Recording Bass: I’ve Tried It All… Now What?

Bassist Thinking

If you’ve been following along for some time now, you should have a pretty good understanding of how I approach recording and mixing bass. Hopefully, these tips have helped you improve your bass within the mix, but also your overall mix. However, what if you’ve tried everything and your bass is still non-existent or getting lost with everything else in your mix. How do you fix this?

First, did you try everything else first? Below are some examples. I would almost use this as a checklist. Before continuing on, please review some of these other columns. These steps should be done first.

Are you using a DI, a microphone, or both?

All three can be important to your mix. Here’s a column on the subject.

Have you used my Deep Bass technique?

If you’re unfamiliar with it, here you go.

Are you eq’ing and compressing your bass properly?

In this column, I show many of my known contenders for eq and compression, as well as exactly how I use each.

Are you high pass filtering other instruments and balancing properly with the kick drum?

This is another column I wrote describing the importance of proper balancing as well as putting a high pass filter on other instruments.

What happens then, if you’ve done all of this but your bass still is getting covered up within your mix? If that is happening, you are still having too many competing frequencies in your mix. Other instruments are fighting for space where your bass wants to live. There are two ways to deal with this. You can either cut this frequency from other instruments. Or, you can boost this frequency within your bass track. I always prefer to cut first. See how your mix translates after your cut this frequency (or multiple) from the other instruments. If you are still not getting the results you are hoping for, then I would try boosting it to your bass track.

So how do we go about this?

I would boost sweep the instruments that are most likely competing with the bass. The most likely culprits will be your piano, synth, guitars (electric and acoustic), and kick drum.

The technique will be the same for each instrument, but we will just use the piano as an example.

  1. To start, you need to put the bass guitar and piano both in solo. You only want to be hearing those 2 instruments. Place your favorite eq on the piano track. It’s best to use an eq that has the ability to tighten the Q, and can sweep across all frequencies. Such Eq’s would be the Waves Q or Waves Renaissance eq, or an SSL plugin.
  2. Narrow or tighten the Q on the eq. This allows you to zero in on the exact frequency.
  3. Pick one of the bands, and boost the gain to the maximum amount.
  4. Now, with the same band sweep the frequency from low to high. It’ll become very obvious which frequency within the piano track is competing with your bass guitar. When listening in solo to the 2 tracks, the bass guitar will almost become non-existent when you hit the frequency that’s competing.
  5. After you’ve found this frequency, now cut as much of it out of the piano track without making the piano sound bad.

If you repeat this process to the synth, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and kick drum you will have a better bass track within your mix. If after all of this, it’s still not “popping” then it’s time to boost on the bass.

This process is similar to the cutting process but slightly different. We’ll be listening to the entire mix when you do this bass frequency sweep.

  1. Listen to the entire mix, and place the same type of eq as mentioned above on the bass track.
  2. Narrow or tighten the Q on the eq. This allows you to zero in on the exact frequency.
  3. Pick one of the bands, and boost the gain to the maximum amount.
  4. Now, with the same band sweep the frequency from low to high. You will find the “magic” frequency you were looking for. The bass will definitely come to life within your mix when you sweep through them.
  5. You probably won’t want this frequency boosted to the maximum. Dial it down until it still sounds natural in your mix.

If you have any questions on this please feel free to get a hold of me, and I’d be happy to walk you through it more precisely!

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  1. Skouros

    I’d like to make a live video of myself. I realize that the sound is key, and using a cell phone to make a video just doesn’t cut it. Can you give some tips on equipment and techniques that will help?