Cutting Through a Big Band: A Discussion for Bass Players
Q: I’m playing in a jazz band of over 40 people in a song featuring bass guitar. I’m looking for a pedal that will make my sound distinct and rise above the band but not distort it. Any recommendations? Thanks.
A: Personally, I wouldn’t change my sound much at all. You might leave yourself a little room on your volume pot to turn up a notch (which is a good idea regardless of the circumstance), but I would make sure that the band is coming down to meet you (the lead instrument for this song) before making any drastic changes to my tone. If the song is a bass feature, it should be the bands job to support the instrument in whatever way is necessary.
Certainly, bumping the high-mids and/or treble will help you to cut through the mix. I’ve asked engineers about this type of thing and what I’ve heard is consistent:
- A boost of 1-4 khz will add presence to your sound without necessarily making it sound louder.
- Boosting the mids between 600-900 khz can really help to clean up and project a bass tone.
- Low frequencies can muddy the water. You can also try actually lowering your bass frequency, if it sounds muddy, instead of boosting highs.
It’s hard to be much more specific without first hearing the band, room and bass tone. I’ve found that, quite often, the tone that I like the best when dialing it in on my own is not the tone that works best once the band starts playing.
If your cord is long enough (or you’re wireless), it can be enlightening to take a walk around the room and listen to the mix from as many places in the room as possible. Is your sound is coming through articulately? Is the low end muddy? Are certain frequencies popping out too much when you hit certain notes?
You could always get a small EQ pedal and experiment with frequencies one at a time, but I think that you could likely get the results you want by some subtle and careful EQ’ing on your amp or bass. Sometimes simply favoring the back pickup is all that is required to hear the bass loud and clear!
Readers, what’s your trick to cutting through the mix? Please share in the comments.