Getting the levels of your kick and bass balanced relative to each other is crucial for setting the foundation of a solid mix. I’m going to take you through an easy process to get your kick and bass sounding balanced. For this we will be using a VU (Volume Unit) meter, which displays an approximation of the RMS (Root Mean Square) value.
Firstly, solo your kick (or kicks) and open up your VU meter which should be placed on your master bus. The goal is try and get your kick to jump up to around -3dB on the VU meter.
Once you’re happy that your kick is sitting nicely around -3dB, add your bass elements to the equation. With your kick AND bass soloed, adjust the level of the bass so that the VU meter is consistently hitting around 0dB.
This works because the intensity of sound doubles with every incremental increase of 3dB. So the bass matches the average loudness of the kick. You could start with the kick at -10dB on the VU meter and aim to get the VU touching -7dB when both the kick and bass are combined to achieve the same result. This technique will work as long as the VU meter shows a 3dB increase after the bass has been soloed alongside the kick.
This trick only works to get the kick and bass sounding balanced relative to each other and doesn't define their level compared to the rest of the mix. Bring the other elements of the track back into your mix and adjust the kick and bass (keeping their relative balance) to a level that works with the rest of the mix.
Its worth remembering that VU meters were built for the analogue world and therefore the numbers don't represent the same information when compared to digital peak meters as found in your digital audio workstation. This trick to balance the low end is a Jacquire King technique (brilliantly explained by The Recording Revolution in this video).