How to prepare the base for mix

By | April 4, 2021


A well-recorded and steered bass should both be felt and heard – in several different types of sound systems, which is often easier said than done. But you who take the time to prepare your four- or multi-stranded friend for the mix have a lot to gain.

Today’s tips are not about how to mix the base as such (which you can read about in How to make the bass sound in small speakers) but about which plugs you can use to give the base as good conditions as possible when it’s time to start steering. A kind of preparatory work, so to speak. The secret to a good bass (and this is important to understand) is not the sound itself, but how it interacts with other instruments – what space the bass is allowed to take and what function it has in music.

In honor of the day, I start from a false signal straight into the sound card, something I myself prefer when I record. This for the simple reason that I like to make it easy for me. All plugs work of course also individually or as a icing on the cake if you are already happy with your bass sound.

TSE BOD is based on stumpboxen of the same name – an excellent base beautifier.

A faded signal seldom sounds particularly fun, although the bass itself can often get away with spartan recording. Throwing on some form of amplifier simulation is therefore a good idea. Free plug TSE BOD is a good starting point and looks good to the basic sound in a more or less neutral way, depending on what you are looking for. Why not a full-featured bass amplifier plug you might be wondering? Again, for the simple reason that I not want to mess with it. Which amplifier plug you prefer does not really matter, use your personal favorite.

Kush Audio REDDI
Reddi works on all sources that need more bottom, heat and skin on the nose.

The next step is to add harmonics and the bottom with the plug REDDI, specially developed for bass and bass kagge. The bass is one of many instruments that feel good from a little distortion, which adds harmonics (also called harmonic distortion). BASS controls the amount of bass and LEVEL determines whether you control and shit down the sound. How much or how little the basic sound can decide, steer until it feels right but not cowardly – the bass deserves to be heard.

Soundtheory Gullfoss
bas_gullfoss.jpg.4e847e89ed33a755c2a1317a35bcae5b.jpgThe intelligent plug Gullfoss Soundtheory works on more than just whole mixes, why not on bass for example?

We continue with the intelligent plug Gullfoss whose task is to conjure up frequency balance, no matter what sound you feed it with. The plug is specially designed to correct entire mixes, but also works excellently on individual instruments. It is not uncommon for certain notes to stand out and dominate, or for the lack of clarity in the base’s upper register (especially with old strings) to be reminded. Start by steering TAME and RECOVER and then continue BRIGHTEN (treble) and BOOST (Bass) for further fine-tuning. Small adjustments are usually preferable, but as we all know, there are rules to break. Also check out the free plug Balancer from Focusrite which is not completely different Gullfoss, but much much simpler and cheaper.

I Multimedia Tape Machine 99
Emulated conveyor belt saturation and bass fit together just as well as Yin and yang, here in the form of a Revox PR99 Mk II.

The Tape Machine 99 treadmill plug based on the Revox PR99 Mk II has an extremely even frequency reproduction (with 15 ips) and largely lacks the roller band’s classic “head bump” – which makes the plug a given choice for you who want to analogize the base a bit, but without changing the character too much. A luxury plug may seem, but absolutely useful when you are looking for that little extra.

Fabfilter Pro-L 2
Limits on the base that cut off the strongest transients are not a stupid idea at all, before any eq and compressor take over.

I have recently started to prefer a regular limiter that cuts off the absolute peaks and evens out the signal slightly, before it is time for any compressor and equalizer. This is due to the limiter’s ability to smooth out disturbing and energy-intensive transients in a lightning-fast and transparent manner. A smoother bass signal is much easier to work with and takes up less space in the mix. Fabfilter Pro-L 2 with 32x oversampling is a good choice, but you can turn any limiter.

Export more
Finally, I export the whole party to a new wav file in mono which I then import into the project again, ready to be mixed and tricked more if desired. The reason for this is simply to save computer power and that it easily becomes confusing with many plugs on each channel. The fewer choices when it comes to mixing, the better in my opinion.

Waves Bassrider
Waves Bassrider acts as an automatic volume control for your bass.

Finally, I want to strike a blow for Waves Bassrider which automatically sets the bass level in relation to other instruments when you mix. It is thus about automatic volume control and nothing else. This is not a plug I use myself, as I like working with old-fashioned automation, but is probably excellent for you who have difficulty finding the balance on your own.

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.