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Mixing bass Dynamics Plugins
Old 17th October 2003
  #1
Mixing bass

I seem to have tremendous problems mixing bass, especially when it's live bass against live drums.

In a recent rock project, the bass was tracked through a bass amp. Sound is plenty clean. So I compress it a little to even out the dynamics.

It tends to get pretty muddy down low, especially in conflict with the kick. Yesterday I experimented with cutting a BUNCH of low EQ on the bass. It improved the muddiness, but doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of having a bass at all? I think if I cut the lows then raise the overall level of the bass, maybe I'll get a better overall mix. I just feel bad cutting bass on...the bass.

Am I right? Anyone have any tips they care to share when approaching issues like this? I know it's much easier to demonstrate in person if we're in the same room, but anything that could be posted here would be helpful.
Old 17th October 2003
  #2
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Re: Mixing bass

Altoid,

> I seem to have tremendous problems mixing bass <

What size is your control room, and does it have any acoustic treatment? In my experience, a lack of proper bass trapping is the single biggest reason people have trouble mixing bass instruments.

--Ethan
Old 17th October 2003
  #3
Roomwise I am pretty comfortable. I am in a large room with a significant amount of soundproofing, and my desk (DAW + monitors) well removed from the wall, with bass trapping all around. So I don't think the issue is acoustic.

Plus bass isn't a problem when listening to commercial CD's. My question is more how to get from where I am to a good commercial mix, rather than how to get setup right (although of course if I'm not in the ideal monitoring situation I'm open to hearing that). But I know that people can successfully work on mixes even under adverse conditions.
Old 17th October 2003
  #4
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Eq the bass like a madman!....don't be shy..
Old 17th October 2003
  #5
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bassmac's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by jazzius II
Eq the bass like a madman!....don't be shy..
or.... leave it alone and eq the other stuff to make room for it.

(that's how us bass players see it)
Old 17th October 2003
  #6
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

LOL...yeah, and don't forget to mix it in 8db too loud like a Jaco or Ron Carter album LOL
...........
Old 17th October 2003
  #7
For me, I think the day I figure out how to mix bass will be the day I drop dead!

(like this)

'ahhhhhhh!!! So THAT'S how you do it!......' THUD!!!

heh
Old 17th October 2003
  #8
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mixing has a lot if not everything to do with frequencies. kick out everything that doesn't have any business in the lower frequencies. It doesn't only apply to bass ... it applies to almost everything else too. It doesn't help the bass if every other track is rumbeling along with it.
Old 17th October 2003
  #9
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Monitoring is key....if you can hear the different ranges of the bass end clearly, you've got half a chance......30hz to 250hz.....there's a lot of room down there if you've got a flashlight!
Old 17th October 2003
  #10
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Don't do the thing of high passing everything except bass and kick. That is an easy way out. Maybe you can do that as a "test" to see what is conflicting....

You need to figure out what the dominant frequency of the kick is and carve out an eq "hole" in the bass track for the kick to fit in.

You can get a lot of mileage out of having one bass track for the high end of the bass, and one track for low end. I usually use two different mics/chains when tracking, but it can be accomplished after the fact. I like to give the top end more compression, and keep the lows a little more natural. But, having that top end that you can automate in and out is great for whenever the bass does a lick, or during "instrumental" bars when you want the bass to pop out a little more.
Old 17th October 2003
  #11
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In a dense mix nothing helps me as much as multiband compression and external keying. Used to do it with crossovers and separate outboard comps but waves c4 works too. Static eq always makes certain notes "go away" to my ears. I agree with jules. Truly one of the true holy grails of mixing.
Old 17th October 2003
  #12
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toledo3's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by bjornson
In a dense mix nothing helps me as much as multiband compression and external keying. Used to do it with crossovers and separate outboard comps but waves c4 works too. Static eq always makes certain notes "go away" to my ears. I agree with jules. Truly one of the true holy grails of mixing.
Yeah - multiband works wonders.
Old 17th October 2003
  #13
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mdbeh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by bjornson
In a dense mix nothing helps me as much as multiband compression and external keying. Used to do it with crossovers and separate outboard comps but waves c4 works too. Static eq always makes certain notes "go away" to my ears.
The Linear Multiband in the Waves Mastering Bundle can work, too. Put it on the bass, figure out the main frequency range of the kick, and key that band with the kick. It doesn't always work, but it's handy sometimes.

Also, contrary to what Toledo3 said, I don't think there's anything wrong with HPF-ing non-bass tracks if that's what makes the track work. True, you can overdo it, and it isn't right for everything, but sometimes it's the best way out of a bad situation.
Old 17th October 2003
  #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by mdbeh


Also, contrary to what GToledo said, I don't think there's anything wrong with HPF-ing non-bass tracks if that's what makes the track work. True, you can overdo it, and it isn't right for everything, but sometimes it's the best way out of a bad situation.
Yeah- it is also a great way to rob yourself of warmth and fullness, and make the whole recording sound distant. IMO, it is much better to automate that low end and use it to bring things up to the forefront of a mix. The worst is the guys that just hipass everything during tracking.
Old 17th October 2003
  #15
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i agree....there's plenty of room down there if you know what the hell your doing (and can hear it yadda yadda yadda)
Old 17th October 2003
  #16
Re: Mixing bass

Quote:
Originally posted by altoidboy
I seem to have tremendous problems mixing bass, especially when it's live bass against live drums.

So I compress it a little to even out the dynamics.

This is part of the problem right here.

By compressing the bass track you are eating some of the bottomn(and headroom).

Try splitting the bass off on a mult an treating it differently that way(maybe 2-3 tracks). This will give you better control over the whole sound and its ranges. That way you can accentuate the important parts.

I personally rarely compress the kick or bass tracks, but I will inside the mult(with EQ and other processors).

If given a choice between compressing low tones or automating them for power, I would choose automation just about everytime.
Old 17th October 2003
  #17
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Bass

What works for me is recording two tracks: 1) DI (Avalon U5 into Distressor) and 2) Sennheiser MD421 into a Joe Meek VC1Q. Then when I mix I hard pan left and right (I'm sure there are some folks who will say this is wrong from a mono listening perspective) but it works for me like a charm and the bass is always very audible in my mixes. It also gets it out of the way of the kick in the stereo field, which helps a lot. Even "9 o'clock 3 o'clock' or "8 o'clock 4"o'clock" works. I tend to at mixdown cut the bass around 60-80, and boost it somewhere between 160 up to 800 (if there's any 800 in it). This approach works for me with acoustic guitars and DI stereo keyboards as well.
Old 18th October 2003
  #18
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Toid,

> with bass trapping all around. So I don't think the issue is acoustic. <

Well, there are bass traps and then there are bass traps. Too many people think that sticking foam in the corners makes the room correct. It doesn't. Since you didn't elaborate I can only guess at what you have. Maybe you really do have an accurate mix room. 99% of folks don't.

> bass isn't a problem when listening to commercial CD's. <

I realize that. The problem is getting your mixes to sound like good commercial mixes. Once the mix is good you can tell that it's good. But when you can't hear the low frequencies accurately it's a lot harder to hear what's wrong and determine how to fix it.

> if I'm not in the ideal monitoring situation I'm open to hearing that <

If you'll explain more about your room I'll be glad to offer any advice I can. You say "large room" but how large? You say "significant amount of soundproofing" but how much is significant? More to the point, sound proofing has nothing to do with acoustic treatment, which is the real issue for most rooms.

--Ethan
Old 22nd January 2006
  #19
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No4PCs's Avatar
in phase?

I think if 2 tracks of the same bass recorded, one channel need be well compressed and the other channel no compression. Then blend in the mix?
Old 22nd January 2006
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bloodstone
....Then when I mix I hard pan left and right (I'm sure there are some folks who will say this is wrong from a mono listening perspective) but it works for me like a charm and the bass is always very audible in my mixes. It also gets it out of the way of the kick in the stereo field, which helps a lot. Even "9 o'clock 3 o'clock' or "8 o'clock 4"o'clock" works. I tend to at mixdown cut the bass around 60-80, and boost it somewhere between 160 up to 800 (if there's any 800 in it).

very interesting idea.

thanks for chiming in with a suggestion off the beaten path which doesn't involve a plugin .

will have to try it out and see how it sounds.
Old 22nd January 2006
  #21
TML
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Mixing bass sucks for people cause they let it sit too high in the spectrum...then it clouds that 100-160 spot in boomboxes and in the car. As most have posted...they must work together. For me...a major part is not only ducking the bass on kik hits...but understanding the notes that are shy or heavy and using digital eq to balance....I'm not a fan of having the low E feel really heavy a note on the A string being light. I like more of a balance. Also I find that some people put so much on the kik it almost has a sine wave with too much hang time. Cut that out with a gate or something....Crank up the speakers till they almost distort and clean up the ugly mess down their. Mixing bass and using a compressor...the 2 pains in the can of recording. YMMV
Tim
Old 22nd January 2006
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TML
Crank up the speakers till they almost distort and clean up the ugly mess down their.
Thats what I do... and it works... got to turn it back down after that though...
Old 22nd January 2006
  #23
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bobby yarrow's Avatar
 

I find it really helps to have a mult with some distortion on it. Maybe just send the whole mult thru a guitar amp, maybe use one of the plugins, maybe even use a stompbox.

I usually don't eq bass at all, except by blending mults.

But then again, mixing bass sucks and I don't know why I'd give advice to anybody . . .
Old 22nd January 2006
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by altoidboy
Yesterday I experimented with cutting a BUNCH of low EQ on the bass. It improved the muddiness, but doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of having a bass at all? I think if I cut the lows then raise the overall level of the bass, maybe I'll get a better overall mix. I just feel bad cutting bass on...the bass.

i know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it can help. reason being: the super-low freq's have a lot of "visible" gain, that is not audible. 30-50 Hz may have no effect on the sound in a consumer environment, but it's pushing the needles on the gear like crazy.
sometimes i use a highpass filter on the bass, or kick- not both, so i get more 'sound' and less 'signal' in the mix. makes mastering a lot easier too thumbsup
Old 24th January 2006
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by altoidboy
I seem to have tremendous problems mixing bass, especially when it's live bass against live drums.

In a recent rock project, the bass was tracked through a bass amp. Sound is plenty clean. So I compress it a little to even out the dynamics.

It tends to get pretty muddy down low, especially in conflict with the kick. Yesterday I experimented with cutting a BUNCH of low EQ on the bass. It improved the muddiness, but doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of having a bass at all? I think if I cut the lows then raise the overall level of the bass, maybe I'll get a better overall mix. I just feel bad cutting bass on...the bass.

Am I right? Anyone have any tips they care to share when approaching issues like this? I know it's much easier to demonstrate in person if we're in the same room, but anything that could be posted here would be helpful.
There have been a lot of good suggestions.

I agree that you don't want to cut the bass from teh bass, but keep in mind, you probably got the bass ound while they bass played was playing solo through the speakers. Then the bass can take every bit of low end the speakers can handle. When you put the rest of the tracks it, now it's too much. So cutting the bass some, may be necessary.

From there try a couple of things. Lately i've been having luck cutting less , but from a higher frequency (shelving). Also, at the same time or separately, try notching with a very narrow Q.

Also, the punch often come from the upper mids, so traking with a DI can be important.

And finally, sometimes rolling off the highs is necessary if you're rolling off lows and letting the whole track sit higher in the mix.
Old 24th January 2006
  #26
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Using a sub in conjuction with NS10s works very well in our room.

Plus you find yourself mixing at lower levels because you no longer have to 'compensate' for the lack of lower bass frequencies.
Old 24th January 2006
  #27
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Carving holes in the bass isn't good idea I think, as someone said, some notes will play less loud and in the end you could end with compression to make them up again ;-).

What I found most important is tuning of the kick against the bass. In the realm of samples it is fairly easy or you can find a kick sound that really fits the bass.

It isn't bad to check the low end with low-pass eq on your 2buss @100Hz @200Hz @300Hz. What is happening? Is it mush? Is it dynamic? What's that strange rumble there - what's causin it?

It helps to have monitoring, that can deliver bass uncompressed.

And don't forget kick has also other freqs that help to localize it in mix and are essential for small speakers...
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