We talked earlier how by eliminating all other instruments, a specific instrument — such as a kick — could be heard. So it’s a cheap strategy. Sometimes simple things sound better than a big wall of sound where everything is there, but you can’t hear any specific instruments or melodies.
The other trick has to do with frequencies. Bass lines are a good example, as it’s hard to get good to decent bass balanced in a mix. So what easily happens is to push up the bass volume, resulting in a boom sound. This is especially true if you listen to the track with non-optimal loudspeakers that don’t go down to the lower end, so you increase the bass, resulting in a boomy sound with good to decent speakers, and even car systems.
What the core problem is usually that you don’t clearly hear the bass, just feel it. So to get the bass heard, scan the bass track frequencies with a graphics equalizer. At some point, let’s say 400Hz, there are parts that by emphasizing makes the bass heard. You still have the bottom line, so it’s also felt with good systems. Sometimes you might even need to place two graphics equalizer parts to push up certain frequencies. In a lot of cases all that is needed is to get the bass heard, and no need to increase the volume.
There are even more advanced techniques, such as the one I read about the really tight kick/bass lines heard in the early Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis productions with Janet Jackson (such as What Have You Done To Me Lately — if you have not heard it, check it out, it’s one of the most tight dance tracks ever recorded). What was done here was to give the kick and bass it’s own frequencies, so that in one case the 400Hz range with the kick was decreased, and the bass 400Hz was increased. So it all fitted in like a pocket! Now, I personally think that the selection of the bass and kick sounds also played an important role. But it’s good to check out such productions and learn how the kick and bass operates together.
The other, more dramatic alternative with getting a track heard without volume increase, kind of, is to make another parallel track with the same MIDI information, but playing a more distinctive sound. I’ve used this from time to time with bass lines, the main bass is low and felt, and then a tinner/higher bass line is playing along, so it’s also heard. But this is to indirectly increase the volume. But it’s also a very common way to fix mixes without the need to increase the problematic track.
This is long. Sorry. But to end, what many sound engineers say over and over again, never increase the volume, rather take it down and something important is heard. Or with frequencies, not always increase them, rather carve out a dedicated spectrum for it.
Next about another really simple way to get things heard!