Drop the Bass – Mixing Workshop

Observing the bass and its frequency spectrum in the context of a great mix.

We need bass! And the bass needs us; at least in the mix. Ultimately, not only does the bass influence a major part of the frequency spectrum, together with the drums it defines the rhythmic flow of a song, and it also composes the harmonic cornerstone together with the energy of a song to guide the other melodic instruments in the mix. Reason enough to discuss frequency editing in the bass at this point.

The foundation of a bass sound lies between 50 Hz and 100 Hz. The warmth and bottom end of the sound is found in this frequency range. A useful trick for emphasising bass frequencies is available by mixing in a low-frequency sine tone using the gate function. This lets the bass signal control the gated 50 Hz sine tone through the sidechain input of the gate.

Bass 1

You can increase the transparency of the bass notes by boosting the range between 400 Hz and 800 Hz. You can achieve more impact by boosting the signal at around 2.5 kHz and increase the presence by raising the signal at around 5 kHz.

Bass Sine

Here are some EQ recommendations for the bass:

Sub-bass range below 30 Hz: lo-cut
Bass range 50 Hz – 100 Hz (depending on the kick): +4 dB
Mids 400 Hz (finger) – 1 kHz (plectrum): +4 dB
Lower highs 2.5 kHz: +5 dB
Medium highs 5 kHz: +5 dB

Step 1: Disruptive resonance frequencies are most common in bass signals. To find these resonance frequencies, sweep through the frequency spectrum of the EQ with a high Q-factor and high gain setting.

Bass Sweep 1

When you find the disruptive frequency ranges, you can lower them or cut them completely.

Bass Sweep 2

Step 2: Listen to the bass signal together with the kick drum. This is the best way to identify where the frequencies of each instrument are conflicting and overlapping to make the sound muddy.

Make sure that you create a frequency gap for another instrument in the same frequency range when boosting the frequencies of an instrument. This is particularly effective in the range around 100 Hz.

Kick Bass Mix 1

It is also important to make sure that the kick and bass don't conflict with each other in the range around 250 Hz.

Kick Bass Mix 2

This complimentary editing of frequency ranges for the kick and bass prevents potential problems such as overtones, loss of pressure or even signal cancellation.

Step 3: Finally we want to make sure that the bass can still be heard on small desktop speakers. To do this, we can use a bandpass on the EQ in the master section to simulate the frequency range of small speakers.

Drums Bass Mix Desktop 1

At this point, a residual effect comes into play which leads to a deeper bass sound being perceived than is actually being emitted from the speaker system. This is caused by the tendency of the human ear to "fill in" the missing low end based on the perceived overtone structure of the bass sound. In order to create this psycho-acoustic phenomenon, the frequencies between 1 kHz and 2 kHz in particular play an important role. Boosting this range can lead to an accenting of the low fundamental tone.

Drums Bass Mix Desktop 2

If you deactivate the bandpass filter in the master section, you'll hear the full sound of your mix and can be sure that the bass sound of your mix will be clearly audible even on small speakers.

Drums Bass Mix 1

We hope you have fun creating the optimal bass sound with the EQ.

The Samplitude Team