Do you struggle to get bass guitar to sound right? Is it always either too loud or too thin or too boomy or too round?

We’ve all been there. On some projects the bass just seems to fall into place. On others, you feel like nothing short of divine intervention will make the bass sound right.

Here are three quick tips for getting a better sound out of your bass tracks.

1. Go Nuts with EQ

There are no rules when it comes to EQ-ing bass. I’ve mixed some tracks recently where I had a 16 dB cut at 250 Hz on a bass track. Seems extreme, I know, but that was what it needed. Only then did the bass begin to sit nicely in the mix without giving me a headache from all the low-mid buildup.

The EQ curve looks just plain ugly, but the bass sounds right.

2. Use Distortion

Most of us are probably recording a fairly clean bass, either direct or through an amp. Sometimes a little bit of distortion can go a long way with bass.

I first saw this watching someone mix a (believe it or not) country song. He duplicated the bass track and added a distortion plug-in to the second track. He dialed in a fair amount of distortion and blended it with the original bass track.

The end result is a bass that seems to cut through more. You don’t necessarily hear the distortion, but the distortion helps draw the ear’s attention to the bass. If your bass track tends to hide in the mix and you can’t seem to bring it out without overwhelming the mix with bass, try duplicating it and adding distortion.

3. Play with the Attack Settings on Your Compressor

I usually heavily compress the bass on my mixes. It helps me get a consistent volume out of the bass from note to note. However, compression brings with it a whole can of worms. It can accentuate trouble frequencies or turn down the very frequencies you’re trying to hear.

One way to drastically change the tone is to change the attack settings. I talked about attack a little bit in yesterday’s podcast.

If your bass has too much punch, try a faster attack. it will start compressing the transients of the bass note, keeping them from standing out too much.

If your bass LACKS punch, try using a slower attack, this will let the transients of the bass come through before the compressor kicks in, helping the bass “thump” a bit more.

Usually when I adjust the attack I end up going too far one direction or the other, then I slowly dial it back until I find a happy medium.

What about you?

We’re all about sharing tricks and tips here on HSC. Got any bass tips for us? Leave a comment. If I get enough good ones, I’ll feature them in a future sequel to this blog post. I’ll need at least 10 comments before I can post the next article/video.

[Photo by Joe Seggiola]