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defining bass in a mix

Discussion in 'Bass' started by imagineaudio, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    Hey guys, I was wondering if you could help me out. I've been trying so hard to get a nice tight sound on the bottom end of my mixes....and no matter what I've tried so far it all comes out kinda bland with no real punch. The problem i'm having is seperating the bass and the kick to give them their own space. I monitor through M-Audio SP-5B's wich I suspect is a contributing factor. They have very little bass response below 100hz, and what is there always seems wrong. I added a Polk Audio sub from my home theatre system and it has helped a little, i just have to be careful to set the gain. I always seem to have to compress the mix bus just to hear whats going on on the bottom and then my mixes translate too compressed. If I don't use it I'm really just guessing at whats in there.

    I was wondering if there is a trick that would help out, maybe realating to the relationship between the sub and the monitors. I've tried using a tone generator sending out a sweeping sine wave with a K2 set up at the mix position. I then matched the sub to the monitors so all the frequencies were reaching the mix position at the same volume +/- 1db. I also adjusted the crossover on the sub at about 100hz (about where I hear the volume drop through the m-audio's.)

    Is their something else to it?

    I use M-Audio SP-5B's
    Polk Audio PW250 250watt 12" Sub
    M-audio Delta 66
    Ashley CL52 Stereo Comp/Limiter

    .....The more I think about it as I read this, the more I realize what my next purchase should be.........great monitors :lol:

    Hmmm.....we'll put the budget at..........$1100-$1500........

    ....Ive had these SP-5B's for about 3 or 4 years and i know thier faults and their strong points......i know where i can trust them and where I can't......Is there something I can do so I can get a little more milleage out of them while im saving 1500 for some new ones?
  2. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    What's your control room like, ie: size, speaker distance to walls, acoustic treatments? If you have a small room, like 10x12, with monitors close to the walls, bass is already a problem. Also, if you are in a small room, listening at loud levels will cause problems, try listening at low and moderate levels to get a more accurate picture. If you're using EQ while tracking, Don't crank the lows. Boost something in the low mids, like 250-350Hz with a tight bandwidth. Try adding a slight boost around 3k also. Compressing the bass track with a fast release time will also add punch. If you're recording in digital (I assume so) your converters will add or detract from bass quality too.
    I spent a few weeks building and placing bass traps in my space to help get rid of standing waves, and made sure the monitors were at least two feet away from the wall. You're absolutely correct that good monitors will improve things, but bass is usually the hardest part of a mix to do well. BTW, are you recording with the same bass frequently, or different players/basses? Sometimes the instrument is the problem. When doing a final mix, use a low rolloff on the L/R bus at 30 or 40Hz, there's a lot of useless garbage down there that will eat up headroom. Hope some or all of this is of some help. Good luck.
  3. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    It's about 10X12, speakers are about 2 feet from the wall, sitting on top of hard cellulose sponges, not much for acoustic treatment....this room is temporary, maybe for the next 9 months. It also is doubling as my bedroom for now. placed the bed centered to the mix position as to keep everyhing as symmetrical as possible.

    I've heard this before and I usually monitor at low levels and only crank it once i think it's almost there just for the WoW factor :wink:

    I do use the same bass pretty frquently, and I've often thought that could be a problem, it;s not a very open sounding instrument ......but I have heard it sound great before, and it's not just that bass. I have problems getting the bass sound I want in other instruments (synths, VSTi's, Hand percussion, kick drums, low toms) too.

    If you know where I can post some MP3's Ill let you hear what I'm talking about.

    I appreciate you taking time out to reply and I will try the comp/eq tips you offered and let you know if it helps, room treatment isnt much of an option right now, and yes, i do understand the importance of a great sounding room......I just can't make the monetary/time investment right now.....And im not expecting to get stellar results without treatments, Im just looking for some improvements where I can

    The monitors i think im going to hold off untill I get into my new room

  4. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

  5. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    I think someone else suggested this before, but I like to carve out a little EQ on the bass guit around 45-60Hz or so, where the kick should punch through. Sometimes I also dip out some 250ish Hz on bass guit where the elec guitar low end sometimes resides . I also have a fairly steep low-end rolloff on the kick starting at around 30-35 Hz, and the big dip around 250-400 Hz. On guitar, look to take out some 100Hz, and perhaps a dip around 400-500 Hz. On toms a trick that works sometimes if you don't trust your ears, is to use a spectrum analyzer to find what frequency the tom peaks at in the low end. Then dip out some of this resonant frequency, but make sure you don't make it too thin.
    Of course all of this depends greatly on what your mics are picking up, but maybe this will give you some ideas to help with what you can't hear. I can get a pretty good idea if I have the bass right by listening in my car, because that is probably the most familiar reference for me. If you already try all this, just ignore me. :wink:
  6. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    I usually roll the bass off around 60ish

    Hmm....never tried this....I usually do the opposite here, add a little at 250ish and carve the guitars out so they play nice with the bass. This has worked pretty well for me, but it wouldnt hurt to try it your way.........

    I tried today using a faster release on the bass comp to add some punch and that helped some, I guess using a similar aproach to comp'ing the kick would help too

    Thanks guys...I'll have some mp3's posted tomorrow so ya'll can hear what I've got going so far
  7. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    I use fast release on a main mix bus comp when doing quick mixes, usually no more than 2:1 ratio with attack around 50mS and release around 5mS. Punchy as hell. Looking forward to hearing the clips.
  8. RAIN0707

    RAIN0707 Guest

    I tend to do the opposite of what was mentioned about carving out EQ of the bass guitar. If you want a nice bottom end for a rock tune I tend to put a HP filter on the Kick at about 85 hz or so. This allows the bass gtr to carry the extreme low end. I'll carve out some frequencies in the kick by using a parametric eq to boost and sweep and find where the kick sounds (boxy) - when i find that boxy frequency I cut it about -6 db or so. Then I'll start on bass guitar by gently boosting those same freq's I just cut. This helps the bass gtr sit a little better and have some defintion. IMO you never want the kick drum to fill out the extreme low end unless it is dance, hip hop, techno or a jazz tune that has some fancy jazz bass on it. But hey, that's just my opinion...
  9. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    Here are the mp3's:

    MKH 800's

    "Gunn" is the last thing i mixed down, using some of ya'lls help, it was written to try out my new k2 on acoustic, the drums are loops

    "Untitled" is representitive of how my tracks sounded before, the drums were played live, though recorded through some bobo-ass mics
  10. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Well, here's what I heard:

    I liked "untitled" better than "Gunn". The bass is more audible to my ears for a few reasons (I'm a bassplayer, BTW).......the guitars were not playing in the same range and there didn't seem to be as much reverb on the tracks (the main body of reverb frequency-wise is lows & low mids, use sparingly, EQ the return signal wherever you can to avoid muddying up the lows, and use different reverbs on different tracks rather than the same one everywhere) . Also, the playing (string attack, amp settings) seemed more agressive and consistant, as well as where the string is picked or plucked. On "Gunn" it sounds like the string is being picked at some distance (a foot, maybe?) from the bridge, like standard guitar strumming position. You'll get more punch by picking nearer to the bridge. It also seems the bass level on "untitled" was just hotter, closer to where it needs to be. I could hear more definition in the bass notes, sounded like it was EQ'd with more high mids going in. When I track bass, I usually go for a sound that is thinner than what most people expect to hear from bass by itself, mainly because when combined with kick, toms, power chords, reverb and the like, if the low end is cranked on the bass, it WILL get lost unless the arrangement purposefully makes room for it. There are fewer frequencies in the low end, more chance for harmonic overlap and confusion. It's very important to find unique real estate freqency-wise in the low end. Use the tightest bandwidth you have on EQ for creating these spaces, and use subtractive EQ more than additive EQ (cut out the flabby spots before trying to add something else, you'll wind up with more headroom to work with when mixing). If this seems completely backwards to what you hear, it's probably your listening environment. Get up and walk around to different spots in the room with a mix playing, see if the bass jumps out in some spots, goes away in others. If you're mixing with the sub, don't. It will only compound whatever acoustic problems you have already in a small room. They're fine when you have a room that translates well. In the meantime, train your ears to what's going on in your space. Listen to mixes on a boombox or home stereo or in a car (not moving) and adjust your bass settings until it sounds good on these other systems. Every bass track on every song will be different, but you should find some general rules for adjusting for the room. I spent about a month making bass traps and figuring out their placement in my 10x14 room, it has made all the difference in the world. Hope this is helpful and good luck with it all!
  11. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    thanks for the listen and the feedback.

    I found it odd you felt the way you did about those tracks, though I do agree with you on "Gunn" regarding the way the bass was played. I don't play that much bass and I do tend to play a little further up than I should. The other track was played by someone else. Also I found that "untitled" when played on anything but my crappy computer speakers or my DAW was too bass heavy (I had to turn the bass down like -10 on my car stereo). It turns out though that cutting off some at the low end on the distorted guitars helped to fix that problem.

    I apprectiate the insight.....some of it is stuff I already do, and some of it I've read about or seen somebody do before, and it never occured to me to try (especially checking my poor bass technique, you were right on with that call), but well worth my attention......

    I'll try a remix of "Gunn", maybe track a new bass part, and see If I can sell you on it... :cool: I'll post when it's up
  12. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Cool. I'm heading out of town shortly, so don't be offended if I don't reply in a timely fashion.
    Re: bass technique......sometimes in a spare moment, I'll plug into my recorder and practice playing without compression, the goal being to see if I can keep everything within a 3db level range. If you're a guitarist, it sounds counter-intuitive, but bass should be as flat dynamically (in general, always exceptions) as possible. New strings are also a good way to get better sounding tracks. BTW, what kind of pre are you tracking bass through?
    Re: "untitled".......if it sounds in balance on your DAW and bass heavy everywhere else, you definitely have some room issues. Your listening position is located in an antinode of a standing bass wave, making you overcompensate. I bet if you back up 2-3 feet from where you usually sit, it will stick out like a sore thumb. By EQing the power guitars, you took out some of the low trash I mentioned. I think I remember mentioning in my first reply to try a low shelf rolloff at 30-40Hz and 12db/octave or more. That will also make the entire low end of the mix sound more defined by getting rid of low end subharmonics that are just mud.
  13. fubar1217

    fubar1217 Guest

    Some very good information here.....for a noob like me at least. Thanks to jonyoung, RAIN0707 and Reggie for the excellent tips and thanks to imagineaudio for posting the topic. I'm about to start recording at home and this thread may come in real handy.

    Let us know if those tips pan out!
  14. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    this maybe a stupid question but, do you usually roll off at 35-40hz before or after compression or limiting on the stereo mix bus? It would make sense to me to do it before compression.
  15. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Before. That way you're clearing the low end junk out of the way and giving yourself more headroom to play with, which means you'll wind up needing less or no main mix compression at all (desirable when something's going to be mastered).
  16. Costy

    Costy Guest

    I'm not sure how much my opinion is going to be useful to you,
    take it or leave it.

    If you worked hard on the bass sound while recording and you like it,
    try not compress it too much. Too much compression will strip it of
    "character". If the monitors can't handle it, use the headphones to
    define the bass compression, EQ ecc. Some good headphones cost
    below $100.


    PS. When using headphones, be aware that of lack of perspective
    that you have with the monitors.
  17. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Sure, the less compression you can get away with, usually the better; but keep in mind that just because the stray bass notes aren't blowing your monitors, it doesn't mean they won't blow someone else's home/car stereo woofers. A lot of times you can still keep a lot of the character by using a slower attack time and a medium-fastish release. Or just put it through an LA2A and turn the one knob until it sounds good! :)

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