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Help Bass

I am having a very hard time with getting the bass guitar track to sit in the mix worth a crap. You know so that it blends with the mix but yet you can hear what it's doing. Does anybody have any tips on mixing the bass gutiar in rock music?


BobRogers Tue, 04/18/2006 - 14:10
My suggestion is to concentrate first on the eq of the low mids of the bass track. To me, this is where the bass guitar gets both its music and its thump. True lows can give it feel and highs can give it snap. But these are the sizzle while the low mids are the steak. Listen to the old R&B recordings of Jamerson, Dunn, and Kaye. They were playing P-basses with flats either direct or through amps like the flip top that had little true bass response compared to what we get today. The songs were mixed to sound good through little AM radio speakers. Yet the bass lines had great power and usually drove the arrangements. Even with modern equipment that allows for more power at low and high frequencies, I feel it is important to build on the foundation of these old recordings.

Disclosure: my opinion is based on experience in live audio which I've brought over to my limited experience in recording. I'll be interested in the reactions of people with more experience in mixing recordings.

amishsixstringer Tue, 04/18/2006 - 16:14
Well, if you're having a hard time getting it to fit, you might have already gone too far. Trying to get the sound coming out of the amp into the mic that fits with the arrangement will do wonders for you. Fixing things in mixdown has become quite difficult in dense mixes. EQ will help you to an extent. Compression will help you (maybe). To me, it sounds like you may have a bit of an eq problem, since you say you can hear the bass when it is too loud, but once it's down in the mix, it goes away. Try cutting 400Hz on your guitars, drums, vox, etc... and boost it on your bass guitar a little bit. Sometimes you may even want to shelf the low end starting around 80Hz and cut about 3dB out to let the mids breathe. The bass guitar should be heard in the 400hz range and felt in the sub frequencies. It is a lot of playing around, but take note of what you end up doing when you start to get something to fit and try to make it sound like that when you record next time.

saemskin Tue, 04/18/2006 - 18:52
certain things are a rule of thumb for me. Such as; dont try to re-create someone else's synth patch (ugh, I hate those threads), and dont spend too much time trying to mix something into your song that just dont/wont fit. Huge eq cuts/boosts to get her to sit properly are just a bad idea.

Sure it sounds cool as hell, but if it dont fit, it dont fit. :wink:


Pro Audio Guest Tue, 04/18/2006 - 22:17
I am willing to bet that your mix has more problems than just the bass. Man I sound like an ass, sorry about that. Here is what I am thinking.

You're pretty new to this.
You're comparing your mix to major lable releases.
You have a somewhat treated, but still not an ideal listening environment.
Your monitors are filthy lying bastards and are holding you back.

Here is what my advice is.

Strip your mix down to just the kit. Pan everything where you want it, and listen. There is no such thing as something more or less important in your mix, everything is important. Listen to your kick, does it have good attack and thump? Make sure you have plenty of ring in your snare and toms, they will turn to popcorn with big guitars on top of them if not. Are the cymbals bright and crisp or do they make your teeth hurt when they are played, yes I have had cymbals make my teeth hurt.

okay the kit has a good mix to it and is sounding awesome, bring up the Bass. Let the Bass and the kick complete eachother. The kick brings attack the bass brings body. Is the bass too dynamic, is it super loud sometimes but way too quiet other times? Compress that mofo. Is the bottom of the bass stepping on the kicks center of power? Highpass that mofo.

After this bring up your rhythem guitars, get them sounding awesome.

change up, now bring in vox. Leave harmonies, lead guitar, and other production elements until you have lead vox sitting well, then mix the aformentioned elements to the lead vox.

Thats a little bit of a crash course in my approach to mixing. Others have their ways and they probably work great too, but I have had success with this method.

If you have any questions about stuff, ask away, but ask specifics, hell make them yes or no. Then you are guarenteed to get useful results from slobs like us.

Dont look at the numbers when you are mixing, listen to what it is doing to your mix.

And do not expect stellar results right out of the gate. You are certainly going to be limited by your gear and your experiance, everybody is. That is not to say I want you to settle for less, just to have reasonable expectations.

Good luck to ya

JWL Wed, 04/19/2006 - 09:45
Listening to your mix, I'd say that some compression on the bass could help, but most of the problems I hear can be fixed with EQ.

I think you have too much high end on the bass, which makes it stand out too much and not, as you say, sit in the mix. I'd use a lowpass filter, set to a Q of around 1-1.2ish, and sweep it down until it sits better. Much of the time, depending on how the bass track sounds naked and on what else is in the song, you don't need much bass information above 3-4kHz, sometimes even lower. You will definitely want to make this adjustment (and pretty much all EQ adjustments when mixing) while listening to the bass in the context of the mix. Do NOT solo the bass and EQ it then.

After this is done, you are probably gonna want to give a nice gentle boost on the low end, I'd consider starting with a highpass filter, set with a larger Q to give you a bit of a bump (say around 2 or so), and sweep it up until you get a nice low-end roundness to it. Usually this will be somewhere between 60 and 120Hz, again depending on what else is going on in the song. When doing this step, pay close attention to how the bass is interacting with the kick drum.

Once that's done, I agree that you'll need to experiment a bit with the midbass. For this third step, you'll probably want to do some complimentary EQ with the guitars to get it to sit better.

Good luck.

JoeH Wed, 04/19/2006 - 11:09
Vaylence has said it quite well, ditto for JWL. When mixing complex stuff - from Jazz groups to indie pop/rock/metal, I always build from the ground up. That means starting with the drum kit and getting it to sound its best, then the bass, and so on.

A good kickdrum/bass blend is always critical for building a foundation, even if the bass player is "Exploring" up into the guitar regions. Tame the EQ and dynamics on the bass a LITTLE bit, and consider summing everything below 150 to 200 Hz to keep things centered on the low end. (stereo imaging is better perceived at higher freqs).

Your drum kit sounds a little bit flappy/loose on the very low end, perhaps cleaning that up will help. (Kick sounds pretty woofly as well?)

A big part of what you're dealing with is the arrangement itself. The bass player is doing something that would normally be an intro or interlude riff - not an entire bass part itself here. (I can almost hear a synth doing it instead.) Ditto for the guitar. (If I'm hearing this right). The guitar is doing the opposite- a thunka-thunka-thunka part on the low strings almost fighting the bass part (A fine line between dueting and dueling!) Now that I think of it, the guitar in those instances is really dark and muted - almost flipping roles with the dueling bass riff. Lots of mud is the result.

After the opening 8 bars, i expected the bass to drop down and become a foundation part of the arrangement. Not so in this case; it never seems to leave the little Geddy-Lee style intro. It's not a bad riff at all, but after a while, ya tend to think: Where is this going???

Don't be too tough on yourself overall. The band clearly has a ways to go in terms of performance skill and arrangement, although I really do like this track and the talent that went into writing it. It's fun, and has a lot of potential.

If you can't get what you want out of this for now, move on and revisit it later. You might be surprised what you find after you've worked on a few other things and your ears/brain matures a bit.