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Bass issues while mixing
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Dramey
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#1
30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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Bass issues while mixing

I'm in the process of trying put an album together out of 10+ years worth of songs. I've been doing a lot of reading on mixing, and it is making a huge difference. Everything I've read says to avoid using a sub when you mix, but the bass in my mixes is kicking my ass right now.

I have a pair of Tascam VL-X5 from a few years back, they got decent reviews when I bought them, but they have no low end at all. If I turn up the bass to the point it sounds good in the monitors, odds are when I play it back on anything with a sub, it is going to start jumping around the room. I try to turn it way down to the point I can barely hear it in the monitors, and then it is a crap shoot. Sometimes it's close on other systems, sometimes I can't hear it at all.

I'm not making hip-hop or anything else all that bass heavy, just rock, a couple ballads and some countryish sounding stuff.

I've been tempted to drag my sub in here from the living room to see if it helps at all. Anyone have any suggestions? Are my monitors (or ears) just too crap to do what I need?
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30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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This might help... First make sure the bass is consistent with itself. Just solo it or whatever and make sure the notes are all around the same level. If not, there are a few ways to deal with it:

First, you will want to hi pass the bass at 31 hz (in most cases- most subs don't produce below 31 so jt saves headroom to cut). Next, find the fundamental frequency of the root bass note (for E this is 42 hz I believe, etc). You can find it online with a google search for frequencies of musical notes, or use a sweet app called MusicMath if you have a Mac. One you know the fundamental, go to the 2nd order harmonic on an EQ. For 42 hz, this would be 84 hz etc. Cut this frequency to taste (2-4 dB usually for me) with a shelving EQ. What this does is reduce the fundamental note, which is usually the boomiest due to buildup. This should be pre compressor, so that the excess energy you're removing doesn't cause the compressor to pump excessively. One nice way is to use a compressor with fastest attack and fast to mid- fast release and a high ratio, then just lower the threshold till it's taking about .5-4 dB off (check gain reduction meter). This tames any quick spikes that are left over after reducing the fundamental. After this, if the material calls for it, you can add a little additive EQ to bring up any frequencies that might be useful in filling out the mix. Make sure you are not soloed if you do end up deciding to boost. After this pop on yet another compressor, this time with a lower ratio (1.5 - 3), slower attack time (use your ear, preserve the attack) and the longest release you can use without biting into the attack of the next note. If available, use a compressor with character for this part (either some analog emulation or change mode to opto in stock logic comp). This adds some roundness. So basically that method is first correct, then enhance.

Alternatively, you can cut up the bass by note and then level them with fader automation. After it's level that way I'd bounce it to a fresh track and then you can use a chain like what I described before. You gotta bounce so the rides are pre fx (and therefore won't cause the comp to pump etc).

Once you have made sure the bass is hitting evenly then take it to the level where it sounds right to you. Then put this on an MP3 player or burn it and check it in the car. Note how loud the bass is. Compare with some pro mixes in a similar style. Then bounce out some alternate versions of your track, one with the bass level dropped by 2dB, one by 4dB, and label the tracks as such. Go test these in the car, and record which one sounds best to you.

Now all you gotta do in the future is mix the bass level how you want it to sound, and then drop by the amount of dB that was best in your test before the final bounce. Eventually you can hear it when the bass is just right in your monitors.

Let me know if this helps or if you are confused about any of this!
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30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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Good monitoring...experience...bass problems are often a combination of monitoring quality and VOLUME...and not getting that the kick and bass guitar are not likely causing the issue as much as the low end you've not gotten out of their way.

If you need help mixing, shoot me a PM. I specialize in albums it took ten years to record.

You can see if a sub will help by taking a mix that you hate the bass response on and using a linear phase HPF on the mix buss at 40-45hz or so. If your problems with the bass go away, it's something down there that your monitors aren't showing you. My guess is, it's not. Bass frequency issues are likely higher...and cumulative from a less than stellar mix in general.
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Dramey
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30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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I have been trying to carve out some frequency space in my mixes for the bass to sit. I have high and low pass filters on almost every track. That and a combination of envelopes and compression to try and get it at a consistent level. I still have some unpleasant frequencies I can't nail down, but I don't think that is the problem.

I was playing with one last night in Sonar and literally I could not hear a difference in my monitors after cutting the volume on the bass in half. I've been listening to a lot of music on the monitors to get a feel for what I should be listening for in my own mixes, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much.

Quote:
Now all you gotta do in the future is mix the bass level how you want it to sound, and then drop by the amount of dB that was best in your test before the final bounce. Eventually you can hear it when the bass is just right in your monitors.
That is good advice, but I can barely hear any noticeable difference between -40 and about -14 on my bass volume slider. You can barely make it out in the mix at either end of that range. On any other set of speakers I test on and the difference is huge.

Thanks for the advice guys, I'm going to keep working with it.
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30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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Listen to other music on your monitors. A lot of it. Whenever you can. Pick out some songs from the same genre as your music, and listen to them back to back with your mixes. This will open up a whole new world for you.

Just like everything else in life, it's all about perspective. Without perspective, you're floating around in empty space.
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30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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Question

.

Who says not to use a sub when mixing?

That's absolutely stupid.

How else are you gonna hear the sub bass (or lack thereof) in your recording?

That's like trying to mix high frequencies with no tweeters.

Common sense.

In order to mix properly, you have to have proper full-range speakers - set up and oriented correctly for your mix position - in at least a basically treated room (blankets, etc.).


Your other options are:

1. Take it to someone with a proper set-up

2. Get lucky


The 'Get Lucky' option doesn't usually work for professional work. But sometimes it does.

.
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30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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For your situation in particular, if you're going to take ten years of your musical investment and attempt to mix it yourself, you're going to save yourself a lot of headache and dissatisfaction by letting someone else mix it for you.
In the end I can guarantee it will be worth the money to invest in your music this way.
Even if you have to hold off and save a bit of money up to pay someone else to mix it, trust me, it's well worth it.
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30th December 2012
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I like to use my Ultrasone 900 headphones to dial in bass freq's. They are notoriously bass heavy but that seems to really help me get a handle on things.

I think it's all about getting very comfortable with the use of your HPF.
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31st December 2012
Old 31st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Led Music View Post
For your situation in particular, if you're going to take ten years of your musical investment and attempt to mix it yourself, you're going to save yourself a lot of headache and dissatisfaction by letting someone else mix it for you.
In the end I can guarantee it will be worth the money to invest in your music this way.
Even if you have to hold off and save a bit of money up to pay someone else to mix it, trust me, it's well worth it.
.

Well, you do have to be careful with this option, as many people will gladly take your money in exchange for crappy mixes.

Just make sure you have references, and you've heard lots of results - SIMILAR to your own musical style!

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