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Bass buried in the mix? Say it ain't so!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by expatmuso, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. expatmuso


    Sep 3, 2015
    This past year I've recorded an album with a band. The genre is rock generally (hard to get more specific than that). The recordings have been done and we're in the mixing stage, with two of the band members handling the mixing. Three mixes have been posted for all band members to listen and comment on.

    With each initial mix I've found that the bass is sitting pretty low volume-wise. It's getting to be a little frustrating. I've put a lot of energy and time into not only the baselines, but also the arrangements and songwriting (three of the eight songs are my compositions). I've let them know and they've adjusted the bass (along with lots of other elements). So far I've been happy with the revisions. Once the bass is louder you can actually hear the nuances and the tone. A new mix just came out today and once again the bass is buried in the mix, so I think I need to vent a little...lol.

    So far I've communicated in a friendly and diplomatic way, but I'm starting to get annoyed. Have you had an experience like this? If so, how did you handle?
  2. AceOfBassFace


    Jun 23, 2019
    This is a tough one to comment on without hearing the mixes - there are loads of hit songs where the bass is buried, and just provides a low frequency thump that sits under the other instruments. Depends on what else is going on in the song - it's not always possible to hear every nuance of every instrument in a dense mix.
    Mr_Moo, DTRN, MD-BassPlayer and 7 others like this.
  3. expatmuso


    Sep 3, 2015
    Let’s just say I was expecting to have more presence and a meatier tone.
    Nunovsky and bigdaddybass12 like this.
  4. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    It's an easy fix and sounds like the engineers are willing to make adjustments. It's not uncommon for a first draft to be released with expectations to make adjustment based on comments. When I mix my recordings, I always expect to do some edits based on member feedback.
  5. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    Why aren't you involved in the mixing process too?
    Seems like that'd be the place to start if you want your sound, surely?
    Dubious Aa, doop, CB3UK and 16 others like this.
  6. Acidic Pool

    Acidic Pool

    Feb 16, 2021
    As was said earlier, it's tough to tell without actually hearing the recordings, but often in capital-r Rock music the guitars and drums take precedence. And of course vocals are important. Someone has to take a backseat and it's often the bass. I had a similar experience working on an album a year or so ago. Kinda frustrating but the whole is more important than the parts I suppose.
    Engle and Wasnex like this.
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    My only additional comment is that we bassists tend to listen to songs wanting to hear ourselves, not how every instrument works in the mix. In other words, is it you wanting to hear yourself (quite reasonable considering all the work you put in), or whether the level is best for the song. Nothing wrong with bringing the concerns up in a diplomatic fashion.
  8. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Every musician thinks their instrumet is the most important, so how the mix sounds depends on who mixes (or "produces") it. Another thing you'll run into is, if the mixing is done at too loud of a level (this happens most of the time), then the bass is obvious when mixing...until you turn it down (listening at a sane volume later), then it dissappears.
  9. Guitalia


    Jun 7, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
    Maybe send the people doing the mixes an example or two of commercially produced songs in the same genre where the bass sits the way you'd like yours to sit.

    Don't be surprised if the commercial mixes have the bass lower in the mx than you're hoping for, though.
    LowActionHero, Seanto, design and 4 others like this.
  10. Pay for a pro to do your mixdown, tidy up tracks, add correct compression & EQing master touches, etc. DIY mixdowns always sounds second rate IME. You’ll never be happy with a second rate job. It’ll stop the internal band conflict too.

    Start with the three songs you’ve composed, even if you have to find the right engineer yourself & pay out of pocket yourself.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  11. levis76

    levis76 Defender of the Low Ender

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit
    This is why I’ve always preferred the tracks get mixed by someone not affiliated with the band, ie an engineer. Last recording I did was done that way and everyone was pleased with the outcome.

    The bass keeps getting mixed low, I’ll take wild guess and say the two mixing are a guitar player and singer?
  12. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    This may not apply to rock, but I always tell engineers/producers "I want to hear every note." Not just for bass, for every instrument. This sets the tone for a session.

    Seems like in rock engineers treat bass like another brick in the guitar wall, where it's super easy to get lost, especially if the bass line sticks to chord tones without a lot of movement.

    And if you're dealing with non-professional engineering, and the bass is not properly high-pass filtered or compressed, they may reduce the bass level to keep the master levels from riding too high.
  13. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Agreed. Amateur and semi-pro musicians are not engineers, and having a objective ear often helps a lot.
  14. expatmuso


    Sep 3, 2015
    All the tracking was done with pro-tools. I don't feel like paying for a copy and also I'm not very good at mixing.

    This seems to be what's going on in the minds of the guys doing the mixing (a guitarist and drummer) to a certain extent. That said, I've played with them for about two years now and they know my style, which is not simple follow the rhythm guitar style. My lines have a lot of movement, syncopation, and some intricate parts. There are even three bass solos, for goodness sake! Actually, I asked one of the mixers to boost the bass during one of the bass solos and he replied "Oh I didn't know that was a solo, I thought it was just a nice melodic bass line".

    They seem to be going for a "modern" mix style, i.e. Foo Fighters, Oasis type of sound, and it's just not to my taste. I think I need to communicate more specifically what I'm going for, and yeah maybe give some examples.
    SDC1-ClickClack and JRA like this.
  15. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    A quick tip: listen on the crappiest speakers you have available, preferably in mono.

    Solo each track to hear what it's doing.

    Bring the mix up - can you still hear that track?

    If not, you have an argument for adjustment.

    Bonus: adjustment often does not mean "turn it up", but rather the use of EQ, compression, panning, FX - you know - mixing.
  16. MynameisMe

    MynameisMe These aren't the effects you're looking for... Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2018
    Wide Open Florida
    Unfortunately it doesn't sound like you're going to win this argument.
  17. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    This is a tough one. Paying an impartial person to mix is always a good idea if not just to get a reference mix to hear the differences.

    Someone told me once that mixing is much easier when songs are arranged with parts occupying certain frequency zones. If your bass is playing in a lot of the octaves the guitar is playing in, then, unless things are hardpanned left or right, picking them out is not always going to be easy.

    They also might be mixing with a sub that is causing them to ease off the low end since it is shaking their legs.

    Possibly, everything mixed in this age should be mixed for headphones or airpods since that seems to be a prime listening medium.

    It is funny to watch how mixer faders (virtual or physical) slowly move past unity gain until they are maxed out. Time to start over.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  18. It may be an honest mistake with the gear the mixdown personnel are using. If their headphones/speakers are not studio monitor quality and the bass is accentuated by this gear, it may sound amazing to them. The mixes should be tried on a bunch of gear - car, boombox, home stereo to see if everything is represented.
    djaxup and Wasnex like this.
  19. FatherTrucker


    Jun 9, 2017
    Question, what is your tone like? Lots of really great bass sounds disappear in the mix. Lots of really meh sounding ones cut through and actually sound great within the context of the band.
    ObsessiveArcher and eriky4003 like this.
  20. bumperbass


    Jun 19, 2012
    If you'd post a track or two, you'd get some honest opinions.
    JRA likes this.
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