Using Dynamic EQ to balance Kick and Bass

Don't always reach for the compressor's side-chain to marry the kick to the bass. A dynamic eq can sometimes be better!

Beat Construction


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You don’t always need to grab your compressor’s side-chain to get your kicks and basses to sit together. Using Dynamic EQ can be just as effective.

Up until recently we used to use compression to compress and equalisation to equalise. Today we use a combination of the two in a single processor and that processor is called a Dynamic Equaliser albeit with a difference. Most will state that a multiband compressor is much like a dynamic equaliser but there is a difference in that the crossovers in a traditional multiband compressor have fixed slopes whereas the dynamic equaliser has variable slopes. That has since changed with some multiband compressors offering variable slopes.

Multiband Compressor

A multiband compressor is a compressor that splits its entire frequency range into smaller bands that can then be compressed individually. Multiband compressors are particularly useful when the audio being treated has a wide variety of frequencies.

Dynamic eq

A dynamic equaliser applies the gain change directly to the gain parameters of a multiband parametric equaliser. As with most dynamics processors, the the threshold determines at which point gain changes take place. You have control over the bandwidth denoted by the Q value and, much like a compressor, the response is controlled with attack and release functions.

Complimentary frequencies

The reason we have so many problems trying to get the bass sound and kick drum sound to sit well together in the mix is that they both share similar frequencies. In most instances we try to separate the kick from the bass by using subtractive equalisation on the shared frequencies of one sound. This then leaves room for the other sound to explore. For example, if the bass and kick have prominent frequencies at 200 Hz we will cut 200 Hz from one sound so that the other sound can shine through. However, the more common approach is to use side-chaining to duck the 200 Hz from one sound with the other. But sometimes you don’t want to cut any prominent frequencies simply because they are an integral part of the sound’s character.

Getting the bass and kick to sit together nicely in a mix can be really challenging. The idea is to find the complimentary and shared frequencies of each sound and to dynamically control each to allow for space. In effect, we are using compensatory processing to create space for a range of frequencies.

In the video I trigger a drum beat and manipulate it using a dynamic equaliser. I explain the workings of a dynamic equaliser and how best to use it for shaping sounds. I explain each and every step in detail using the wonderful Waves F6 dynamic equaliser.

Plugin used in this video:

Waves F6 Dynamic Equaliser

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Dynamic EQ
  • Opposing Processing
  • Cut versus Boost
  • Expansion and Compression
  • Q and Bandwidth
  • Understanding the Threshold
  • Brickwall Cleaning
  • Tips and Tricks