Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Billie Eilish and her brother/producer Finneas completely dominated the GRAMMYs® this year. Personally, I am really happy to see extremely creative new music having both industry recognition and fantastic commercial success. I think it is also inspiring that, even though it was mixed and mastered by experienced pros, the recording and production was done by rather inexperienced people in a bedroom with modest equipment.
If you listen to the album, there is one thing you cannot help but notice… The low end on some of the songs is INSANE!! I do not say that as a bad thing, but good golly, that low end is huge on some of the stuff!
If anyone has seen me lecture about recording or mixing, you have heard me talk about what a beast low end is, and how much we have to focus on keeping it in check, so how can we have such a cool sounding and successful album with insane amounts of low end? The answer is, giving the low end its own real estate.
Sounds with big low end do not play well with others!!
The thing about sounds with big low end is… they do not play well with others!! In situations where low end has to share space with other low end elements, things usually do not work well. In our minds it might seem cool to have multiple sounds with massive low end in a mix, but the reality is that most times they just turn into mud, and the end result is that mixes actually end up sounding smaller rather than bigger.
The Billie Eilish songs work because when they have big low end, the arrangements are sparse and there is only one element in the mix that gets to have low frequency energy. If you take a listen to the massive hit “Bad Guy”, you will notice that most of the song has:
Synth bass (big low end)
Kick drum (midrange-y and short)
Snaps (no low end)
Shaker (no low end)
Vocals or melody synth (midrange but no low end)
That is it for most of the song!! Super sparse and arranged really well. The low end synth has plenty of room to move around and no other element in the mix is encroaching on the synth’s low end real estate. This is done expertly on the Billie Eilish album, but it is not unique. You see this same technique used on lots of Reggae, Drum n Bass, Trap, Hip Hop and several other styles of electronic music.
The secret to big low end is to keep the arrangement sparse and only let one element in the mix be huge.