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Thread: Bass levels jumping around.

  1. #1
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    Bass levels jumping around.

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    Happy new year all!

    Looking to sort this bass issue out im having...

    All my recorded bass lines seem to have a louder output when I strike the D or G string than the A and E... infact I would probably say the loudest being the G and the quietest being the E.

    No idea why this is happening as I haven't tampered with the bridge or anything unless its had a knock when it's fell off its stand.

    Anyways its quite noticeable when playing back... constantly needing to turn it up to hear the low end and then back down when the higher end comes in.

    Ive tried using a compression effect and it help however... when the bass isn't bring played for a second once it comes back in the first note is much louder before the compression kicks in... is there a way to prevent this so there is no massive peaks ?

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    What kind of bass is it? What you're describing is most likely an issue with the pickup height/balance of the instrument. It's possible for certain specific notes on certain instruments to jump out almost at random, due to an instrument that just isn't well balanced. Not much you can do about that. If it's even across the strings as you describe then lowering the pickup height relative to the G string should solve the issue. If reprinting the track isn't an option you could automate the track using a volume envelope in your DAW.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fendertelemusik View Post
    unless its had a knock when it's fell off its stand.
    Did this happen? Did the bass behavior change around then? That could be relevant.

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    yeah it has a couple of times slid off it and landed on its back... nothing major just needed a quick retune as it went out ever so slightly, im not that capable of volume enveloping I shall have a look, was just wondering if compression only kicks in when a note is played and sometimes doesn't catch it quick enough that the initial note will jump up then get compressed.

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    was just a cheap bass I bought for recording purposes im mainly a guitarist but needed a bass for the bass parts.. it's a gear4music one.

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    We always worry when we hear about these kinds of things that it’s an acoustic issue in the listening environment. It might not even be the bass or the recording, and you end up messing it up worse by trying to fix an issues that’s not really there.

    But most basses really just want a bunch of smashing anyway, so I’ll try to answer your compression question. All compressors have an attack parameter which sets how quickly it clamps down on things that suddenly get loud. Many others also look at the rms or average level over some period of time so That it has to get loud and stay loud for while before it kicks in. Whether the particular comp you’re using let’s you set these things or not, they’re there. If yours does, try adjusting them shorter. Some compressors also have a lookahead (precomp or whatever) parameter that lets it see into the future which can help sometimes, too.

    But if the attack delay is really that noticeable, you’re probably just digging in too far with the compressor or trying to do too much in one stage. A lot of times multiple compressors in series - each doing just a little - can get you to a lot of squish a lot more naturally than trying to do it with just one.

    Assuming the track actually is fucked up (see caveat in the first paragraph), you really need more of a leveler before you get into more traditional compression.

    Ideally of course you’d fix it at the source.

    Next best in many cases is manual automation where you really go through and adjust by ear in the context of the mix.

    But there are tools out there that can do a fine job of that for you. Many of the dedicated plugins for this are often “intended” for vocals - with names like VocalLeveler and the like - but they’ll do bass just fine with some tweaking.

    What I do is use ReaComp with RMS set to 500ms and precomp set to 250ms so that it’s kind of reacting to the average of the last 250ms and the next 250ms right now. Then I adjust threshold, ratio, and knee until it does what I want. And it usually does. Call it cheating if you want, but I call it getting things done.

    This is all just to get all those notes to be more consistent overall like between each other. Once that’s done you can get into more conventional compression techniques for control of individual note envelopes and limiting and whatever.

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    I'll second ashcat's main points.

    First is your monitoring environment. Home recordists often have to work in small spaces, and small spaces always mess with how you hear bass. You can't really know if it's right if you can't hear it right. Solutions include aggressive treatment and learning to account for your space.

    Second, fix it at the source. That will depend on your monitoring environment to tell you what you need to do. This might mean anything from pickup adjustment to knob settings to playing technique.

    Third, use compression, and use a faster attack time. Maybe use precompression or some of ashcat's other suggestions, or find your own settings that get it done.

    Fourth, try multiple stages of compression. The bassist I regularly record has a limiter on his pedal board, and I'm hitting him with a nice analog compressor (Drawmer 1960) for 2-3dB of reduction on the way to the DAW. I'll generally do a little more ITB during the mixdown.

    Fifth, try manual editing. Actually, this may go up to third on this list if the recording is really that variable. Some basses and some performances just need manual correction.

    If all that doesn't get it done then it might be worth trying a more sophisticated vocal leveler.

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    If you don't have a good monitor setup (for whatever reason) you might try listening on a good set of headphones. It won't have the room issues. Just make sure the headphones are pretty neutral, not the bumped up bass type. Something like an AKG 701 or Beyer DT770s, or even AKG 240mkIIs. You should get a smoother response to better judge the evenness of the bass.

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    Someone already hit what I'd try first -- Headphones. If it's fine in the phones, it's your space. If it's NOT fine in your phones, check your meters (most people here think I hate meters - and headphones - Not true - I just don't use them unless I'm calibrating gear or looking for potential issues). Does the metering jump when the volume jumps...? Is the RMS level that much higher or lower...? If so, it's closer to the source. Go as direct as possible (nothing with a HPF engaged of course) and see if it happens. If so, it's the bass. Change the strings (couldn't help but notice the louder ones are the lesser used ones). Do the pickups have exposed poles? Tap with a paper clip and see if output is wonky. Active electronics? Change the battery (actually, do this before you do anything else).

    So many possibilities...

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    Cheap instruments especially can sometimes work surprisingly well with a good setup.

    Especially if the bass has a P style pickup, you should be able to adjust the relative output level of each string individually, somewhat. It's not uncommon to find an instrument with setup issues like this. Pickup height and balance is something you really need to set by ear anyway so it costs nothing if you have a screwdriver.

    There's lots of other good suggestions here. Tweaking the instrument is a source issue. Mix issues like volume rides with automation and using compression and eq are likely things you still want to do even if you can improve the source ten fold. Having a great source just makes it easier.

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