Recording Bass: Getting Separation From Guitars to Actually Hear Your Bass

Have you had problems being able to follow your bass lines in a finished mix? After putting all of the instruments in the mix stuff can start to get cluttered. Instruments that don’t cut as much, like the bass guitar, can get lost fast!

So how do we fix this issue, so you can follow the bass lines that you worked hard creating in the mix?

The common thing is to reach for your EQ on the bass and start boosting areas until you can hear it. While this may help you hear it better, it will probably cause too many other problems. It would be better to find the reason you’re not hearing the bass lines clearly first. This will usually be because of the guitars or synths, depending on your musical genre. With guitars being the number one culprit, we’ll talk about them.

1. Cut Out Competing Frequencies

The first thing I would do is take a simple EQ and cut out the low end with a high pass filter. The next frequency I’d start looking at to cut out of the guitars is going to be in the 700Hz to 1kHz frequency range. The best way to go about this would be to listen to your entire mix and sweep both of the EQ’s until the bass line starts becoming more present. This way, you know how much to cut. If the cuts start making the guitars sound too strange, then you can back off the EQ.

Cut Out Competing Frequencies

2. M/S EQ on the Guitar

If after the cuts above, you are still having difficulty following the bass lines clearly then we need to add more separation between the guitars and bass. Here is a great tool for doing so. It’s an M/S equalizer. T-Racks makes a simple one that I’ve used forever. There are probably other great ones on the market, but I haven’t had to experiment with them yet. So what’s the idea behind it? 99% of the time, your bass is going to be panned up the middle while your guitars will be panned left and right. So why not use an M/S EQ and roll of more low end from the guitars in the middle? This is what I do. I’ll roll off with a high pass filter around 200Hz on the middle channel while using the side channels to boost more guitar sizzle. This will make even more separation for you!

M/S EQ on the Guitar 1

M/S EQ on the Guitar 2

3. Now, Start Boosting

If these 2 different approaches to cutting still don’t work, it’s time to start boosting. Like I mentioned above, 700Hz to 1Khz is going to be the sweet spot for getting some clarity out of your bass lines. Try not to go overboard with it since a lot of other instruments live in this area. There will be a fine line before everything gets muddy and/or harsh. Hopefully, if you’ve done the cuts listed above you won’t have to push this too much!

Thanks again for reading. Let me know if you have any questions ever on this.

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