Mixing Bass, how do you like it?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by audiokid, Jun 11, 2014.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Bass is like love. Some like-em full figured, some like-em slim and bossy. Some like-em noticed but covered up just enough to leave it to our imagination.

    • How do you like it?
    • Are you hearing what I am hearing?
    I personally think bottom end is the most difficult area in music to get right without domination.
    Over the last few years I've noticed a very wide and confusing preference to how we all critique bass and sub frequencies in a mix.
    If there is one thing I've noticed since I was a kid, Mom and Dad don't like it as much as I do so this leaves me to think, why would I ever listen to my Dad when it comes to bass?

    But, there is also a flip side to this. Capturing and mixing Bass is subject to personal taste AND each and everyone's room acoustics and monitoring system.
    Are your speakers lying to to or or are mine? Or, are you stupid with bass or are you like my Dad?

    Critiquing a mix:
    Do you hear what I hear?

    When someone suggests I should add or remove bass in a mix, how do I know you are actually accurate?
    Is there a norm?
    Some music I listen to has subs that would keep mice from breeding, others like it completely tucked in the background behind a floppy kick. How do we know whats right?

    Remember the 80's? tick tick tick. Are you still caught in the 80's? Or, are you from the Elvis area? Or Jazz of the 40's?

    Speed metal, OMG, if that doesn't sound like a stick metronome on top of every 16th kick on quantization... How do you even mix bass without HPF 250hz.

    30 years ago there was less confusion. Do you think that was subject to our capture and playback systems? I do. I think music is inspired around sound. Styles are formed from the sound of our times.
    When you have a drum, you bang it! When you have a violin, you bow it. When you have a sampler, you sample it. and thus... a style happens.

    The limitations around vinyl, which imho, suffered massively for both top and bottom end freq capture and playback, no wonder everything sounded like it did. And a generation was formed. Today, we have serious control and this ability to capture wide bandwidth, so, where do we go from here? Are you leading the pack or following and dragging along the past, hoping it will fit in some where?

    Not until digital audio arrived, was bass and the kick drum even a focus point. Subs were a supporting role back in the day. Today, sub freq are as important, if not down right dominate and this is where, "whats right for you, may be the complete wrong things for me" Style and taste of bass is all subjective to more than we might even know about ourselves.

    I propose a mixoff of some kind to try and find out "discover in our selves" where we belong in this constant craving so many of us want but can't seem to get right. Lets demystify some confusion.

    Any suggestions?
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i like bass with nothing rolled off below 100Hz. i like to put a narrow notch boost at 200 to 220Hz. so i can hear the bass on small systems. this is based on a track that has been recorded with a little LA2 pulling out -3dB and flat eq. it ain't rocket science.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Ya, but that's the bass you record and mix right? How does such a simple answer apply to us all?

    Some bass is so heavy in the subs, or almost dead there too. And on small speakers, my cubes don't even produce subs. If small speakers were all I was using, man... I'd be lost below 100hz.
    My laptop is so unreliable in both the top and bottom freq, however, I will admit, if I don't use anything else, I can train my hearing to adapt, but it isn't fun.

    Also, A synth or keyboard bass goes right down to 20 hz no problemo. If I have a kick there , which is very common today, that goes up to 120hz, I can tell you I would start sweeping the bass hpf at 200hz until it starts crossing over into the kick, or vise versa... and, there could be something else in the mix there too. Like a dominant guitar or hand drum. And maybe only in parts of an entire song as well. Side chains, oh ya... what else?

    I don't know, I think this is way more science that we think. And we aren't even touching room acoustics and monitoring.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    most small speakers will do at least 70Hz. if i were mixing something that had a lot subs below 40Hz i would hpf it. who the hell needs anything below 40? at that point it not musical it's for effect ... to impress the other idiots with sub woofers in the car. i don't mix for that crowd. in fact i wouldn't really want to mix keyboard or synth bass either. those people should die. double bass, fender bass, baritone guitar is the real stuff. all the other crap should die. damn you Craig Anderton!
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    How would you even hear it then?

    hehe there ya go! You are sounding like my DAD! And you know I love you too. :love:

    who's next?
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I don't know either, but philosophically I'm inclined toward more art, less science. To me, the one-size-fits-all approach is one of the shortcomings of modern music, not in any way moving the ball forward. When I hear new music I like, it hasn't been homogenized to death and has something unique / quirky / special about it. In the end there is no accounting for taste. The approach is at least as varied as ways to play the bass: Pick? Fingers? Thumb and Fingers? Slapping and Popping? Mellow? Round? Aggressive? Driving? Funky? Jazz? P-Bass? Rick? Hofner? Fretless? Electric? Acoustic? Upright? Bowed? ... to name a few. I'd hate to see someone run all those through the same blender.
    John Santos likes this.
  7. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    seems to be two schools of bass in pop/rock

    a) either the kick drum has the impact energy and the bass supports or b) the bass has the low end impact and the kick supports.
    i prefer a. i want my kick drum loud and through my chest.
    best sounding live drums ive ever heard was at a Mogwai concert. It made air exit your lungs.

    a mix of 808 and a regular kick is where its at old man!
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    When you're talking about recording bass guitar, it's not all encompassing. There are different kind of bassists. Those that tickle the strings with their fingertips. Playing nice round subdued,fat mellow notes. That just sits there, relatively unnoticed. And then you got those bad ass dudes that pick and pop in contemporary jazz, with the most incredible Funk. Rich in so many harmonics, it's bad ass on 1 inch laptop speakers. Bad ass on Aura Tones, KRK, JBL. So what are we talking about here? Bad ass Funk, bass? Or, Bobby Blob and his crooners?

    808 and regular kick? Never. That's only for guys that can't get the kick drum sound right. It's not rocket science. It's a kick in the ass... So to speak.

    808? I like 1 after 909 a lot better.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Sorry, in all due respect Remy, but this is absolute rubbish coming from someone very dated and out of touch with commercial music of the last 30 years.
    There is so much more to music than just standard sounds of yesteryear. I DO however agree with this statement, if I was sticking to our wonderful standards and style that I am also professionally experienced. From a creative, producing and mixing POV, wow, your are missing that mark which my friend is your creative right but, to say "That's only for guys that can't get the kick drum sound right." , them are bitch slapping words lol.
    I get your passion for real, I too have decades of experience in tradition, but I also have decades of writing and programming hundreds of songs using all sorts of musical tools that go back to the days of Devo of the late 70's.
    Lets get up to par on a site that has more than just your style here and stop the elitist dribble.

    There are people in the dark ages who think an electric guitar is noise, everything should be back in the 1400's. Or Ma and Pop spoons, fiddles and accordions singing the Lawrence Welk or Tommy Hunter era. Are you still there lol?

    Every decade has flavors adding to our musical expression of tools. The 808 has definitely been part of a huge influence in kicks. Those kicks serves as a main or supporting tone to countless hits.
    The 808, and millions of sounds part of lush keyboard patches, to thousands of hits have been made from the 1979 Roger Linn, Synclavair to MPC's kicks for over 3+ decades prove you so wrong. Its hard to choke this utter crap down without saying this right back at you.

    I disagree. :D
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There is no rule to getting bass right, or kick right. Because there is no "right". It depends on the song, the player, and the instrument.

    Perhaps you may want the kick tucked back a bit, a'la Motown, or maybe something that resonates a bit, like Joe Morello's sound on Dave Brubeck's Take Five, or the steady, unchanging, ever present kick found in funk and disco; or a more in-your-face sound with that speed metal "click" to it. It's all song-style dependent.

    Bass I think, is the same thing. There's that pop and slap from cats like Larry Graham or Louis Johnson, or the warm, creamy, melodic sound of Paul or Leland Sklar, or the incredibly moving and sometimes complex lines of Jamerson or Babbit, and there's also that edgy and distinct sound to a Rickenbacker, as with Yes/Chris Squire on Roundabout.

    I don't think you can say that there's a right or wrong way, there just is, depending on what you want it to sound like, or what the song requires.

    There were occasional times when I would insert a tone generator into a channel, select it to play 80 hz or so, then insert a gate onto that channel with a side chain trigger from the kick track D/O, so that every time the kick struck, it would open the gate on the tone generator channel and allow the 80 hz tone to pass, adding another dimension to and along with the kick. Did I do that every time?, Of course not. It all depended on the song, because there were plenty of times when I simply DI'd the bass, tracked flat, and with the exception of balance, never even touched it in the mix stage because the player was so consistent.

    As far as what I will do or what I won't do, I have no real hard and fast rules. So, as Josh mentioned, if I need to combine a real kick with an 808, or a Linn, or a vsti sample to get the sound I want, then that's what I'll do. Other times an RE20 on a kick will work just fine. Not once have I ever thought to myself "I'm doing it this way because I don't know how to do it that way. Never even thought that way. Ever.

    And, I EQ and mix the levels of those instruments with the same approach... It's always song/track dependent for me.

    I use the tools I have to achieve that which I want. I'm not a purist in the sense that there's only "one way" to do things.


  11. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    totally flattered remy looked my way ;) even if it was to tell me "no".
    let me be more specific:
    other people get whatever sound they are looking for, as best as im able to give. i have alot to learn, and a long way to go.
    for my band, which is just me )mostly) the groove is key (mostly), so i want a big ass. :) Addictive drums retro pack. the 808 kick sounds sweet through the internal signal chain they setup, the rest not so much. and bass is usually synth bass so it could be anything, so rules go out the window

    are you saying you dont enjoy "techno"?!?! lol. ;)
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    in general i like bass like id like my wallet, fat and full. w/ some note definition up top, but thats if im making the song. In general for mixing, put the bass as loud as it will possibly go w/out sounding stupid, for whatever given genre. but thats because i just hate thin recordings. but thats what i go for, and obviously different rooms mean i get there different ways. in my home, im in a null, so i put it where i like it, and then go a couple notches back. at the studio i just put it where i like it, and its usually pretty close everywhere else.

    i think subwoofers are a great thing! there super fun, and allow me to feel the musics power, w out ear bleeding levels. they get a bad rap cuz of rap kids having pi$$ing matches all day. i live about 30yds from a highway, so i know all too well. but if you employ them as part of a system, not the focus of one, they can be quite entertaining. and it helps your system increase headroom by letting the speakers do their job, and not make 6 or 8" speakers try to reproduce stuff they cant, which ends up as distortion

    i think just automatically filtering out sub freqs is a cheap shortcut, and can be a detriment, if your talking modern sounds. i get it, that up until the last what, 15 years, most peoples systems didn't have subs, so it truly wasn't needed, but this is not the case anymore, w home theater systems (which people never seem to hook up right) being more common, and just better more efficient stock car systems, and just speakers in general, it is crucial.

    the senior engineer i work w has the stuck in the past approach, and mixes w no sub freqs at all, guess how the mixes sound? thin in comparison to anything in the last decade or 2. no matter how well balanced the rest is, the low lows are missing. obviously this is just my opinion, and i am in a weird position of being some conglomeration of old school and new school.

    i personally have a much much harder time w/ a rich/full sounding mid range than bass or top. bass has always come pretty easily to me, live and recorded.
    bigtree likes this.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Man, you nailed that one Kyle, couldn't have said it better. Only thing I would add, was a clarification as to why I think bass is so difficult.

    Too much bass, your low mids suck. So, which is it, bass or mids that get in the way? Then, there is headroom. Big V Rails seem to sound better, so its why I invested in that, but its still a challenge for me. Then, so many mixes I get have bass issues. Bad rooms create the most awful mess in a mix. Some days I feel like tossing it in because I can't take the walls and standing waves out of the track. Makes me go crazy.I'll try and use a hpf but its still in there, just less obvious.
    Bass to me has always been a bitch to get awesome. I've invested in all sorts of gear over the years to get that big ass bass I crave so much.

    How do you all start a mix? do you leave the bass full bandwidth and mix into it or what?
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I tend to LPF it anywhere from5-12, and cut some mud, I will usually try and bell boost a fundamental of 60/80/100 depending on where the kick sits, so like maybe 60 on the bass 100 on the kick, and since I do a lot of rock/metal I gotta fit some lows of the gtr in there too. And I'll usually add some clarity/definition anywhere in the mid/upper mids that I have room for, w the guitars vocals taking precedence, in general.

    Then if it's cool I'll leave it, or I'll shelve out some lows, so it's a less gradual reduction in the 20-40 range, than what a HPF would do. We have a set of cheapo CPU style speakers and if I can't hear the bass the ways I want it on them I'll look anywhere for 250-800 ish and see what I can do.

    I gotta add, that I don't get a whole lot of mixes that I, or one of my colleagues haven't tracked, so I definatley can understand your pain Chris. Although, lately I have been doing more just straight mixing for people than I have in the past.

    Also, for tracking, I always do DI and try as often as it makes sense to mic the amp too. And when at the studio I always slplit the bass out off the patch bay go thru the silverface 1176 w slow attack fast release, and about6-8 db gr. Then blend them w a simple AH zed, to one input channel on the DAW/interface. I would rate my bass tone as decent/average, and most bass players I record as sub par.
  15. natural

    natural Active Member

    The OP is clearly vague at best.
    Naturally everyone responds with what they typically like to record. So Remy is correct from her world. Josh, and everyone else is also correct coming from whatever background they're coming from.

    Obviously you mix for the genre that you're recording.
    Typically, when you're first starting to engineer/mix, you mimic. You listen to examples of the style you're mixing for.
    You have a benchmark or a goal to achieve.
    Later, after you've had some success at reaching those goals, you might be able to expand on those skills in an intelligent fashion. The Beatles story of them insisting on more hi-end when it's " just not done that way" comes to mind.
    It's a typical rookie mistake to attempt mixing without comparing to a reference. Of course, you must make sure that during the recording process the same reference was agreed upon.
    You wouldn't have a jazz drummer play his jazz kit during tracking, and then come mix time, decide that this has to be a high energy rock drum sound.
    DonnyThompson has the right approach.

    Gotta have and agree on that reference. Otherwise, you're just guessing, or playing around with the knobs.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    na, far from it. (n) More like arrogant, insulting and out of touch is not part of correct. The rest is fine.

    Tonight I tried mixing on cubes first, starting with bass G, then drums etc. Worked much better for a song I'm working on right now. I wish I could post it for some help but its not released yet.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    threads like this one seem to imply there is only one way to approach a task. but there are many ways to do something and that's the beauty of it all. the question is does it serve the song and the performance? is it musical? it has to sound correct in context.

    to say there is only one way to mix bass would be like telling Van Gogh he should try to paint like Rembrandt .....

    we will all come up with different takes on something. that's why that joke, "how many recording engineers does it take to mix a song?", is funny.

    if i don't care for how a snare sounds, or a bass or guitars tone sounds like, i will say, "i hate that" .... but i would never think or say i have the answer to how all tones should sound. i can only decide if i love a tone or if i don't. that's why when i critique a song i usually won't get into specifics on what to do to the mix ... i will just say "sounds good" or "it sucks" ... not constructive, but then who am i to assume everyone should do everything like i do?
    DonnyAir likes this.
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There is never just "one" way that works every single time, without fail. There is no such thing as an"end-all/be-all" method, regardless of the instrument/track.

    And, this goes for both ITB digital processing and OB gear as well. I'd no more say "I'm going to put a real dbx 165 on that kick" than I would say "I'm going to put a Waves C1 on the bass" just because it's a "given" that the bass always needs a compressor. If it needs it, then I choose and set accordingly - to the song. If it doesn't, I don't automatically reach for a compressor ( or EQ or whatever) just out of habit. You have to approach each song on its own, and what it requires - or, what it doesn't - and that is going to change from song to song.

    Everything is dependent upon the song. If you are mixing on a discreet track by track level, or worse, through solo mode, (not referring to Kurt here, or anyone else individually for that matter, I'm just saying "you" in general) then you are mixing very narrow-mindedly, and, if you are sticking with a "cookie cutter" type of mix method, then you're not really mixing at all... at least not with any sense of art or creativity.

    The song has got to be the motivation behind - and in support of - the processing choices we make. Sometimes, the bass guitar may benefit from the things that the OP mentioned above. Other times, it may require a completely different approach...And sometimes, well, sometimes it's even best to do nothing. ;)

    IMO of course


  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    rewrote this:
    I'm trolling but it is specific to bass / technique, personal taste, room acoustics and monitoring. Bass is hard to control, its a challenge. I'm amazed so many find it that easy which makes me ask:
    Are the bottom end freq I hear (or don't hear) lying to me, lying to you? How do we tell?

    Lets try this.
    I've been saying for years that public interaction and participating in forums by means of auditory A/B demonstration (auditory problem based learning) is where I need to be going with others. I don't think I'm alone.

    Let's steer this into an auditory thread based around "bass" and challenge us into posting mix's/ examples to see if what I hear is accurate to what my peers hear. Lets cut to the chase.

    If all goes well, I'm going to follow up with a contest (that could be related to this) and a good prize.

    Any suggestions on any of the above?
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Here is where we are going, some of us are following me. Sorry I'm not a wordsmith, I'm more a farmer that plants seeds. Here is another seed that shares a common direction I'm taking the forum..

    Other OP: The death of the Mastering Engineer thread, Analog vs digital, can you hear the difference and Mixing Bass, how do you like it.
    The next thread should very well be: The death to all the GearSlutz Bull shitters who claim to have all the answers but never post jack to show they are for real:

    Joel said it well here:

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