3 Hacks for Mixing Drum and Bass

3 Hacks for Mixing Drum and Bass

So, how do you mix drum and bass? Try these tips, as shared by Gracie.

Drum and bass emerged from the UK in the early 1990s. Once a small underground music scene, drum and bass (or DNB / D&B) has now spread across the globe, is all over commercial radio and is played at many of the world’s biggest music festivals. The genre spans so many different styles, from jungle to jump up and liquid to tech and neurofunk.

Gracie’s mixed drum and bass in clubs, bars and on the radio for over ten years. She featured at many of Australia’s biggest music festivals, headlined shows locally and interstate and played gigs in the UK and Europe. Crowned Perth’s Best Female DJ in the consecutive final two years of the Perth Dance Music Awards, she’s part of the Inhibit family and hosted a radio show on RTRfm for many years. Her signature drum and bass sets feature uplifting female vocals and heavy rolling basslines. Gracie coordinated many of the world’s biggest bass music artists’ Australia and New Zealand wide tours and is passionate about supporting local DJS in their music careers.

Here’s a few of my tips for mixing drum and bass. Try them out and let me know how you go.

1. Land a double drop by knowing your bars and phrases

Drum and bass tracks are made up of eight bar phrases. Not sure what I mean? Practice tapping and counting to eight to the music and note the characteristics at the start and end of each phrase. You should tap eight taps for each bar and count eight bars in each phrase. After a while, you won’t need to count anymore and you’ll feel the start and end of each phrase naturally. In general, the start of each phrase will hit at the following approximate times in each track:

  • 0.00 (i.e. the very start of the track)
  • 0.22
  • 0.45
  • 1.05
  • 1.30
  • 1.50
  • 2.10
  • 2.30
  • … etc.

More often than not, if you drop your second tune at the start of the phrase that hits on the ~1.50 mark of the first track, you’ll land a double drop. This is an incredibly general rule. On the contrary, many tunes will instead land a double drop by starting them from say the 1.30 or 2.10 mark. Sometimes the producer will just throw an extra bar or two in there, throwing this rule completely out the window. As such, it’s important to know your tunes well.

Despite how often this ‘rule’ can be broken, understanding when the starts of each phrase will hit will help you to better coordinate your drops. Need extra help? Mark the start of each phrase with cue points in Rekordbox to make things easier.

2. BPMs go up at 0.6% on the pitch slider

We have a lot of crazy tools on modern CDJs that we can use to ‘cheat’ when it comes to mixing. These days we can just peek the BPM of one tune and match it with the second. However, by using this technique below you can get just a little bit more accuracy.

Say you’ve got a track that’s playing at 172 BMP and you want it to play at 173. Increasing the pitch slider by 0.6% will lock it in at your desired tempo. Memorise regular 0.6% intervals on your pitch slider and you can set each track to one of those points. For example, I could use 0.2%, 0.8%, 1.4%, 2%, 2.6%, 3.2%, 3.8% … etc. I might have tune A on 2% and tune B on 3.2% or tune A on 2.6% and tune B also on 2.6% – it just gives you some definitive points on your pitch slider to lock each track into quickly without having to worry about them sliding out of time once matched.

3. It’s all about blends and layers

While mixing some genres of music is all about cutting and chopping from one track to the next, drum and bass is all about the blends and layers. You can create your own original sounds by combining the melodic vocals of one track with the heavy rolling bassline of another. Keep your tunes in the mix together for long enough for listeners to appreciate and be creative with what you combine.

As another general rule, don’t have the highs of both tracks or the lows of both tracks playing in full at the same time. Use your EQs. If you have both highs playing at full at once, it will highlight any inaccuracy in your beat matching. If you have both lows in at full at once, the sound becomes drowned out and muddy. Feel free to blast those mids in full together though and always have your full range represented with the highs and lows always coming from either of your tracks. That is, don’t have either the highs or lows cut out on both tracks at the same time.

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