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What's wrong with bass nowadays?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by mrkode, Sep 18, 2008.


  1. mrkode

    mrkode

    Dec 19, 2007
    Montreal
    Or what's wrong with sound guys?

    In the past latest shows I did in the last couple years, I've stumbled from time to time on sound guys asking me to turn down and being told after the show by musicians in the audience that the bass was not loud enough etc... etc...

    I thought to myself, hmmm maybe there's something wrong with my sound or I'm just being unlucky when it comes to the sound men i'm working with.

    But last night I was invited by a collegue drummer of mine who's playing with a well established artist to come and see the show. Got there picked up the tickets and walked to my seat only to find it was 5 feet in front of 4 subwoofers. I was glad I had brought my earplugs even if it's only pop and no heavy rock or metal.

    So, the show begins and I notice that the only single thing that's coming out of the subs is the bass drum. No bass whatsoever. I could hear the voice and the guitars really well from the rest of the PA, the snare was a bit subdued to my taste and the bass... well the bass was lost in the mix almost inaudible. At first I thought, maybe that's because i'm too close to the subs and maybe he mixed it in the rest of the PA so I walked towards the back of the venue ( around 500 seats) but still almost no bass in the mix. You could hear it but very far in the mix and it would come out only when the bass player would do fills in the upper register.

    We're talking well oiled team here, professional musicians and techs. So this was not a mistake it was a choice. But why? What is wrong with having some bottom???

    Why is bass is more and more pushed on recordings but pulled out during live shows??

    Okay, I admit, this must not be the norm as it is one show and my experiences with this while on stage are only a handful. But still... I can't understand it.
     
  2. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    I'm curious ;

    What artist ? and where was the show ?

    You can PM me if you prefer....
     
  3. mrokern

    mrokern TB's resident Rush freak

    Jul 20, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    Simple, it's because most live sound engineers don't know how to deal with bass.

    Remember, a musical ear and mixing ability is only a small part of how live audio engineers get their gigs. It's WHO you know, not WHAT you know.

    -Mark
     
  4. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    So true - not only with soundpersons.
     
  5. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    How many people, bassists included, think that because we play low notes, that's all there is to the sound? And the prevalence of artificial sounding low end (Hip-Hop blasing from subs in sub-compact car, a 500 seat club with eight 18" subs, smiley-face EQ on everything, etc.) contributes to people not having a clue what bass sounds like. Another factor is that durms are so powerful now that there's no sonic space for bass. That's why you can't hear bassists in most metal bands- the low end of the guitars and the kick drum eat up that end of the spectrum, and the snare, cymbals, and whining guitar with the shrieking vocals eats up the rest of it...

    jte
     
  6. mrkode

    mrkode

    Dec 19, 2007
    Montreal
    It depends on the setting, the type of music etc... etc...

    Of course bass is not only low notes but it's part of it.

    Last night, it was not a question of bad sound and it was not a question also of how good or bad the soundman was cause everything else was sounding very good. It's just that the bass was far away in the mix to my taste and could've used more bottom. So obviously a choice, like I stated in my original post, unless there was a problem with the room or something else.

    I also know that you have to deal with what the artist wants sound-wise and what type of equipment the bassist uses and that might have been the situation.

    There was also no really heavy guitars as it was pop/rock oriented. And I didn't find the sound of the two guitar players to be very low-end oriented. Of course I only had the PA as reference.
     
  7. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    Bass is a support instrument , it's upfront in 0,000005% of the time.
    If your name is Jaco , Jeff Berlin , Charles Mingus it's gonna be mixed upfront , else , I think it is very normal to be mixed in the background.

    Now , how much in the background is the discussion here I think.

    For me , if I hear eveything at the same level , it's OK.
    Then it's a matter of taste.


    If the room acoustic and PA is well tuned , then it's a question of taste or the record label asked the guy to mix that way.
    I've been asked that a lot in bigger events , then people comes to you (or write in forums , just kidding! ) and bitch about the sound , but you just did your job.
    I don't say that's what happened to the show you saw yesterday , but sometimes there are external things that makes a show goes.
     
  8. JKT

    JKT

    Apr 30, 2007
    Buffalo NY
    Endorsing Artist: Barker Basses
    I too think a lot of it is genre driven. I was disappointed in where for example Randy Jacksons bass sat in the mix of that Paula Abdul tune. And he produced and played on it!

    I hear (briefly before a hit the button) a lot of pop music where the bass is way back and lacking in definition apparently by design, with percussion and keyboards taking over.

    JKT
     
  9. JmJ

    JmJ

    Jan 1, 2008
    NYC
    edit.

    Yeah but to support the band don't you need to be heard?
    What about Reggae & Funk music? those styles require the bass to be upfront all the time, no? The last show I went to with an adequate bass mix was Sade at Jones Beach. I figured that since their music relies a lot on the bass line I would at least be able to hear the guy play. The audible level of the bass was acceptable until he pulled out a second bass. That thing was so deep sounding that you could not hear the notes but you could feel them. it seems to me that more & more sound engineers are failing at live sound as far as bass is concerned. I'm not ponying up my dough for a band with a crappy soundman.
    Giving the entire sub to the kick drum is entirely lame.
     
  10. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    Yep
    The words "it's upfront in 0,000005% of the time." are very important in the sentence.
    What I said ;

     
  11. JmJ

    JmJ

    Jan 1, 2008
    NYC
    Yeah but what about Reggae & Funk? It's 100% in those genres.
    Your percentage is way off, especially in today's boom & sizzle world. Just about every stereo & boombox has a bass boost feature which most people engage. Don't let the sound people off the hook. Bass should be heard.
     
  12. jaywa

    jaywa

    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Ironic isn't it that basses, bass amps and pro sound are more technologically advanced than they've ever been, yet the percentage of shows where bass is correctly mixed seems to be shrinking exponentially. And by "correctly mixed" I do not mean dominating the mix, but a good, solid, tight, well-defined sound where you can hear the actual notes that are (and are not) being played. A good solid balance between bass and kick drum vs. the vague tonality that just kind of gets layered in under an over-effected kick drum.

    I think we've got too many people out there mixing by what their computers tell them rather than the old fashion way - by their ears.
     
  13. mrokern

    mrokern TB's resident Rush freak

    Jul 20, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I've met VERY few sound engineers who can mix reggae properly. The bass drives the beat, the kick simply helps out.

    I mix FOH for a reggae festival every year, and I got one of the best compliments of my career from one of the artists (who was actually from Jamaica).

    "You be white, but you get the reggae, mon."

    Loved it. :D
     
  14. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    I'm sorry , maybe I was not clear ;
    0,00005% of the time ,it's the bass player who's forefront , the star ,his name is on your ticket , takes all the solos , the melodies , the follow spot is always on him , etc...
    Most of the time bass is part of the rythm section.
    As long as you hear him as much as other rythm section instrument ...
     
  15. Fliko

    Fliko

    Aug 9, 2008
    I can't help but remember a Taking Back Sunday show I went to over in Edmonton.
    They had the bass turned up to this sweet spot, where you could hear it and feel it but it wasn't mixed above the vocals or guitar.

    I think the best you can do to deal with the sound guys is to go try to hang with them if it's constantly the same dudes and talk to them about the bass levels. Sound guys are only human.
     
  16. Kyon`

    Kyon`

    Aug 17, 2007
    Boston, MA
    Personally never done this but always wondered why not just agree with the sound guy at the time and do everything with volume barely up. Come play time crank it up and watch them scramble, a bit mean and immature but would be fun to try once in my life :p.
     
  17. jaywa

    jaywa

    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Yeah that's an old trick. Doesn't really work out as well as you might think though, most of the time and once the sound tech is on to you, he is probably p.o'd and then you're done for the night.

    There are times though that I will do a variation of that. Most veteran sound techs understand that as the room fills with people (vs. the empty venue at soundcheck), they have to make adjustments to the bass. What might have sounded like a good solid bass mix in the empty venue can get pretty wimpy once a lot of people are there. Typically that would involve pushing the bass up a bit higher in the mix as the night goes on. Amazingly, some sound techs either don't understand this or don't care. Now, if I'm confident the sound tech "gets" this, I don't touch the levels on my bass or amp and I trust him to give me that bump to maintain the level in a full house that I had at soundcheck. But if I don't think he has a handle on this, I will push up the output on my bass just a couple of dB, usually between 1st and 2nd set or whenever the room gets full.
     
  18. Nick Kay

    Nick Kay

    Jul 26, 2007
    Toronto, Ontario
    Yeah, the thing we're complaining about? We're not heard as much as other rhythm section instruments. No one has ever complained about drums being buried in the mix, because they never are.
     
  19. I agree a bit immature, but I've played that game for years. It's dogone hard competing with the kick and a keyboard player. So when it's sinks a little, somehow it mysteriously creeps up a little. I never give the sound man my full throttle in sound check. If you do, and it's time for a solo or a really well laid out run, no one hears it. :scowl:
     
  20. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    Doing that is the best proof that you don't give a **** about your band's sound, all you care is yourself.

    It would be a very immature , and inexperienced reaction.
     

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