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Ride It

by DJ Regard

The most common question I get from students of EDM basically boils down to, “Can you listen to my mix and tell me why my bass/kick sucks?” Frequently, the problem stems from their choosing a kick drum that’s too resonant. Those kinds of samples can sound huge when auditioning them in solo, but their booming low frequencies leave precious little room for anything else — so if you combine them with a bass synth the whole mix ends up feeling unattractively muddy well before the kick or bass feel powerful enough. In this regard, ‘Ride It’ is a pertinent case-study, because it uses exactly the kind of kick I’m talking about, but it carefully manages the arrangement to avoid the typical pitfalls.

For a start, the drum’s fundamental resonant G pitch is the root note of the track’s home key, so it implicitly supports the harmonies above without there being any musical need for a separate bass line. That means that the bass line has much greater freedom to choose when and where it plays, and it takes advantage of this privilege by using mostly short, sharp stabs in the gaps between the main kick beats. There’s no onus on the bass line to deliver low end in this scenario, either. Indeed, if you chop out one of this song’s kicks and phase-cancel it against the rest (dead easy given the metronomic 118bpm tempo), you can hear that the bass really isn’t contributing much low-frequency energy at all, majoring instead on its more characterful mid-range frequencies. The upshot is that the kick can be big and full at the low end and on the main beats, while the bass synth makes its presence felt in the mid-range and on the off-beats. Result: no muddiness and plenty of power.