BASS! It’s one of the most important aspects of a mix! Here’s the coolest part about bass: A mix of a dense pop song can have 100-150 tracks but the bass, which will take between 1-4 tracks is of the upmost importance in that entire mix. There are many different ways to treat bass when you’re recording and mixing but today we will talk about 3 different ways to try and improve your Bass tracks to sit well in a mix.
1. Put New Strings on Your Bass!
One of the biggest rookie mistakes is to keep the same bass strings for months, even years at a time! Now you don’t have to replace your strings all the time, however if you have a recording session coming up and you haven’t changed your bass strings within the month, it would be recommended to replace them. One of the biggest challenges in mixing and recording bass is you have to be able to have the instrument heard on poor playback systems such as the speaker of an iPhone. The older your bass strings are the less presence they have and the more the low end dominates the signal. This means your bass will sound just fine in a car, or on a home stereo or higher end headphones however it will become lost on smaller speakers and cheaper earphones, which is what a vast majority of the public uses to listen to music. Having a newer set of strings on helps gives your bass the attack and presence in the higher frequencies giving your bass a place to within the mid range of a mix, which is essential when you’re listening back on a low fidelity speaker. Generally the professional bass players I work with will replace their songs around 2 months at a time. If you are looking for a “duller” sound you can keep your bass strings on there longer. However, it easier to get rid of the mid range presence that it is to “make it up”.
2. Compress Just the Low End!
A common problem with bass is you want it to be controlled but not TOO controlled to the point where it doesn’t have any life. Bass guitars in themselves have “resonant frequencies”. There’s a lot of sciences and specifics about the vibration of various waveforms, but to keep things simple let’s just say that despite a consistent performance the volume of certain notes on a bass will not necessarily be consistent in the low end. Now one strategy is to compress the entire track. However this will affect more than just the low end, it will knock down your midrange presence and it takes dynamics away from the track. So a way around this is you can use either a Dynamic EQ or a Multipressor to compress the low end and completely squash it. In the picture above I used the free plugins TDR Nova by Tokyo Dawn Labs. And how it works you out a fast attack and long release with a really low threshold and strong ratio only on the frequencies below 150Hz – 200Hz. So now that the low end is completely squashed you can make up the gain so that the compressed frequencies arelanding back at “zero” or the middle of the graph. This lets the midrange and upper presence of your bass have dynamics and performance elements but keeps the low end of your bass under control.
3. Split The Bass Into 2 Tracks and Add Some Distortion
I know what you’re thinking: “Distortion on Bass!? Are you crazy!?”. Well no, saturation and distortion add upper harmonic information giving more presence to the instrument without having to EQ something that isn’t there. However, I would only do this after “splitting the tracks”. So here’s how I split the tracks.I will duplicate the Bass Track. On the first bass track I will cut the high end and only keep bass from 250Hz on down. Then on the second track I will use a high pass filter and cut off everything below 250. So without any further processing we already have a fader to control the “bass” part of the bass and we have a fader to control the bass in the mid range. Now on the second track, the track with a low cut I will add some distortion. This will give you much more control over your bass because now you have control over your low end bass and your mid range bass on separate tracks. Once you have this done and you have a Bass tone mixed between the two tracks you can send them both to a bus to control them even further.
Hope this helps with how you handle bass in your recordings and mixes.
Thanks for reading!