Let’s talk about mixing electronic music, i.e. dubstep.
Mixing means spreading out all the sounds into individual spaces. There are some things you could do to create space, clarity and depth to your mix. And the tools to do this are: a) volume, b) pan, c) reverb, d) phase and e) equalization. Wisely use EQ to cut away unwanted frequency ranges, e.g. muddy low frequencies, or gently boost parts that need a little attention.
Many dubstep tracks are built around drum and bass and are – on the most fundamental production level – sequenced around 140 BPM, has a nasty-textured wobble bassline and are programmed to a half-time beat.
Of course there’s no set method, and breaking the rules is anyway regarded as innovative. Nevertheless, drums are commonly created through overlaid samples, e.g. a snare drum sample and clap, merged with reverb. And when it comes to the kick, it shouldn’t collide with the self-oscillated sub-bass, which is achieved by reserving frequency ranges (or by side-chain compression).
Below is a prominent frequency map, stolen from Simmon Power’s excellent dubstep mixing guide and music mastering series. (Yeah, they’re old, but so is the Bible man.)
- Sub: 30 Hz
- 808 Kick: 60 Hz
- 909 Kick: 110 Hz
- D&B Kick: 150 Hz
- Bass: 220 Hz
- Congas: 500 Hz
- Pads: 800 Hz
- [Snare: 1 kHz]
- Rising FX: 1.7 kHz
- Crash: 2 kHz
- Stabs: 3.5 kHz
- Claps: 6 kHz
- Weight: 20 Hz – 150 Hz
- Warmth: 220 Hz – 380 Hz
- Muddiness: 250 Hz – 400 Hz
- Knock/Punch: 600 Hz – 1 kHz
- Definition/Bite: 1 kHz – 2 kHz
- Clarity: 4 kHz – 7.5 kHz
- Air/Sparkle: 7.5 kHz – 20 kHz
There’s a lot more characteristics to dubstep: pads and lead sounds, composition and arrangement, instrumentation, shuffle and swing, triplet rhythms and syncopation, dynamics, breaks, build ups and drops, stereo image/width and movement, compression and limitation, modulation and automation, resampling… But hey, I gotta go.
Just one last thing, don’t forget to listen to your mix, use your ears and stop staring at the frequency charts. And if possible, listen to your shit on different systems – a good mix should sound alright almost everywhere.