Managing bass Q's in mixing

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by rob2001, Dec 22, 2009.


  1. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    With high end, if I hear a problem it seems very easy to identify it and correct it.

    With bass guitar in particular, it 's much harder for me to identify the problem and correct it without sucking the life out of it. I'm sure part of the problem is my listening environment but still, are there frequencies that commonly give bass guitars trouble?

    The tune i'm working on is a very busy hard rock song...lots of kick, chunking guitars, pumping bass line.

    I carved out a spot in the guitars and kick but the bass is either booming or non-existent. Arrgh.

    I guess to be specific..is there a preferred spot to carve out and leave to the bass guitar? What are the bad Q's for bass?
     
  2. smallbutmighty

    smallbutmighty Supporting Member

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    If you've carved out a place for the kick, you must have already EQ'd the bass guitar to some extent. Getting them to play nice together is always the biggest challenge.

    It really varies based on which kick and bass you're working with, but I've gotten the best results by accentuating the kick in the "low" area between 55 and 75 Hz. I carve out a space for the kick by cutting those same frequencies on the bass guitar. I let the bass live in the "low-mid" area, from 80 - 160 Hz. You can also get the bass to come out a little more without boosting the bass by bringing up some high-end finger noise.

    Your results may vary. Past results are not a guarantee of future performance.
     
  3. jmoose

    jmoose Supporting Member

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    The listening/monitoring environment has EVERYTHING to do with it.

    You can't "fix" what you can't hear. Low frequencies have very long wavelengths (feet, as opposed to inches) which make them hard to control. That's why in an un/poorly treated room the low end changes dramatically as you move around while the top end stays fairly consistent.

    The only real "fix" is to put some effort into the room... good monitoring setup and installing treatment including bass traps to control what happens.

    Aside from that, in general... 150-250Hz goes a long way with bass guitar. There's usually a dip in there depending on what else is happening. The bass guitar will couple with the drums & drive the song rhythmically while it also couples with the other instruments melodically. The 800Hz to 2kHz area is another "magic" area with bass guitar.

    In any song/mix either the bass drum or bass guitar is going to live on the bottom and the other will be "on top" of the other with regards to frequency.

    Most any Bob Marley would be an example of bass guitar on bottom.

    Bottom line (heh) is that a couple hundred bucks of acoustic treatment installed in the right spots will be a bigger & better improvement then any new monitors, cables or other piece of gear.
     
  4. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Agree on the room here, it's far from ideal. I caught myself saying the same thing..."i can't fix what I can't hear". In general i'm used to what to look out for but this tune is killin me!

    What I found is that there are rhythm downbeats or accents where the kick, bass AND guitars are chunking away and really congesting in the low end. Compressing the guitars to tighten them up and dropping the lows out of the kick and guitars is helping. I've been on it all day and I went from giving up to seeing some light. I'm still considering rewriting the bass line a bit to alleviate the situation.

    The thing thats killin me here too is the bass performance in general. The line is reminiscent of ZZ Topp's "Just got paid"....just a straight one note pumping bass line in the verses. Thats fine but it's even faster than that and the bass player gets a bit clacky with it. So i'd probably be fine just high passing on the bass and bringing it up in the mid-range but it's too clacky.
     
  5. Timmylikesthing

    Timmylikesthing Member

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    FWIW, bass sounds like absolute turd by itself.

    You have to decide whether you want the kick or the bass to carry the low end. Once you decide, stick to it. Typically for rock, I let the kick carry the bottom.

    Bass I roll off up to around 30-40 hz. The low fundamental of the E string on a bass is 35 hz. So anything below, the instrument in standard tuning is incapable of producing.

    Bass and Kick is definitely the hard part.
     
  6. jmoose

    jmoose Supporting Member

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    Probably 80% of the battle in getting great sounds is having great musicians playing a great arrangement. Get some hacks hacking through something & the best rooms & gear in the world won't even matter...

    There's some 'advanced' stuff that can be done comes mix to make room, ducking the bass off the kick drum... high passing other instruments... the guitars & stuff.

    But none of that matters or works if the room has a bunch of peaks & valleys because you aren't able to hear whats really there & what's not there.

    Sorting out the low end is always the hardest thing to do... having multiple sets of monitors helps a lot, get a large "main" pair and something small with 4" speakers... something of a necessity along with acoustic treatment.

    FWIW - I never high pass bass guitar or kick... like never. Very very rarely.

    Sometimes I'll even use the 30Hz boost on a Pultec or the EQP200... that's something you "feel" more then hear. Adds a lot of "girth" and weight... not so much low end.
     
  7. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    On a hard driving and dense rock mix I often boost the bass anywhere from 700 hz to 1,500 hz, or thereabouts.
     
  8. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    Try paralleling your bass track with a dirt box or amp sim of some sort. If your bass track is too clean, you get too much fundamentals without the harmonics, which makes it hard to hear without requiring excess level. By emphasizing the harmonics you can make the bass heard without being too loud, and then you can place the low end with respect to the kick to make sure that it 'feels' right.

    Feel free to EQ the snot out of the bass track prior to using the dirt box. Low pass filter is fine, since the distortion will add harmonics.

    Oh, and don't listen to it in 'solo'...in the context of the track only.

    Cheers

    Kris
     
  9. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    this is excellent advice, imo --- this technique can really work well, in the right context;
    it's been a great device for me for many yrs, & is not dissimilar to preparing a parallel drum-compression-bus.
    do listen-out for phase discrepancies, of course,
    if you're recording bass in stereo (or, dbl-tracking).

    i'd add, though:
    it can be very useful for me to listen to either bass-track or the combo'ed bass track in "solo",
    once in a while..... now that i (kinda/sorta) know what i'm doing with it;
    i think, at a certain point, it's proven itself as edifying to my own comprehension of my mixes.
    dt / spltrcl
     
  10. Baloney

    Baloney Senior Member

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    How is the mix panned??? Spread the guitars out right and left. Bass and kick in the middle

    I find that a tight Q with a boost in the 2-3k area is a good way to get the bass heard. You can fiddle with it in the mix not solo'd.
     
  11. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    I dig the IK Multimedia Ampeg bass plug for adding the midrange hair that can really make a bass part speak in a dense mix. The "mix" knob makes it essentially the same as the parallel bass buss discussed here, and switching cabinets and "mics" and mic placements (distance vs. far) in R/T helps dial the right timbre in.
     
  12. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I totally agree, and along that same line... there's an attack freq, usually somewhere around 900 - 1100 Hz. that I often boost with a narrow Q. I sweep around 'til it pops out, then just give it a dB. or two. I find just that little bit of added presence, if I hit the spot just right, doesn't alter the tone much at all but really helps it stand out.
     
  13. jmoose

    jmoose Supporting Member

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    Adding some dirt to the bass can work... sometimes its much needed... but I didn't really think about it in this case since he said the player had some attack issues & seemed to be out of the pocket.

    Adding dirt & grind usually just exacerbates those inherent flaws...

    If the execution was sloppy you need more goo, not more definition.
     
  14. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Right. I can make the bass well heard and fit pretty good but the amount of extraneous noise comes with it isn't pleasing. Sometimes string and finger noise from a bass is cool but not in this case.
    ===============================================================
    I worked it last night and I got it pretty good, well, as good as I can get it for the moment and i'm coming to the conclusion that the bass needs top be re-tracked. What I have is too much clank in the mid range and the low end content is all undefined rumble...no definition on the performance end. He's a good, creative bass player but this fast one note pumping thing is just not in his wheelhouse. It's a pretty fast two fingered pluck.(think Dusty Hill, sounds easy enough, not easy to actually do) Other sections of the song are OK, but when it goes into this section its all clank and mud. The intro features this with just him and the drummer and it's weak at best when it needs to be almost dominating.

    I feel bad about this because I wrote the bass line and I wasn't thinking of how he would approach it and what techniques he would use. As a guitar player, I wrote the line using a pick doing an alternate picking. For reference, it's too fast to do with all downstrokes. He rarely uses a pick and this double pluck thing just isn't working. I could track the bass using a pick and nail it. I'm not bragging, I play bass too. I just never thought of what he would do with it....I applaud him for working this one using a technique that he's not that comfortable with.

    So heres a thought.... Re-writing the line is an option but if I can i'd like to just get this track as it's written. It will work well if I can get what i'm after.

    Is it nuts or unheard of to track a bass thru a parametric EQ? I'm thinking if I can get it closer working from the start I should be able to EQ it much better in the mix. Of course i'm gonna have to tell him to clean it up as best as possible, but i'm thinking I can remove the clack Q's on the way in and bring them back up in the mix, and tailor the lows so it's not so boomy.

    I'll tell ya though, I have much respect for you pro guys that do this for a living. I can only imagine what it's like when you have a client not happy with what YOU did to the bass line when it's really composition and performance problems. I have a great working relationship with my bass player so i'll just point out whats going on and he'll be happy to re-track or re-write it.

    Thank you for the tips everyone, i'll take this all into consideration when we re-track. I hate giving up on a track but I guess it's good to know when you are dealing with crap from the start.
     
  15. jmoose

    jmoose Supporting Member

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    Yeaaaaah... you know, if the part isn't carrying its weight and doing what its supposed to then your screwed. That side of it, the music needs to be addressed before anything else.

    I recall, some years ago working with one act where the keyboard player took up mandolin, played it through amps & pedals so its "big" for a mando... but he wrote the head/hook of this one song on the mando, & I think we spent a day or two trying to put it down. Nothing really worked... reamps... DI... stereo, mono... all sorts of FX...

    Finally I came to the conclusion that no matter what we tried, that part played on that instrument was just never going to be "big" enough to compete with a "rock band" behind it. So he tried it on keys & it was 1000 times better. Did it on keys, doubled with the mandolin. Everyones happy.

    So much of it is the musicians. Amazing gear & rooms won't do anything for a lame performance by mediocre musicians. On the flip side if you've got great musicians you could record them with a tin can & string to a wire recorder and its gonna sound decent.

    Yes... I EQ & compress bass to tape all the time...

    Get the sound you want from the start.

    I also mangle drums & all sorts of stuff. Rarely guitars, though sometimes... but never vocals. Vocals are the one thing I never ever EQ to tape.
     
  16. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    This is very true. When people hear your song, they don't care what you meant to do.

    I feel it's important to get down what you hear in your head when you've got a definite "something" that you want. But there are times when what you imagined just doesn't work in the real world, and you're better off letting it go. That's hard to do, when you've been carrying it in your head for a long time, but I'm sure you've got plenty more where that came from.
     

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