Bass can be one of the most difficult parts of a mix to get “right.” This is because there is no right way to mix the instrument. Your bass needs will likely change drastically from song to song. You’ll need a clean, punchy bass sound on one track, while on another you may need a completely different warm and wide bass sound.
Through all of the desired sounds, you’ve also got to make sure the sound is not too boomy, but you also don’t want it to sound too round. As you can see, it gets complicated.
And while there’s no master tip that will automatically make your bass sound great every time, here are three tips that you may want to add to your arsenal of bass mixing techniques. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment with all aspects of your bass signal chain until you get the sound you want.
1. Don’t Get Predictable with Your EQ Settings
Certainly EQ is one of your best friends when it comes to recording, but using the tool on bass can (and should) get a little complicated. Some instruments have pretty predictable EQ settings. For example, if you put a high-pass filter on an acoustic guitar and then add a slight boost to the high-mids, you’ll probably have at least an acceptable sound (though you’ll certainly want to tweak for each track).
That predictability is often thrown out the window on bass tracks. The EQ you will use depends not only on how you want the bass to sound, but how you want it to sit in the mix. This often depends on what frequencies other instruments are using. Don’t be afraid to try EQ settings you wouldn’t think to attempt on other instruments.
2. Double the Bass Track
There are great ways to improve your bass sound by doubling the track and adding different EQ settings and effects to the duplicated track. For example, after getting your original bass track sounding the way you want it, add slight distortion and a high-pass filter to the second track, and mix it low in relation to the first track to give you a “wider” bass sound that will also bring a warmth to the lows on your track.
This is just one example, but having the second track allows you to do extreme things to your bass track that will bring surprisingly effective results when mixed with a “traditional” bass track. Keep in mind that you’ll almost always want to make sure the second track is mixed in very subtly with the original track.
3. Use your EQ to Take Away
Often, you’ll get a bass sound that sounds great when the bass track is solo’d, but then never sits right in the mix. Many times this is because the frequencies of another instrument are covering the frequencies you want to hear from the bass track.
Instead of continuing to adjust the EQ of the bass in situations like this, it is often helpful to find the offending instrument (which is often a guitar) and cut the frequencies covering the frequencies you want to hear from the bass. This will allow the bass to shine through the mix the way you want it to.