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John David Ross

Bass Recording Suggestions

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I have a recording that so far sounds great until I add the bass to the mix. The bass has a sound and tone that I like when I solo the track but it makes my mix sound like garbage when I unmute it. Please share tips and tricks for bass production and mixing please. Screenshots and details on plugins would be really helpful too!

Thanks!

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Are you playing real bass or software/plugin stuff?  What kind of music is it? THe role of the bass is vastly different in different types of music. 

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16 minutes ago, Tobias said:

Are you playing real bass or software/plugin stuff?  What kind of music is it? THe role of the bass is vastly different in different types of music. 

I am playing a real bass plugged direct to my Focusrite. It is rock music. Scook's link was like reading another language for me to be honest. 

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I am playing bass through a 2i2 focusrite too, into the TH3 bass amps. Sounds decent enough to me.  To be honest, I think most people focus WAY to much on the sound and not the notes. :) Meaning as long as you play good and the notes are the right ones(whatever that means) , it will sound pretty much ok, mixing after that is icing on the cake.  Some of the best songs I ever heard did not sound sonically awesome but the music was amazing. As for that article, spend 90% of the time playing and 10% of the time reading and you will be ok. As a general rule that is. 

 

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You probably have some frequencies that the bass is masking.  You may want to look at something like Izotope's Neutron which will show the frequencies that the bass may be interfering with other instruments.  For example, it may be have to much energy at the same frequency as the kick drum.  Usually you would notch out this frequency which will make the kick stick out more.  You may also have some frequencies interfering with the guitars and keys.   I had a mix that the bass would disappear as one of the synth was playing notes down in the same area.  I have to roll off the low frequencies on the synth.

Sometimes when I solo my bass it sounds like crap by itself but sounds great in the mix.

Jim

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When I did my first really big production, I had the same issue. And the biggest problem was listening to stuff in isolation and getting a sound I liked and then moving on to everything else. Put it all together and... mud. 😕 I obviously didn't get the memo about making space in a mix to fit all of the instruments together.

The tone I love on bass is rarely what I have on the recording once I've finished doing all of the work, but! what I hear in context is the key. You'll find that a lot of things you think you're hearing in the final tone are actually a combination of everything else working together and your ear filling in the blanks.

So the first thing I'd try is this: work backwards. Mute everything, and then put something like the excellent Voxengo Span over your master out so you can see what the frequencies are doing.

Unmute your kick drum and make a note of where that sits in the spectrum, then unmute your snare, and do the same. Then mute the drums, unmute your bass and see where that's sitting. I'd almost guarantee there's frequencies fighting for the same space as the kick drum. Unmute the kick and snare and listen to it all together, while watching the frequency spectrum.

You're likely going to either need to EQ the bass or the kick drum to carve out a space for the other instrument. Sometimes it means cutting the EQ on the bass track at the frequency which is the most prominent on the kick track, and boosting a lower frequency than the kick if you like a really low bass, or doing the opposite where you want a good throaty bass and you'd prefer the kick drum to handle all of the sub-sonics - the song will dictate what feels right.

The next thing I'd do is umute the guitars. If it sounds like crap at that stage, the most likely culprits is too much low end on the guitars, and too much snap in the upper mids on the bass. In a mix, it's pretty common to high-pass the hell out of your guitars. In isolation, that sounds AWFUL. Really thin and powerless. But in combination with the bass guitar, your ear fills in the frequencies and the guitars sound just as thick, but with no overlapping frequencies causing mud build up. If you have too much pick attack on the bass, you might find that's fighting for the growl of the guitars - again, look at the frequency spectrum when this stuff is muted and take a note of where things are peaking out, and try cutting one of the instruments that's fighting for that space.

This should all get you 90% of the way there if you systematically go through your mix and carve out only what you need to hear from each instrument. EQ in context when everything is playing together, and take it as far as you can before it starts to lose too much of what you want to keep in the particular instrument. You'd be surprised at exactly how much you can lose before you notice it gone, once everything is playing together.

After that, there's a few tricks with compression and distortion that can even things out enough, or more advanced things like side-chaining to let stuff dynamically make space for other things. But I'd almost guarantee that you'll never need to go that far unless you have a specific reason to do so.

Good luck! :)

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12 hours ago, Lord Tim said:

You're likely going to either need to EQ the bass or the kick drum to carve out a space for the other instrument. Sometimes it means cutting the EQ on the bass track at the frequency which is the most prominent on the kick track, and boosting a lower frequency than the kick if you like a really low bass, or doing the opposite where you want a good throaty bass and you'd prefer the kick drum to handle all of the sub-sonics - the song will dictate what feels right.

I do something similar before every mix. I decide whether I want the bass sitting above the kick (mostly my choice) or vice versa. According to that decision I reduce the one of the two at 50 Hz and increase at 115 Hz and for the other both values conversely. Most of the time that sets the base for the mix. But as Lord Tim explained in more detail you have to make frequency space for each instrument/voice, i.e. cut other tracks in that area. The first time when I was really working with frequency cutting I realized that this is the way to make other tracks coming through. But what made me hugely surprised, was the fact that sometimes even that track with the cut frequencies gets louder and more distinct to my ears, very strange (our ears)!

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I struggle with bass more than any other instrument.

I like to be able to hear it properly. On my most recent project I didn't blend direct and mic'd bass. I just used the mic'd bass track. Attached is an image of the fx I'm using with some text as to why.

The recordings are here in case you want to listen to see if you like how it came out

http://gswitz.blob.core.windows.net/tunes/20181216_Roadhouse.html

At the bottom of Scook's link are some cheat sheets you might find helpful.

Part of your problem may be that you don't play a ton of bass. Try finding a bass player to help you some.

The fx are mspectraldynamics sidechained with the kick drum. You could use any sidechainable compressor for this...

Melda MBassador. This is a little bit of saturation, I think. If you don't own the plug, try some tube saturation.

LP EQ >> Cakewalk.

Untitled.png

Edited by Gswitz

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All the advice given by others above is good.

I was going to post the link to the sound on sound article, but I see scook has already done it!

What stands out for me is that I think it's important to try to separate the tracking process with the mixing process.

In the old days (well for me, anyhow) it was simpler, as I'd get the tone I'd like, record it, then forget about it until the mixing stage. With DAW's, this has got increasingly blurred, especially as its common in home/project studios to record things like bass DI'd and add FX & EQ afterwards to get your tone. 

If you've got a good tone with it solo'd, treat that track as your tracked bass and leave it as is.

What I tend to do is send this to an aux track (or a bus) which would become my "mixing" bass - so any additional EQ or FX are applied to that track, or any buses this is sent to.

Another approach I've used is to use an FX chain right at the top within the ProChannel for getting my "tracked" sound (usually consisting of a 1073 strip with a 1176 compressor). I can then use the rest of the ProChannel for mixing.

It can really be a challenge to balance the fight between the kick drum & bass - even more so if you've got any low notes coming from keyboards.

My rule would be: If you're going for a more clicky sounding kick, then let the bass guitar have the low frequencies, otherwise let the kick drum have the low frequencies and high pass the bass guitar. Personally, I'll high pass the bass guitar regardless but change frequencies depending on whether the kick or the bass guitar is more prominent in the low frequencies.

If you're still having issues, try putting a reference track into a track on your project and swap between the reference track and your own. Pick something that sounds like what you're trying to achieve - both mix wise, and with regard to instrumentation. You can then tweak the EQ, level & compression to try to match the reference track.

Keep in mind though, that high passing can actually make the bass sound louder - even though you're removing low frequencies.

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In the context of a dense Rock mix, a typical DI electric bass (especially a passive bass) is going to sound a bit anemic.

If you have access to something like a Neve preamp, that can help immensely.  The sound is larger/smoother (without sounding compressed).

I struggled for many years to get a good DI electric bass recording (especially with passive basses).

I used the Avalon U5, Reddi Box, UA-610... and all were OK sounding (to my ears)... but not great.

Ultimately got a Neve Portico-II channel-strip... and it was what I'd been looking for all those years.  

Though it has a great 4-band EQ and nice dynamics processor, the sound of the bass straight off the preamp sounds great.

At mix, a very slight amount of compression and a very small bit of high-pass filter to roll-out the very deepest sub-bass

The sound is there from the very beginning...

 

If going DI with electric bass, keep in mind that a mic'd bass amp isn't going to reproduce sound all the way down to 20Hz.

Use a high-pass filter to roll-out the deepest sub-bass (20-50Hz)... and the bass will sit better in the mix.

 

If forced to use a "plain-jane" (for lack of a better word) type DI to record electric-bass, I'd use an Amp-Sim plugin to "toughen up" the signal.

If you have a nice bass-amp and decent mic, consider mic'ing the amp.  Sometimes it's quicker/easier to just record the real thing.

If you have a great bass amp (Ampeg, Mesa, MarkBass, etc), I'd definitely try recording it.

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Your mixing room itself could be a problem. Standing waves  etc make hearing mid and low frequencies problematic. Also, headphone mixing can result in unpredictable results when played on home or car systems.

Have you checked your mix in different environments?

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I really like to record my bass through Sansamp. 

SOS article is great. But seriously I think question is bigger. There are many features that you can do with DI bass. You can blend distortion + clean, add ampsim, add hardware compression, etc.

Be patient, read an article, then practice.

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I record my Bass direct into my Focusrite.  I then flip through my preferred IKM Ampeg Sims until I find the one that fits best with the song style and mix.  I have one SIM that I favor and usually record initially with that, but check the others later to make sure that another doesn't fit the song better.   From there, I will add a little compression.  Right now I am really liking the Waves CA 76 Compressor on my bass.   Then I EQ, rolling off everything below 25 khz and everything above 2K.  I have some notches in between that I either cut or bump slightly, depending on the mix.  Some of those notches cut a little mud, others bump some of the upper frequencies if I want a little more high end definition.   

Most of the time, I am pretty happy with my Bass tone.  I am sure if I had some really high end hardware I could probably do better.  I also really like the tone of my amp mic'd, but usually don't go through all of the set up time to do that, when I get pretty descent results through the Ampeg SIM.  

However, more important than any of the above...is a really good Bass, set up well, played really well...and number one, great timing.  The ability to play with great timing tops everything, to me.  

Edited by michaelhanson

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A little flange or chorus on a bus, then send the DI bass signal in and mix to taste can save your bacon when nothing else works.

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There is a TON of great advice here.  Not that plugins are the solution, but one you might try is the Waves Eddie Kramer Bass.  There's a free demo if you want to check it out.

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I've learned that if the bass gtr is competing with the kick drum, it's sometimes easier to treat the drum rather than the bass gtr.  The thing is, there's no hard and fast rule except trust your ears.  I've found that checking my mixes through speaker emulation software like Mixchecker Pro can help a great deal to overcome deficiencies in the mix room.

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For me - Bass and Kick usually work pretty well together. Getting guitars and rhodes / synths, rhythm guitars out of the basses way is more of my challenge.  I'm confounded by mixes of bands like the Eagles - where there are literally 4 guitars and four vocals and a keyboards and drums all going on at once - and it's possible to pick out each instrument. I've learned to really hate professional engineers. :) Usually the real key is in the composition and arraignment.  So - now I've learned to really really hate professional producers.

Edited by RBH

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On 12/29/2018 at 11:14 AM, John David Ross said:

I have a recording that so far sounds great until I add the bass to the mix. The bass has a sound and tone that I like when I solo the track but it makes my mix sound like garbage when I unmute it. Please share tips and tricks for bass production and mixing please.

Right away I can say that one of the most important things to get right in a rock mix is the relationship between the kick drum and the bass (whether guitar or synth). My mixing strategy (and BTW, if you don't follow a mixing strategy you should start trying to) is to first get a good standalone drum mix happening, then add the bass and get those elements working before I bring in guitar, keys vocals, etc.

Next, I can say that the solo'd tone of any given instrument in a good sounding full mix will likely have little relation to what we would consider a good sounding tone in isolation. Take a great-sounding mix with acoustic and electric guitars and vocals and hit the "solo" button for one of the acoustic guitars and you will likely be surprised at how thin it sounds compared to how fat it sounds in the mix. I roll off a lot of lows and lower mids. They almost wind up sounding like unplugged solidbodies mic'd  up.

I'd bet that yes, you have a mix that sounds good to you and a bass track that sounds good to you, but the thing is, you can't just take a good mix and plop a full-sounding bass on it without drowning out a bunch of important stuff. So you need to whittle away a bunch of stuff from your bass with EQ to make it fit in the mix without stomping on other elements, and correspondingly, make space for the bass to be heard by applying EQ to the other elements of the mix.

Neither of the two will sound as good by themselves anymore, but the bass will be filling in the missing freqs from the mix and vice versa.

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