Mixing Bass with Multiband Compression
So today, I want to talk about bass mixing, and the reason why is I get asked about this probably more than anything else at the moment. I use multiband compression on bass guitar. I rarely use it on other things unless I’m trying to rescue a sound source.
The reason why I like to use multiband compression is so I can get an even bottom end. What we’re going to do is we’re going to go through it and check it out, and see all of the different ways that we get bass to be even throughout the mix.
When you’re using synth basses and stuff, it’s so easy to get a consistent bottom end, but what I find with a lot of mixes that I hear using live bass is that the bottom end is huge, it disappears, it just never really sort of stays consistently through the mix. So this is where multiband compression can really, really help you out.
Also, when you go higher on the neck of a bass of course, you’re going to lose some of that bottom end, so the multiband can really help keep that consistently in there as well.
So lets go and check it out. As ever, please go to producelikeapro.com, sign up for the email list, and of course, there’s a 14 day free trial of The Academy, and loads of free stuff to download. So please go to Produce Like a Pro and subscribe. Okay, so let’s check it out.
So what I did — and of course, there’s lots of variations on this, but the principles will remain the same. What I did here was I had two sources, I had a DI source, and I had a mic on a cab. We’ll display a link where you can go and see the video of the recording session, so you can get a bit more detailed in how we recorded, but essentially, we have a DI and a cab, and there’s a couple of things I’ve done here.
Now, on the DI only, we’ve got a time adjuster plugin running first. Now, I get asked about this a lot. With the time adjuster, what I’m doing is I’m pulling back — as you see here, two things. I’m flipping the phase because the polarity is exactly reversed, as you can see there. So it’s being dragged back here, and these are always an average.
So if I go to samples up here, it’s about an average — it says 120 there, here it’s at 161, so essentially, it’s an average at about 135 samples. So what this is doing is it’s being pulled back and then the polarity is being flipped on the DI.
Now, you can do that visually if you’d like, but I would always suggest that you play this, that you have an original copy of the file before you do any messing with it, because you can tie yourself — and I’ve done it myself, I’ve tied myself in many, many knots by just continually messing with files, and before you know it, I don’t know where I’m at, but I personally just — I don’t mess with it if I don’t have to. I just use a time adjuster plugin.
So it’s pulled back, and then the phase is flipped. So the polarity is good now. So let’s listen to the DI on its own. The first thing I’ve got going on after that — each time I do this, I could do it in a different way. Sometimes, I use the DI as the clean source, because there’s no personality, there’s no low end distortion in a DI, and sometimes, I use the amp as the clean source. Usually, it’s the DI, but in this instance, it’s the bass cab.
So there’s rolloff going on.
Let’s take everything off.
It’s cool. And if it was the only source, we could mess with that, but it’s not the only source. So I’ve got an R-EQ going.
And I’m pushing up some of those mid-range honkiness. I’ve got about 1,400 here and about 750, and that’s giving me that kind of, [imitates bass], because I wanted some personality out of it, and then I’ve got my good old fashioned SansAmp.
It’s just giving me a little bit more exaggerated. It’s all the personality. The DI here is all about the personality. Then I’ve got an MV2. You see it’s just bringing an even tone to it.
Next up, I have a bass cab down here, moving down to the bottom, and here’s the bass cab.
All bottom end. It’s a little bit overdriven, but I kind of like it. I actually cheated and I’m using two MV2s, so it’s getting super, super —
Compressed. Bringing out some distortion a little bit. Two together.
The thing is with this particular tone is I wanted it really, really driven, because it’s a rock tune. So on my middle one here, on my bass cab, I duplicated the bass cab source, and I put an MV2 on it to even it.
And then distorted it even more. So here’s your original sound source.
[bass cab, before and after processing]
So two cabs together. A bit of drive with the DI.
Now, the reason why the R-EQ is so useful here is because of this rolloff at 277, what I’ve done is I’m getting all of the bottom end out of the way for multiple sources. So when you’re using two or three different sources, it’s nice not to have any phase cancellation, or any polarity issues in the low end, so what I’ll do is I’ll pick only one source to be my clean bottom end.
So no matter whether you’re going to use the DI or the amp, I like to only use one source. I’ve learned that from so many big mixers. They don’t talk about it that much, but they do, that’s how they do it. That’s what we do to get the bottom end to be clean.
Okay, so next up is a multiband compressor as promised. So what is the multiband doing? Well, the multiband is compressing everything below 250. I’m going to solo it, so you can just hear it.
See what it’s doing? It is completely compressing it, really aggressively. So…
There’s a lot of compression going on here, and it’s staying at zero dB the whole time. So it’s just that even, 250Hz compression. So no matter what he plays, even the [imitates bass], it’s still got all that fullness in it.
So it’s keeping it super fat, super full, and just really, really awesome sounding.
Okay, next up is an R-EQ, which all I’m doing is I’m rolling off about 53 here. Fairly gentle slope. Just to get it out of the way of the kick, but there’s also some high mid boost going on there. So let’s just take this out of solo and we’ll listen to see what the R-EQ is doing.
Next up, some more mid-range 800 for that kind of piano-y-ness on the API.
[bass, no API]
Now, it’s important when you’re listening to things in solo, yes, you want it to sound good in solo, but it’s not as important as how it sounds in the track. These EQ moves were made during the mixing process, which means putting it up against the drums.
Then I added my good old favorite — I love the R-Bass. Now — but what you’ll notice I’ve done, and I talk about it all the time, is I’ve shaped everything going into it. If I didn’t have this R-EQ here, rolling off at about 53, and then I went into the R-Bass, I would have a lot of 20 and 40 just being boosted for no reason.
So what I’m doing is I’m shaping going in. I find that a lot more useful to shape going into a bass boost than I do trying to then control it afterwards. It feels more natural if I do it that way as well.
So there’s quite a lot of 80 boost.
So there’s a huge amount there. Take it off. Back on. Now, there is a little shaping going on. It’s gentle, very gentle to get it even more out of way of the kick, and then a ton of mid-range personality added here. Again.
That’s a good bass tone if I wasn’t trying to get it to point out above the drums. Put it back on. So you can do a lot of this stuff, you know, initially, but what I think is really, really important to remember, and I get asked a lot of questions, like why are you using multiple plugins, why can’t you just do that?
Because that’s not the mixing process. When you’re mixing, you are — you know, you’ll get your drums sounding big, loud, and slamming, and you love it, and as soon as you start adding instruments, you’ve got to then adjust things.
On the drums, you’ll notice a lot, I pull out a lot of 350, 400, a lot of that kind of ugly sound in the toms and in the rooms, which leaves room for the bass, but at the same time, you know, I might — still might find that this mid-range is not coming through. I don’t want to pull out 1.5-2kHz out of my snare, for instance, or the click on the kick. You know, so it’s kind of a catch-22. When you’re mixing or you’re adding instruments, you’re going to find, you’re going to go back and change EQ settings, but also where you position them is really important.
Like I said, I like to shape going into a bass boost, but I like to have a multiband coming on first, and then even it out, so I’m evening all of the bottom end first with a multiband, so it’s like, from 20Hz to like, 250, it’s super, super even sounding. Then I’m rolling off gently. Going into a bass boost, and then a little bit more rolloff afterwards, and that’s really controlling that bottom end really nicely, with no boosting, very controlled.
If I put the drums in against it…
[drums and bass]
So cool. So this particular track was very ’70s Rock. So even though it might feel overly complicated at times, really what you’re doing is you’re adjusting stuff in the mix as you go.
Okay, so what I’ve done now is I’ve opened up a song that we’ve recorded here of my playing bass, just so we can see some comparisons. This is the same kind of approach. It’s one amp, one DI, but in this instance, we’ve got the time adjuster running again so that the phase is pulled back. There’s no need to flip the phase here, because it was printed in phase. It wasn’t flipped on the — it was flipped on the console going in, if necessary. So that’s easy, but the first thing I’ve done here, is you see, I’ve got an R-EQ going where I’m just using the bottom end off of the DI.
Take this off.
[bass DI, no R-EQ]
Pretty good bass tone. I’m not going to complain about it, but you see there, now all the clean bottom end is coming from the DI.
Next up is the amp with the R-EQ doing the opposite. See, at 200, it’s…
More personality. Put two together…
Get a good, in phase, great polarity bass tone. Add a little distortion from the cab, a tiny amount.
It’s got the same EQ on it, so that the phase is coherent between the two mic inputs, but there’s little distortion on it as well, just to give it some personality. So three elements together.
You see that consistent low end? Every single time.
So once again, on our bass master, 250 and below is being compressed.
EQ. Again, controlled. Little 800 there into our R-Bass. Then our old friend, MV2. At the end, I just added a little bit more mid-range, just to make it cut above the drums and everything.
[bass and drums]
This obviously is like, super programmed sounding drums in that section, but you can see, the bass has just got this evenness that the multiband gives us. It just gives us this thick, not keyboard sounding, but still has personality, still sounds like a live bass guitar, but that nice, even low end that despite where you’re playing on the neck, it still cuts through.
It’s — it’s — the only time that I always use multiband, I’m not like — otherwise I’m using multiband on guitars and stuff to kind of rescue stuff, but it works really, really great.
So as ever, please leave a bunch of questions and comments below. I’m sure there’s a million different ways that you do it, and I’d love to hear your different experiences and stuff. Thank you ever so much for watching. Please subscribe, go to producelikeapro.com, and you can sign up for the email list and get a bunch of free stuff, and you can also try out the 14 day free trial of The Academy.
Thank you ever so much. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing!