Treating Bass Like Another Guitar in a Rock Mix

Hey guys, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and advancedmixing.com.

So I’m going to be talking about mixing the bass in an Alt-Rock type of record. Sort of calling upon a mid-90’s Alt-Rock, Pop sort of sound. These multi-tracks can be downloaded from davidglennrecording.com, David Glenn of course being a friend of mine, and a fellow contributor to The Pro Audio Files, and an excellent teacher. I really recommend checking out his stuff.

So this is going to be about considering the bass in this particular style of song as the fourth guitar.

So traditionally, your arrangement would be something like a lead guitar, you’d have a couple of rhythms, and then you’d have the bass, and that makes your big guitar sound. It’s supposed to sound like a big wall where you have it very low, very high, very wide, and it’s just huge guitars all over. Those are the four main components. So I think of the bass as a fourth guitar.

I mean, technically it is a guitar of course, but I think of it to blend it in with the higher register guitars.

So I am going to play this chorus right here, and then I’m going to show you a little bit of some considerations when EQing the bass.

[mix]

So let’s solo the bass here and check it out.

[bass guitar]

Now, I’m going to take out my character EQ. This is my EQ that’s sort of gluing the bass into the guitars and giving it its presence.

[bass guitar, no EQ]

So I’m pulling up that sort of metal strings sound. It’s a sound that to me is almost more common in a cheap bass than it is in a really nice bass, so in a way, we’re cheapening the bass guitar sound, but it’s that metal, buzzy, nose quality. I’m really bringing that up, it’s right around 1kHz, and I’m going to now bring the bass into the mix without it, and I’m going to start pumping it in there.

In solo mode, it might seem like it’s a little bit much…

[bass guitar]

I mean, not even really. In solo mode actually, it’s pretty transparent, but sometimes it can get — you know, I could pump a lot more into it actually, and it would probably just be fine, but I’m going to add like, seven dB here, which is a pretty sizable chunk.

Alright, here we go.

[mix]

So it’s sort of a weird thing. You don’t really hear it in the mix, but you miss it when it’s gone, and it’s because those are the tones that are making the whole thing sound thick, and that’s the whole thing that’s sort of giving the bass its extra bit of presence, and helping it glue with the other guitars.

So I found that about seven dB felt right for where we were at here.

[mix]

But I wouldn’t even be afraid to go with more even potentially. I would say you want to get as much in there as you can until it starts to interfere, or sound like it’s separating from the mix, or sound just a little bit too phasey, because as you noticed, when I pull it up in solo, it does start to sound phasey.

[bass guitar]

Right? You hear that “whoo” kind of tone start to show up.

Right down here at about seven is where that starts showing up, and just a little bit of it doesn’t get noticed in the mix so much, but anything more than that, it does start to sound a little washy.

[bass guitar]

[mix]

Anyway, the point of this is to think of the bass as another guitar. Don’t be afraid to put fuzz on it, distortion on it, add brighter overtones, as bright as like, 1kHz, these are not things that we normally think of to add to bass. In fact, a lot of the times, it’s stuff that we are removing from the bass, but in this particular style of music, it’s actually really nice to have that in there, and it helps give it that thickness, and also helps give it that kind of analogy-ness. Those sounds that we associate with analog gear.

It’s not really analog gear at all, it’s actually a bit of the phase distortion and a bit of the extra mid-range we’re getting from the choice that goes into that style of mixing.

Alright guys, hope that you learned something, until next time.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.
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