If you’re struggling to craft a bass that sounds balanced, full, and punchy, you’re not alone. For many, EQing bass guitar is one of the most challenging parts of the mixing process. The following 7 tips will help…
1. Boost Higher
Many mixers add low end to try to make the bass cut through. While this can work, a boost higher up in the frequency spectrum is often more effective. On electric bass, 700 Hz – 1 kHz is a great place to start. Boosting here will add clarity and presence, while keeping the low end lean and clean. This is a great way to trick listeners into “hearing” more low end than there actually is!
2. Go Broad
If you boost the low end on a bass with a narrow Q, you’ll often bring out only certain notes in the performance. While this can be useful when trying to prop up weaker notes, it can also upset the delicate musical balance of a performance. Broader low-end boosts typically work better, because they affect the instrument’s notes more evenly. This is one reason why many mixers like to use a Pultec on bass—it has ultra-broad curves!
3. Lose The Top
On electric bass, there isn’t much useful content above 5 kHz. In fact, this area can often house undesirable noises like buzzing and string squeaks. When EQing bass, don’t be afraid to roll off the top end. This can create space for other instruments, while cleaning up the bass and making it sit more evenly in the mix.
4. EQ In Context
Since the kick and bass often function as a single unit, it doesn’t make sense to EQ them independently. Instead, EQ the bass while the kick is playing. You’ll be guided towards decisions that help make them fit together better (which is what mixing is all about).
5. Make Space
Having trouble getting the bass to cut through? The problem often isn’t the bass, but other tracks in your mix. Start muting tracks one by one, and stop when the bass suddenly becomes more present. Your problem track is whatever you muted last. Often, this track will have excess low end information that’s competing with the bass. Roll it off with a high-pass filter, and you’ll solve your bass problem.
6. Be Careful With Multi-Mic’d Tracks
Conventional EQs alter the phase of tracks. Normally this isn’t a problem. But when EQing a track that’s part of a multi-mic’d group, these phase shifts can have unexpected consequences. Case in point: a bass that was recorded with a mic and DI. EQ one of these tracks in solo, and your decisions may create surprising tonal shifts when the two tracks play together. To avoid this, buss the bass tracks to an aux and EQ them as a unit.
7. Use Headphones
If you’re working in a less-than-ideal listening environment, it can be difficult to make good low end mixing decisions. Headphones can be a helpful ally, because they remove the sound of your room from the picture. This can give you a more accurate representation of the frequency content in your mix. While I don’t recommend mixing on headphones alone, they can certainly help when EQing bass guitar. Use them to dial in the relationship between the kick and bass, hone EQ moves, or perfect your bass automation!