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Effective EQ for bass

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by KrisH, Mar 11, 2010.

  1. KrisH


    Nov 6, 2007
    New Jersey
    This is a DB question specifically, but applies generally to recording.

    I'm doing some recordings of a friend doing acoustic guitar and vocals, and playing the bass parts myself. In the playback monitors, I get a nice rich bass sound that sits really well with the guitar, and vocals layered on top. However, played back through a laptop or small computer speakers/system -- it disappears. How can I EQ the bass so it doesn't get lost under those kind of listening situations, but doesn't overpower with higher fidelity systems? Kinda like the "hear it in the car radio" problem.

    The bass has a piezo pickup on the bridge, passes through a pedal board that boosts the signal flat and feeds it A/D directly into the Apple computer, running Logic Pro. I've EQed it to roll off some of the lows and accentuate the mids, and have compressed it.
  2. That's a common problem with DB. There's some eq'ing that can be done to bring out the highs that will cut through on small, crappy laptop speakers, but DBs don't have much to begin with. I remember specifically listening to Stanley Clarke's "Desert Song" off the School Days album. Most of the song is bowed, but there's a big section where he's fingering the DB. In my old, crappy Datsun 210 with a blown speaker, the bass would evaporate when it came to the fingering section. The same thing with lots of Jazz records... just couldn't hear any at all except for a few of the slapping parts.

    First off, please take my advice with a BIG grain of salt. I've only recorded an upright once. It was done by feeding the peizo directly into a Millenia preamp, into a Distresser compressor, and then into a Digidesign 003 interface and into ProTools. It was a quick and dirty demo for a friend, and was not done with any real production value. I am fairly unfamiliar with recording DBs.

    Ok... here's my 2 cents: You're probably going to have to sacrifice some of that nice, rich tone for one that can be heard on small speakers, since many people still listen to songs on small speakers. There's no "do this, and it's done" advice to give, and you'll have to do lots of tweaking on your own to get the right results.

    That said, you'll probably need to punch up the mids and the high mids maybe even more (in the 100hz to 1000hz range, I'm thinking). It won't sound as good on the studio speakers, but it might sound tons better on laptops. I also think about bringing in the lows again. I don't know where you rolled off your bass, but if its anything between 20hz and 50hz, I'd bring those back up again. It'll maybe make the DB sound full again while still be able to be heard on small speakers.

    Good luck. This'll be a tough one, and please get some other advice, too, as I am in no way an expert with regards to DBs.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    good advice there. on laptops, you will hear the "deep" bass more from the 100-200 hz range than lower, so maybe push that area a little bit...try to compromise between blowing it out in the big studio monitors and the laptop speakers, though.
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    also, listen to some of your favorite recordings using the upright on a laptop and see how the response is. chances are you'll have a hard time hearing the bass on most of them.
  5. Yeah, its always a tricky one, and the suggestions so far cover most of the issues. One thing you may try is multi micing the instrument. Its standard practice in studios to get all the necessary range out of any instrument. You'll often get 4 mics on guitar cabs, 3 on vocals and of course LOADS on drums!

    That way you can capture enough of the instrument not to need to rely to heavily on eq. Try a mic where you would normally have it, then another maybe central facing the fingerborad a little lower than where you play, maybe even one more down low at the bottom of the body. That way you can have the first ic for low end, the second for tighter high end and the third will add a bit of boxy prescence (not so nice on its own but good for capturing the limited midrange of the instrument.)

    You may find with your bass it will be completely different positions that work, but you can get a VERY balanced sound with a bit of work.

    Unfortunatley its normally not possible/sounds good if its a live band all-at-once session like the old jazz records etc. probably why a lot of the bass on those sessions is very in-distinct.

    If you have luxury of spare inputs and mics,or you are overdubbing bass, then that may be the way to go. You wil have to be careful with phase though. Record a bit and play around with the mics on a mixer (digital or otherwise) and see if bringing in one makes another sound bad etc. Its normally a good start to just place every mic the same distance from the instrument and go from there!
  6. I was assuming that the recording's done, and this is a "fix it in the mix" situation where she can't go back and rerecord.

    If that's not the case, then by all means, set up an extra couple of mics and see what sounds the best! Find out what picks up some of the highs, and either go with that one outright or blend in a few of the others.

    Charling's right, though. Phase cancellation can be a big problem when micing bass and blending in a few tracks of bass. Whenever possible, I try to use just one channel/track for bass, as it usually sounds the best and most natural. Blending in two mics or a dry channel can open up the sound to more problems then you might be trying to fix. Be careful of that!
  7. Yeah you're probably right, just thought as there was already a lot of info about what to do in the mix I'd offer some advice of how to avoid the problem next time!
  8. KrisH


    Nov 6, 2007
    New Jersey
    Thanks for the advice. Yes, the separate tracks were already done, and I really wasn't looking forward to redoing them at this time. I ended up boosting the mids even more, as suggested. A pre-EQ analysis showed virtually no signal above 500 Hz; boosting the 200-1k range brought some of those higher frequencies back onto the dial. On the small speakers the bass becomes more audible and defined; on the monitors, it sounds "woodier" with some attack and finger noise. Mixed in, it works for a demo.

    Seeing as how we're using a 4-track A/D converter, and we have guitar, acoustic and 2 vocals, I really don't have the option of multi-tracking the bass, unless I redo it later. But this works for now. I just didn't think I could/should boost the mids so high. Thanks!
  9. If it's a demo clear and audible is all you really need most of the time, obviously it depends what your demoing for, if you've just been working from a 4 track though it's never gonna be easy (unless it's a particularity nice one) so you've done well to get a decent mix in that case.
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