One of the hardest tasks we face when mixing is the crafting of a low end bass sound that is warm and powerful without being woolly and indistinct.
Mixing bass isn't easy, and amateur recordings are often either lacking in bottom-end or have a bass sound that swamps all other low-end elements. in this article, we offer four tips that will help you to craft a powerful yet tight bass in your mixes.
The bass is often mixed poorly in amateur recordings because home studio monitoring is regularly far from ideal. If your studio is in your bedroom, it will never be acoustically perfect, but there are some things you can do to improve the situation. You can look at installing acoustic paneling and bass traps, and you can invest in software like Sonarworks Reference 4 that can calibrate your speakers based on the qualities of your listening environment.
You can always consider mixing on headphones if you can't add acoustic treatment to the room. A great pair of studio monitoring headphones are cheaper than a great pair of speakers, and if your listening environment is not ideal, this is an easy way to step up your mixes. You can also augment what you hear with some visual cues – download a frequency analysis tool and use it to see if certain frequencies are over- or under-represented in your mix.
An extremely common problem in mixes is that the bass and kick drum mask each other, causing a low-end that is woolly and poorly defined. This issue arises when these two low-end instruments are prominent in the same range of frequencies.
Use a frequency analyzer to see where your kick is most prominent. If it is particularly powerful at 100Hz, then perhaps cut your bass at this frequency. You need to ensure that you create space for both of these elements in your mix so that they can both cut through.
If you need to tame down the bottom end of your mix without suffocating the life out of your bass part, try using multi-band compression. Compress the frequencies under 200Hz harder than the rest of the bass. This can smooth a part out nicely.
A bass will sound tighter if the lowest frequencies are panned right to the centre. Of course you can pan your entire bass centrally, but it can be nice to leave the higher frequencies panned out wide so that your bass has more presence across the stereo field.
There are specific FREE plug-ins that can perform this task for you – iZotope's Ozone Imager, for example. However, it is not hard to do this with just a couple of EQs.
Send the output of your bass to two auxiliary (aux) channels. Pan one aux centrally (L0, R0), and add a low pass filter to it, set to 300Hz. Leave the second aux panned wide (L100, R100) and add a high pass filter to this channel, again set to 300Hz. This way all the frequencies below 300Hz will be panned centrally, and those higher will be panned out wide