The base is as wonderful as it is problematic when it comes to recording, mixing and mastering. The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to recording and mixing bass is not the frequencies to be heard, but the arrangement itself. If many instruments play the same thing in the same octave, problems arise. Instruments should complement each other, not compete. If it sounds messy and mushy already in the recording, it is guaranteed to be more difficult to create separation later in the mixing stage. However, the biggest secret of mixing bass is far much simpler than you might think. In short, it is a matter of setting the volume in relation to other instruments. Finding the balance. So before you get started with eq, compression and more, be sure to set the volume. This also applies to all instruments.
But small speakers then?
The base, like many other instruments, has a lot of energy in the lower midrange (250-500 Hz) – not just around 60-250 Hz as many may think. When we talk about the mix sounding indistinct or that the bass is not heard, it is often in the lower middle register that there is an overrepresentation of energy. Laptops, mobile phones, tablets and bass-poor speakers usually do not have much information below 150-250 Hz. That is, where much of the base’s lower energy is located. We therefore need to look a little further up to get the base to pop up in these listening systems.
One approach is to record the bass as you want it to sound (all the time with the arrangement in mind) and then sweep in the 250-1000 Hz range with an equalizer. Listen for where the bass sounds the most in relation to other instruments. So you are looking for the tone, the core, the grunt – the character of the bass, not the basic sound. Personally, I usually end up somewhere between 400 and 700 Hz, but that’s my personal taste. Now you can back up other dominant instruments in this area, such as vortex drum, guitars, keyboards and choir. Finally, boost the base in the same frequency range to make the difference even more pronounced. If this is not enough, it’s time for some magic.
The picture shows a default setting for bass, if we are to allow ourselves to talk about one.
The magic box
1. Duplicate the base channel so that you have two identical tracks and bribe the original track.
2. On the copied track, place an equalizer and cut off any bottom below 300 Hz and any top above 2000 Hz. Note that these are only benchmarks and not frequencies carved in stone.
3. Then boost the area where the bass is heard the most. 5-10 dB usually does the trick.
4. Apply some form of audible distortion and possibly hard compression (taste). Why distortion you might be wondering? Distortion adds harmonics, making the bass clearer. The free plug IVGI from Klanghelm is an excellent example.
5. Then turn down the volume completely on the copied track and play the original bass along with the rest of the mix. Now you gently mix in the effect channel until the bass is heard more clearly, preferably while you play the mix through a little worse listening and vips so you have a clearer bass in small speakers.
The effect channel that is mixed with the original track, to increase the clarity even more.
Of course, there are a hundred and a hundred other ways to work when it comes to mixing bass, but this has at least helped me several times. Good luck!
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.