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Thread: Tremendous Bass Tone - How To Mix A Bass Guitar

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    Tremendous Bass Tone - How To Mix A Bass Guitar

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    This an article that I posted to my website.
    Instead of giving just a link I thought it's better to copy paste it here.

    If a moderator consider this as spam please let me know the way to share the knowledge,
    cause I am not selling anything but every lesson of mine is 100% Free

    Enjoy!


    -----------------------------------------------------------------



    Hello my fellow readers, in this tutorial I'll teach you how to mix a bass guitar and shape it to the needs of your mix.


    Since bass is an instrument that can handle lots of processing, we are able to use heavy compression, multiple layers, different ampsims for some grit, even Melodyne for fine tuning plus lots of other cool stuff to create a fantastic bass tone and make others wonder how you get that kind of bass sound.


    Let's get started, shall we?




    Source... Source... Source...
    Since this is a mixing tutorial I am assuming that you've recorded a decent bass sound, but if not, let me share a couple of quick tips before diving into the really heavy processing tips.


    The Bass DI (Direct Input signal) is the signal that you get right away from the bass guitar itself, Bass Guitar -> Audio Interface. No amps, No pedals, No cabinets.



    Connecting mics with XLR cables and guitars with TRS cables.


    Try to get a nice clean and balanced sound out of your Bass Di. Avoid a muddy sound by buying new fresh strings or, if money is an issue, use a MIDI program that can play bass.


    It is not a shame to use software, especially for your bass tone, which is one of the hardest things to get a great source sound from, if money is an issue.


    You' ll need to invest $1.000 minimum to get a bass guitar that will give you a professional DI sound... Let's not forget that each bass guitar works differently for each genre so it's not easy to afford a different bass guitar for each genre!


    That's why a bass VSTi (Virtual Studio Technology instrument) can really save you tons of money plus give you fantastic DI sounds with lots of bass guitars to choose from.


    Here's a couple of some of my favourite bass programs that I've used in many of my productions:







    Recording: DI Signal, Amp or Pedal?
    Truth is that you will use all of the 3 channels but if I highly suggest to record DIRECTLY to your Audio Interface. Why is that so crucial?


    The DI signal (Direct Input) is the "mother" of the signals, the cleanest, most balanced signal and the best to play with: You can easily re-amp the signal, using software and get all the harmonic distortion you need in no time.


    But, what happens if you want to record the bass amp using a mic and ditch the DI signal completely?




    The Importance of the DI Signal
    Let's say that you want to record your amp using a mic. You've set up your mics, recorded everything and now it's time to mix!


    The low end of the amp/pedal will make your life hard. Period.


    The bass frequencies that your amp/pedal produced are not mix friendly. While the sound rocks in your room, it would be hell to mix your bass guitar and co-operate with the rest of the mix.


    The DI signal has the cleanest, most powerful and mix-friendly low end. The low end that your amp produces creates more drawbacks than benefits.


    That's why we will use the low end of the DI signal along with the grit of an amp using multiple tracks/layers and EQ.




    I Don't Want To Use A Digital Amp But A Real Amp... What To Do
    It's really simple. You can record your amp/pedal signal AND your DI signal simultaneously.


    You just need one of these: Radial JDI.





    It's a pedal that can help you record the signal of your favorite amp along with the DI signal.
    The process is really simple:

    1. It splits the signal into 2 signals.
    2. You create 2 tracks in your DAW. For example: DI bass, Amp Bass.
    3. Send each signal to its corresponding track.
    4. Ready to record - 2 birds with 1 stone!






    Layering: Using Multiple Tracks
    The bass guitar is a tricky instrument to play with and it takes lots of process to make it sit in the mix.


    That's why I love to separate it to at least 2 tracks. The DI track and the amp/grit/distortion track.

    • DI Track: This tracks plays the role of the low end of the mix. I remove all the mid-high frequencies and keep just the low ones using a low pass filter. (More details below.)
    • Grit Track: This is the track that keeps the mid-highs of your bass tone. I use an bass amp or a pedal (digital or analog doesn't matter as long as it sounds good) to get all the harmonic distortion I want. I remove everything under 250Hz, but we'll talk about mixing later in this guide.


    To sum up: The DI signal will get all the lows and anything with an amp or pedal on it will keep just the mid-highs of the frequency spectrum.




    Split bass to 2 tracks and send them to 1 Bass Group.




    It's... Mixing Time!
    I know I know, that's the part with the most fun and it took too long to talk about, but trust me without the above information it wouldn't be fun... at all.


    Let's get started!

    1. Split your bass signal into 2 tracks. Name one track "Bass Low" and the other "Bass Grit", you get the idea.
    2. Send these tracks to a group track. Name it "Bass Group" or just "Bass".
    3. Use a filter and remove the mid-highs on your "Bass Low" track. Keep only the lows up to 250Hz or so, use your ears.
    4. Use an amp, amp sim, pedal or pedal simulator to your grit track and generate harmonics with grit/distortion.
    5. Use high and low filters to remove all the frequencies to your grit track, except the 250Hz to 5Khz (or less) region.


    For now, ignore everything else and just play with the faders. No need to play with compression and other stuff here.


    Just play with the volume of these 2 tracks and stop wherever it sounds right to you.




    Mixing Time... Part 2! - Processing The Bass Group
    Now that we've created the basic tone of our bass, it's time to really go to town with our bass group.


    We will not use any other plugins on the separate channels, cause these 2 channels actually form one instrument so we'll have to treat it as one instrument too.


    So use your plugins to your Bass Group.


    Use a high pass filter and remove some low end around 50Hz - 60Hz. I know what you're thinking, removing bass from bass?? Trust me these frequencies are so low that do not serve anything useful, it's just low end mud. Plus, with all the processing that we'll do now the lows will creep back up to us.


    Use a limiter gently to remove some really aggressive peaks. The compressors that we'll use next will work easier and in a more effective way by doing so.


    Use a Waves 1176 compressor or if you don't own one, just use a FET compressor of your liking.





    If you can't afford the 1176 model from Waves just download for Free the 1176 model from Antress. It really rocks and it's free.





    Settings: Aim for heavy reduction from -5GR to -10GR, 4:1 or 8:1 Ratio, quick Attack around 3 to 10ms and Fast Release.


    Now use an another compressor. Still have some sudden peaks? Use a hard compressor. Need some gentle compression to even out the dynamics? Use something more gentle like the Waves CLA2a.





    If you can't afford it, here's a free LA2A clone for you by the Antress team.




    Time For Some EQ
    Remove some mud by cutting some db in the 250 to 500Hz area with a wide Q.


    Cut around 50Hz to 80Hz so your kick drum can cut through.


    Remove some low end mud by cutting around 150Hz to 250Hz.


    Now aim to reduce the "cardbox" sound. Cut some db with a wide Q to the 500Hz - 1.000Hz region.




    Give Me More... Tightness!
    You really think that after all this heavy compression your bass frequencies are tight enough, right?


    No they are not and frequencies under 250Hz need to "sit in the pocket" giving us the freedom to add all the instruments we need in a busy metal/rock/hip-hop or even an epic-metal production.


    For this exact reason, our last step (I promise IT IS the last step) we'll use a couple more plugins.




    Multiband Compression
    The best way to make sure that our low end acts like a "good boy" and doesn't interfere too much with our dynamics is to add a Multi-band Compressor.


    I love using the C4 Multiband Compression by Waves but you can use this Free multiband compressor too.





    We'll use 2 bands:

    • Band 1: The first band will aim at the 0Hz to ~80hz region. That is to make sure that our sub lows are absolutely tight.
    • Band 2: The second band will aim at the ~80Hz up to 250Hz region.


    Now compress the 2 bands and make them tighter.


    With all this Gain Reduction you'll feel (and hear) that your bands are noticeably tighter but also lower in volume.


    Make up for it by using the Make-Up Gain of your multiband compressor, bypass the plugin, listen to the before/after effect and match the volume.




    Our Final Limiter
    Now that you are finished with your multiband compressor, add a final L1 Limiter or just Download the fantastic and free Gclip Limiter.





    Do not exceed more than -3 to -4db here. But if you do, chances are that you haven't compressed enough to your compressors that you've added earlier in your chain.


    So please go back, compress more and then come back to your Limiter.




    Some Really Cool Tricks For A Professional Sound
    In this chapter I'll give you 3 more tips that will make your bass tone shine.


    These are the tips I use daily and I really can't live without them from the day that I've given them a try.


    They saved me lots of hours editing, made my life easier and they'll make yours too.




    Melodyne
    Yes, you got that right. Melodyne!


    Melodyne is mainly used for vocals but you won't believe what it can do to your bass.


    Let's say that a client sent you to mix his song, but he recorded his bass without even tuning it properly. You won't be able to get a decent low end with that kind of bass tone.


    And since bass is mostly a monophonic instrument Melodyne can do wonders on it.


    You just open Melodyne, lock the notes by double clicking them and you have a perfectly in-tune bass, how's that sound?







    Waves Bass Rider
    Since bass needs lots of compression, we sacrifice some of its life and punch due to it.


    Wouldn't be perfect if we could automate the volume of each note just by using our volume fader? This way, the signal that we would feed to the compressors would be already "manually compressed" since the volume would be evened out by our own hands.


    This would result in less errant peaks, thus making the compressors give us what we want with less moves.


    Well, we could automate the volume by hand, but this would take days or even weeks to complete... But there's a solution and it's called Waves Bass Rider.





    This thing draws automation curves all by itself.


    It saves you an enormous amount of time plus helping you focus on other stuff (like composing music heh!) instead of drawing Automation curves by hand.


    I highly suggest you to give it a go, you'll love it!




    Reverb
    Reverb on the bass alone will destroy it. No reverb is good on the low frequencies.


    For this reason you can can create an Aux Track and add a Reverb there. Then send your bass via your fx return.


    Then add an EQ and remove all the low frequencies. You'll end up with a wider bass, but don't overdo it though.


    To sum up: Just use verb on the mids and highs of your bass.







    Monitoring The Signal Chain
    As you can see, the bass guitar is really the No1 instrument that you can really go to town and still accept all of your crazy tweaks.


    Since you'll use lots of compression don't be afraid to go back to your signal chain and be more drastic.


    Let me explain...


    For example, if you'd started with a cut of -7db at 70Hz and then have added a compressor, you might need to go back and cut 4db more resulting in a -11db cut.


    It wasn't your fault, your judgement for a -7db cut was great, it's just that the compressor that you've added after the EQ emphasized your previous cuts and worked against you, so go back and be more drastic on your EQ.


    Same things applies to the compressors. If your 2nd compressor works too hard you might need to go back to your 1st one, make it compress harder and then adjust your 2nd one.


    It's everything about balance.




    Conclusion
    Yeap that's over 2.000 words, but I really wanted to cover anything - okay almost anything - about bass and help you improve your bass tones.


    Thank you for following me on this post, I know it seems "too much" at first, but it's really nothing if you mix through it step by step.


    I guess it's time for me to take a break and listen to some Deftones!


    If you'd like to "thank" me for this post, I would really appreciate it if you could give it a like, follow, google plus it, you know all the good social media stuff!


    You can also share your thoughts with me in the comment section below.


    Take care guys.

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    All those words and you never even once posted an example of how a bass guitar, after all that 'recommended' processing, will turn out with regards to a mix of say, a heavy metal track or a blues track or........

    Examples speak louder than words.

    Melodyne on a bass
    Cheap Gear - In A Square Room! Getting the job done! - TheMrClean.co.uk

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    I thought it a pretty good read. I'm sure one day I'll have to go the computer route with recording and this looks like some good stuff.

    and what's wrong with melodyne on a bass? I seriously wanna know. Never used it and don't really know what it's for.
    Even at that tho...what the hell? Why not try it and see if it works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogbreath View Post
    and what's wrong with melodyne on a bass? I seriously wanna know.
    If you bass is out of tune that badly you need to use melodyne to tune the recorded sound, I'd say get your bass looked at or set it up correctly yourself.
    Cheap Gear - In A Square Room! Getting the job done! - TheMrClean.co.uk

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    Actually, Melodyne does rhythm correction as well. Might not be so bad to really lock in your bass with the kick and snare. I'm a little tempo-challenged, and I could see myself using Melodyne to tighten up my lacking bass parts. Especially when latency works against my timing even when I'm having a good day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Clean View Post
    If you bass is out of tune that badly you need to use melodyne to tune the recorded sound, I'd say get your bass looked at or set it up correctly yourself.
    so it's an autotune type of thing?

    If so, that's kinda silly. Why not just tune your bass first?

    Or is it one of those vocal tuning things?

    I've got a great idea! I'll do some googlin.

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    so kind of a pitch correction AND timing correction tool.
    Right?


    hmmm.... still seems easier to just tune the damn thing and play to the beat.

    but maybe that's just the "old" coming out in me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Clean View Post
    If you bass is out of tune that badly you need to use melodyne to tune the recorded sound, I'd say get your bass looked at or set it up correctly yourself.
    Unless someone have sent you the files online and you can't make him re-record again... So you need to correct things the "weird" way.

    "Let's say that a client sent you to mix his song, but he recorded his bass without even tuning it properly"

    Did you even take the time to read the article, before bashing? :/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogbreath View Post
    so it's an autotune type of thing?

    If so, that's kinda silly. Why not just tune your bass first?

    Or is it one of those vocal tuning things?

    I've got a great idea! I'll do some googlin.
    No, it has nothing to do with the autotune effect, it is mainly for vocals but works great for bass too, give it a try

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paschalis I. View Post
    No, it has nothing to do with the autotune effect, it is mainly for vocals but works great for bass too, give it a try
    cool. I'm up for new stuff.

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