Stereo bass secrets
It’s often said that bass parts should be left in mono, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Let’s try giving our low end some stereo enhancement!
Common production advice says to keep low-frequency elements in mono. In theory, this still rings true – low frequencies are less directional compared to high frequencies, so panning or widening sub-200Hz elements will only serve to weaken low-end power in a mix. Yet, in spite of this, reverb-drenched kicks and ultra-wide mid-range basses have been a fashionable feature of modern electronic music for a few years now. With that in mind, here are three things to consider when widening bottom-heavy sounds in a mix. The secret is to pocket the frequency content of your width just above the sub bass area, which gives the impression of wide ‘bass’, but keeps actual sub frequencies centred.
Generally, if your track features a powerful sub bass, keep your kick drum short and punchy to minimise low-frequency conflict in the mix. To make a small kick sound ‘bigger’, try widening the sound above roughly 150Hz with a stereoising plugin, or apply wide reverb.
In many modern dance tracks, bass elements are washed in cavernous reverb. When dialling in bass ambience like this, high-pass-filter the reverb signal at about 150-200Hz; but for best results, carefully adjust this filter’s frequency in the context of your mix.
A synth’s unison spread feature will pan multiple detuned voices to create uber-wide basses. To avoid obvious phase cancellation when summed to mono, bypass the unison pan, then dial in your own custom width by layering a stereo synth layer (or dial in width with plugins).