Quick Tip #8 – Harmonics

Harmonics

Most of us beat-creators, producers and musicians have invested in a pair of speakers or at least a decent quality headphone. Unfortunately the same does not go for the people listening to your tunes. So we as professionals need to find ways to work around the limitations of our listening audience.

One of the issues these limitations creates is how do we get our bad ass 808 kick to sound onto laptop speakers or standard apple earbuds that probably cannot display anything under 100Hz? In this quick tip I’m going to teach you an advanced technique I use on every song I mix:

Using harmonics to trick the brain into hearing frequencies that the playback medium cannot display.

 

Sounds complicated? The theory is, the practical solution is not.

 

Theory

The reason why certain notes on a piano sound good together (resulting in chords) and why some don’t (sounding ‘dissonant’) is because the harmonic frequencies of those notes match or don’t match. When notes match, such as a the C, E and G note creating a C Major chord those notes are in harmony.

Each frequency and sound has an harmonic overtone pattern that starts with the base frequency and keeps expanding with the addition of that base frequency number.

 

Example harmonic pattern of 40Hz:

First Harmonic:          40Hz

Second Harmonic:     80Hz

Third Harmonic:        120Hz

Fourth Harmonic:      160Hz

Fifth Harmonic:         200Hz

etc

 

Practical

That’s enough with the theory. How do we use this to get our 808 kicks to translate onto laptop speakers? Simple. If we boost the harmonic frequencies of the fundamental tone (first harmonic) our brains will fool us into thinking the first harmonic is louder than it actually is. The higher the harmonic you boost the less this effect will become noticeable.

If we want our sub-low at 35hz to come through we need to boost 70hz and 105hz. This is of course a simplified explanation and you need to make sure that you pick a fundamental tone frequency (first harmonic) that matches the key of your song. If your song is in the key of C Major you will want to tune your 808 kick to a C and use either 32,7hz or 65,41hz as your first harmonic, since those frequencies correspond with the C note.

 

Keyboard Frequencies

Notes with corresponding frequencies (click to enlarge image)

 

Tools

If you simply boost the harmonics of your fundamental frequency using an EQ you might not get the results you were hoping for since most EQ’s have quite a wide bandwidth (Q) and will boost many frequencies around your harmonic frequency too. That’s why I like to use a plug-in called MaxxBass by Waves. Simply input your fundamental tone frequency and up the Max Bass slider to increase the effect. There are many alternatives to MaxxBass though. Just Google ‘Bass enhancement plug-in’.

 

bass enhancement

Bass enhancement plug-in by Waves

 

Read More: Quick Tip #9 – Compressing Drums