Any tips on getting clarity with bass tracks

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by mattnorton02, Apr 29, 2012.

  1. mattnorton02


    Feb 12, 2012
    Me and an artist/producer I've been working with have had some trouble finding clarity with our bass tracks. It's hard to hear the higher bass notes in walks. Everything seems to run together any tips how to improve that would be greatly appreciated.
  2. PDGood


    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    As you've probably already discovered, other instruments affect the bass sound, so if the bass sounds good solo, then the problem may be with how it interacts with other instruments. Without knowing what you're working on it's hard to give a definitive answer how to solve the problem, but here are some generalities:

    The big offender is often acoustic instruments. They can add ambience to a mix and if they are not tuned out of the lower frequencies (or around existing instruments that are down there) it can muddy everything up.

    The kick drum is another area of concern. The relationship between kick and bass is too much to go into here, but in a nutshell, one goes low and the other one has to be up a little in the frequency spectrum so that they are not competing. Either the kick is used to emphasize the bass or the bass is used to add a note to the thump of the kick. They can't both be super deep and full and also clear.

    Another possibility is other instruments like keyboardists playing bass notes in the left hand. And another is setting the guitar so that it sounds full when solo'd. That usually will produce too much bottom end in a mix and will muddy up the bass.

    All this presumes that you have a good bass sound to begin with. Know that, the more instruments that are present and the louder the volume, the more treble you need on the bass to give clarity. (Same as when playing live). If you're in a loud band and you go from playing the groove to taking a solo in the same song, the solo will sound like it has too much treble. It usually has to be backed down when the other instruments lay out.

    Then there's also the possibility that the room you're recording in is not handling the lower frequencies well. Take the recording elsewhere and see if you hear the same things.

    That will get you started.
  3. Jonyak


    Oct 2, 2007
    Ottawa, Ont
    Use filters on almost every track.

    Highpass on guitars, cymbals etc.

    Low pass on bass, bass drum etc.

    That should start cleaning up your sound a bit.

    Also, start emphasizing the mids in the your bass, not the bass.

    This is what I do to get good clear sounding bass tracks in a mix.
  4. Did you try to add compression on the final two track mix?
  5. BogeyBass

    BogeyBass Inactive

    Sep 14, 2010
    along the lines of what PDgood was saying..

    Sometimes a bass tone that sounds rather funny, might end up working well with drums guitars etc.

    people tend to over EQ everthing. its really cool what EQ does and what a massive sound you can get. but you cant solo everything make it sound great on its own...and then expect everything to combine nicely. mix as a whole, and you have to lower the bass of other instruments to get a deep bass in the mix. Or you have to lower the bass and increase the mids to make a bass sit among bass heavy instruments.

    or as far as your bass...record direct and maybe new strings?
    I say the best bass tone recording wise. is a process of finding the best sounding bass that just works straight in.
  6. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Go back and ride the bass level while bouncing to another track.

    Mixing bass is harder than most would believe, but there are tools to help, for example:
    Bass Rider | Plugins | Waves

    Give it a try, but you'll see that it's just riding the bass levels like you could do yourself. It's more of an automatic volume control than it is a compressor.
  7. attack and release times on compressors will make a mess if not properly set. also midrange articulation is key. if you arent getting any clarity, high mids are your friend. and if you have mudbutt with no distinguishable notes, cut sub lows and push the lowest mids.

    and of course, work around the rest of the mix and see if it helps. sometimes there just isnt room in a spot for clumsy complicated bass.
  8. Are. Your strings fresh?
  9. spigmu


    Mar 25, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    What bass? Is this issue something that has just reared its head with this project? Are you satisfied live with the high notes on walks but there's something about this recording now that's changing that?
  10. Corey Y

    Corey Y Guest

    Jun 3, 2010
    It's important to consider the mix as a whole, instead of just one part. If you start focusing on adding more of something you get into a war of tracks. More volume, boosting a certain frequency, more compression. When tracks compete to be heard things generally come out a mess. Sometimes it helps to take away what you don't need. A bit of a balancing act, take a little here, add a little there, but you want to find the spaces where the tracks can intertwine sonically, not just dogpile on top of each other. Running high/low pass filters is definitely a good practice, there are a lot of frequencies that don't contribute anything but clutter to particular sounds. Cut out the extreme lows on the guitars, the vocals, the drums (except the kick usually, obviously). Sometimes you can just toss a single band EQ on a track and sweep around, find the key frequencies and cut a bit of that out of the OTHER tracks. I will often do that with bass and kick drum. I will find the low frequencies that are really making it for those sources, boost them a bit and cut them a bit on the other track. It's kind of hard to address in a short paragraph, but I think you get the best results out of mixing when you don't play favorites for instruments in the mix (hard for us, I know, we want to be heard) and you just shoot for a good mix. There's a lot to that, though generally simple principles like most things, it's a journey unto itself.
  11. PDGood


    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    A lot of good replies here but we may be talking to the wall. Some questions have been asked but no response from the OP.
  12. In a lot of my recordings, the bass guitar kinda has two different uses. One is the low, chest thumping stuff, and the other is the higher, melodic kinda stuff. I tend to keep the thump in the middle, just a little separated from the kick drum. But, the melodic stuff.. the higher note stuff, I tend to give it it's own spot in the stereo spread. I tend to do this with just about anything that I want to bring out a bit more. Give it a little separation from the other instruments, and it comes out more clearly.
  13. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett
    He hasn't logged in since his post. Probably tied up..
  14. Use a spectral analyzer to find out what frequency range the kick is.

    Then notch that frequency range out of your bass track.
  15. mattnorton02


    Feb 12, 2012
    Sorry we finished the mix anyways but yeah the producer I'm working with does emphasize on the mix as a whole they are good mixes I'm just picky on my tone and finding clarity with walks and higher notes but thanks to everyone offering advice. Next time I'll try lowering the bass eq and boosting the mids that sounds like it would help a lot. Again thanks for the help with this issue
  16. BullHorn


    Nov 23, 2006

    I'll have to read it and share this with my band later. They like the fat sound of bass-boosted electric guitars and then complain why the bass guitar sounds so bad.

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