it's impossible to always be able to add or suggest they add new parts. This is why I'm asking about others' approaches. Again, I don't want to turn this thread into a moral debate!!
Old 12th August 2008
  #17
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Blast9's Avatar
Killing Me Softly - Fugees - love that mix. From memory, I believe that is a bass-less track isn't it?

anyway I guess this is slightly OT as I'm not providing any suggestions
Old 12th August 2008
  #18
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It depends on the track.

I like sum tracks with jus a sad sample, a dry mpcish beat n a great mc killing it.

It can be a style.

If you feel like the track need a bass it's because your not feeling whut the beatmaker wanted to do...


or maybe it's jus a poorly arranged beat, lol.
Old 12th August 2008
  #19
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ryst's Avatar
 

Hey Benny, all those things you have mentioned doing are very good ideas. Also, I would try re-amping the synth line thru a bass amp or possibly the Ampeg Bass plug (one of my faves). With either of them I would also add an octave pedal. Sometimes you can get a cool sounding bass from that.
Old 12th August 2008
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
You nailed it! That 120-150Hz (actually, in my experience, 80 or 90Hz up to 150 or 180) range is often not considered or accounted for properly in hip hop arrangements. Everyone these days wants a huge 808 sub boom and a buncha 3-5k and 12k, which makes mixes sound small and tinny on systems that can't reproduce below 60 or 80 cycles.



I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but a HUGE part of being a mix engineer is, to me at least, knowing and executing a good arrangement. Turning instruments into different sounds is not at all cool; I really do believe you should respect the integrity of the beatmaker's work. Which can be hard, sometimes, because I come across some real hacks. BUT, if a client is seeking a certain result, and has not provided me with the material to generate the result (let's face it, very few people understand the recording process and what makes a good-sounding record), I'd much prefer to offer to add a new part than mangle an existing one.

But I feel like we're getting OT; I don't want to debate the morality of adding a part vs. letting it go. I'm more interested in others' approaches to dealing with poorly-arranged tracks.



Thanks!

I believe the mixing process should be a collaborative one, and it sounds like you've found a good network to exchange ideas amongst; I'm of the mindset that every mix should take a similarly open-minded and symbiotic approach. I've said it a thousand times: the most important thing an engineer can provide a musician with is a sense of trust.



The problem there is in my case, I'm being hired to do the mix; if you as my client knew there was something wrong with the arrangement, but couldn't figure out what the problem was, you probably wouldn't go ahead and complete the song and send it off (along with a check!) to me to get mixed. I think in most cases, people just don't realize the flaws of their music.

As for providing two mixes: that would be ideal, the problem is time and budget constraints make it difficult for me to dick around adding parts unless I KNOW the producer will be happy with it. If I mix the song, then add a part and remix the song, and the producer doesn't like the added part/remix, he won't be very happy when I send him an invoice that's twice what he planned on paying.




Beatmakers are sensitive, which is why it's impossible to always be able to add or suggest they add new parts. This is why I'm asking about others' approaches. Again, I don't want to turn this thread into a moral debate!!
Beatmakers are sensitive, which is why it's impossible to always be able to add or suggest they add new parts
Old 12th August 2008
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blast9 View Post
Killing Me Softly - Fugees - love that mix. From memory, I believe that is a bass-less track isn't it?

. . .
NA..it comes in later in the song. Sounds real nice on a pair of 15"heh


bgrotto. If eq won't do it...I might import a new sample to add a little boom under the original kick. Maybe even dub the kick track and pitchshift it up or down to add deepNESS.
Old 12th August 2008
  #22
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Remind the beatmaker that there is no bass...he may explain why there is no bass...Let him make his own decision from there. If he does not want the bass, then leave it. Just do your job as a mix engineer and move on to the next client. Its that simple...
Old 12th August 2008
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phillysoulman View Post
Beatmakers are sensitive, which is why it's impossible to always be able to add or suggest they add new parts
Thats true!
But if you ask WHY there is no Bass you will probably get an plausible answer.Sometimes a Bassline just won´t fit or you can´t come up with the right basslineThen it´s better, i think, to go without a real bassline and give the track a big fat kick and some sub-sines.
Old 12th August 2008
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
I was mixing a track today that didn't have a proper bassline, and it took some doing to really fill out the bottom end.

The kicks were obviously providing some thump, but there was no sustained "oomph" to fill the track out and give it size and support for the vocal.

I ended up using a sub-harmonic generator to add some balls to the lead synth line, and I got a bit fancy with filtering and stereo processing to thicken up some orchestra stabs, but it got me thinking: what other approaches might there be for a poorly-arranged (in this case, lacking sustained low end) hip hop track?
let him know and do what u did. could have done a filter of synth line, maxbass/eq it up and bring it up underneath original- basically same difference as what u did. As exec prod I've replayed parts that needed to be replayed, removed trks that dont need to be there and taken my co-prod credit as I should. Point is, if ur name is gonna be on there and if it's a release u should make every effort to get the mix to bang.
Old 12th August 2008
  #25
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"As a beatmaker, do you feel that the sanctity of your composition should not be altered in any way, even if it's by a mix engineer you trust?"

Most people I know who are producers would trust their trusty mix engineer to not play "producer" on their productions and instead, take their mix to another level, if you as a mix engineer can take the original vision of the song and mix it in a way that they'll be happy with, having them say things like "Wow you really made those drums bang!" or "I love the openess of the song now!", you did your job, played your position and everyone's happy at the end of the day (they're not just beatmakers now, if someone brings you a session to work on and it's got lyrics and at least one hook, and no bassline, like it or not, they are the producer on the gig and you have to play your position).

If you approach your mix jobs with something like "Hm, this could use a bassline..." you should probably get into production, as many mix engineers do make that transition at one point. I personally produced for artists before taking up mixing more seriously, so I'm kinda coming from the opposite end of the rap world; as a mixer, you're better off not f***ing with peoples' productions unless you're asked to.

My 2 cents, anyway.
Old 12th August 2008
  #26
These are all good points, but I'm not necessarily talking about tracks lacking a bassline, per se. I'm talking about tracks that don't have anything to fill in the top octave of the bottom end (c. 80-160Hz). For example, a track with a deep kick (c. 60Hz), and a string part to fill out the low mids (around 250Hz, for example), but nothing in between to bridge that gap.

Certainly, there are some tracks where this kind of arrangement is perfect. On the other hand, I suspect the all-too-frequent poor room acoustics of the beatmaker's "studio" is a major culprit.

Anyway, the solution doesn't have to be a bass line; it could be another part with a lotta of low frequency (but not sub) energy. Some folks have mentioned layering a kick with a higher fundamental or focus of energy, or maybe you could add Rbass or a similar processor to the strings. That's what I'm getting at with this thread; I'm just interested in others' approach to filling out that octave when you're presented with material that doesn't have that range of LF information.


PS - Ryst, very cool idea. I dig that it could sorta underscore an existing part, which means you could sneak it in pretty easily, which means our sensitive producer-friend wouldn't notice or care! Good stuff. This is the kind of idea I'm looking for.
Old 12th August 2008
  #27
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Did LL Cool Js "I Need Love" have a bassline??
Old 12th August 2008
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
On the other hand, I suspect the all-too-frequent poor room acoustics of the beatmaker's "studio" is a major culprit.
Well you see, I think you're going a little too far in your judgement of the job; maybe they've got great acoustics and the track is supposed to have that "hole" where you typically would have low/mids? I hope this doesn't come accross as "assholeish", because you sometimes can't really express things in text without sounding like a dick; so I'm saying this with honest intentions: Work with what you've got, like Termtables said. If they come back after you finish your mix and they say "How come it sounds like something is missing now?" then you can take it to that next level with them and offer them your advice.

From my experience, rap producers can get defensive when the mix engineer offers to add to the production on the track (reasons can range from plain ego to messing with peoples' money), so play it safe and be that cat that goes "Man, don't worry, I got this and I'm gonna make your joint sound sick."

Best of luck!
Old 12th August 2008
  #29
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...and for me, personally:

"I'm just interested in others' approach to filling out that octave when you're presented with material that doesn't have that range of LF information."

EQ around the 60's and a plate reverb on the kick can do wonders.
Old 12th August 2008
  #30
Put a delay on the kick like Prince used to do.
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