So one of the hardest parts of dance music is getting that perfect, hard drop. Because if you wield one in your arsenal, you are going places. Sadly, making a hard and heavy section can be difficult. As with all production, you can't just turn it up into the red and expect Skrillex-mad filth. There are several techniques to get your drops heavy, but of course much of the creativity and imagination needs to come from you. Combine that with some luck and you'll have something incredible! Here's the list:
Remove the Bass
In the same way the lighting engineer may dim the stage lights during the build, try removing the bass. When the drop hits, you are suddenly hit with strobes and lasers, the contrast rocks - same goes for your low frequencies.
The filthiest drops tend to have a solid, earth shattering bass, which cannot blow minds if it's only as loud as in the verse. Try removing all the bass in the build for it to slam in, or more subtly, make the bass channels a good 6dB lower during the verses and builds.
A good drop is like a good joke. If you figure out the punchline, it's not as insane. We want to hit the listener with something better than they expected.
Low Pass Filter
Another cool trick to try is also remove some of the high frequencies, in the same way you will be caught by surprise with the bass, you may not expect the drop to suddenly be so bright and it will seem louder and more exciting!
Increase the Volume
So not just the bass, but the whole drop. Make it a few dB louder than the rest of the track (chances are you'll have to turn the verses down instead of the drop up in your DAW).
Figure which instruments will have a good punch and boost them while bringing the softer instruments back in the mix. A good EQ tip is slightly boost 110Hz on percussive sounds for the chest thump feeling from a subwoofer.
EQ cheat sheets rock, don't rely on them of course but don't let pros make you feel bad for using resources available.
If you don't want to make it louder try messing round with compressor attack times. By increasing the attack times, you let more of the original transient out. Bringing the attack down will crush the transient - potentially perfect for builds to remove the expectation of a punchy kick.
"Call 911 Now!" just think how many drops have been prefaced by some aggressive/excited screaming! It's human (and animal) nature to suddenly jump to attention at a scream or warning call, my theory is that a similar sound will suddenly make you pick up as the drop hits.
Consider Tchami's Superlativ, a filthy future garage track with a fantastic drop. If you've heard the track you will probably known the point I'm about to reference. Shortly prior to the second drop, you hear a woman's shriek. It was not present in the first drop which is otherwise almost identical, yet the shriek makes it slam so hard.
I've noticed this a few times in clubs, and I really stand by the idea of deep rooted instinct, based on warning calls. Think how much adrenaline you suddenly get from the scream just as the bass launches it's assault.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Both Mid-Bass and Harmonics
As previously discussed on this site, the sub bass is only half the magic. While a track that has no sub lacks the physical feel of the music, a track with no mid bass has no weight.
Another good reason not to ignore the mid bass is that it's usually the lowest most devices can play. Short of owning a subwoofer, it's extremely difficult to get the sub frequencies in a track. That is why the mid bass has to work.
This can be done in several ways, if you add some saturation to a sub bass, you will get harmonics in the mid bass range. If done right these can really make the sub sound much louder. Consider one of the later drops in Niggas in Paris (~2.40), the sub is so saturated, it almost sounds like it's breaking the club speakers by being so loud.
This is perhaps and extreme example because no song would sound good with a bass distortion of that level throughout. It is great however if you know you can be tasteful and know the limit.
Almost ironically, we have come to expect the sub bass in trap songs to not hit when expected. It never hits on beat one, and for many people when they first hear trap, it blows their minds.
Often one of the heaviest things you can do is provide a complete absence of anything heavy. You expect pure filth from beat one, it doesn't come, then suddenly it hits.
Like in Double Bubble Trouble (above) by MIA, even though the bass is expected to hit at beat 1 of the bar, you still count to 3 before it eventually hits on beat 4.
As always, Knife Party seem to have taken this one step further. Their song Boss Mode plays an additional spin on it. The first drop has the bass slam in on beat 1, completely surprising the listener as we are now accustomed to a delayed bass in a trap song.
Then when you think you have the song figured out, the second drop comes in with a complete absence of bass for the first 3 beats before slamming the literal fuck out of you on beat four.
So absolutely do not put the first bass note where your fist instinct is, as that's probably where everyone else wants it to go too! All the best producing the worlds next banger!
Do you want our entire Mastering EQ course for free?