Yesterday we took a look at some of the problems the bass poses for us in our mixes. Today and tomorrow, I’m going to share with you some practical tips on how to use EQ and compression to reign in the bass.

While I’m primarily approaching this with regards to bass guitar, these principles apply to any bass instrument. So whether you’re having problems with a Jazz bass or a cello, a kick drum or a Hammond B3, read on.

High-Pass Filter

Wait…what?! Aren’t we supposed to be improving the bass rather than removing it? Yep, but stay with me. I’ll explain.

We’re in search of good bass tone, right? “Tone” is such a vague term, I know, but the whole process of mixing the bass is about achieving the perfect tone for the song.

The bass part you recorded may sound awesome by itself, but 99 times out of 100 you’ll need to alter it quite a bit to make it fit well in the mix. You need to dial in the tone.

So what does a high-pass filter have to do with tone? In my experience, the low frequencies of the bass actually tend to distract me from the tone I’m trying to create.

Everything below 100 Hz is mostly “rumble.” It’s the part of the bass that you “feel” more than you hear. Of course we want this to be present in our mix, but while dialing in the bass tone, I like to get rid of this rumble temporarily.

Here’s what I do. I use a high-pass filter to roll off everything below 100 Hz. From there, I’ll use the rest of the EQ to carve out the bass tone I’m looking for. Once I’m happy with the tone, I’ll slowly re-introduce the low-end rumble back into the track by slowly rolling the high-pass filter back to the left.

Sometimes I’ll remove the high-pass filter entirely. Other times it sounds right to leave the HPF around 50 or 60 Hz. Depending on the style of music, it might make more sense to have more or less sub-bass in your mix.

Cure the Headache

I’ve spent hour and hours EQ-ing bass guitar. Over the course of all this “quality time” with my favorite instrument :-), I’ve realized that my brain does not like low-mids. I literally get a headache if I don’t get rid of this low-mid boom quickly.

Do you know what I’m talking about? You hear the bass, and it doesn’t necessarily sound bad, but there’s something about the low-mids that almost seems to “press in” on your head?

I used to be annoyed by this, but I later realized that these headaches are pretty helpful for mixing! Initially, I couldn’t tell what was causing the headaches, but I finally figured out that it was the bass. Particularly somewhere between 100 and 500 Hz.

Almost every bass guitar you ever record will have a bit too much energy in this range. When you combine it with guitars, vocals, keyboards, etc., there’s just and overwhelming amount of  low-mid information.

Which frequency you need to cut varies from bass to bass (and also from performance to performance). Finding the offensive frequency can be easy. Simply do an exaggerated boost with the EQ (something like 12 dB), and sweep the frequency around until you find the most annoying frequency.

Once you’ve found it, destroy it. No EQ cut is too extreme when EQ-ing bass. Here’s a screenshot of my EQ settings for a bass part I recently recorded:

Looking at the EQ curve, you’d think this bass part must have sounded awful to begin with. Nope. This is just what I needed to do to get it to sit well in the mix. (There was wicked build-up of muddiness at 200 Hz, hence the 9 dB cut.)

A Quick Note on High-Mids

First off, when EQ-ing you should always cut before you boost. It’s much more natural-sounding to remove frequencies than to boost them.

However, you’ll notice in that image above that I boosted 1 kHz by around 6 dB. This is pretty common with bass guitar. Boosting anywhere between 1 kHz and 3 kHz will help bring out the pick/finger noise of the bass, which can help it punch through the mix a little better.

How about you? Let’s make the comments section on this post a big, long list of bass EQ tips.

If you want to learn more about EQ, check out Understanding EQ:

  • Brian Douglas Bauer

    If working with subs I’ll usually turn them off till the tone is set, then mix them back in. A lot of the time when subs are mixed up front the low end is all there is if you listen on a low end challenged device you may wonder if there was bass even recorded. Great tip Joe.

  • Robert McClellan

    Great tips as usual Joe! I would like to add that there are times when saturation, reverb, and even distortion, can come in handy.

    I also like to boost with a narrow Q the 70hz range to get some punch.

    Another option is to put the bass on two separate busses (panned hard left and right) and allow only saturated mids to be slowly blended into the mix for some extra clarity.

    It’s funny I just got off my Bass kick on my blog and then you go and get me all fired up again! Lol keep up the good work bro!

  • Matt Mann

    Great little tutorial, Joe! Excellent information. You’re still my hero!! :o)

  • Martin Anthony Taban Mallari

    hi there joe, i just started following your stuff through recommendations from Ian Sheppard, do you have any articles for mastering as well? good stuff for the bass tone hunting part. I really like it, thanks a bunch

  • Anthony J. Pagano

    Good mention about the cutting before boost. I always start with a regular channel eq rolling off the Sub lows I don’t need cut at about 30Hz, sometimes more and a touch of the HI’s (18.5KHz +-.5KHz thru 20KHz @12, 36 to keep the unwanted super Hi’s tamed with a mild Q to keep it natural sounding. I also keep a 250Hz Cut armed and ready with a tighter Q just in case I need it Then I’ll add a second EQ usually a Linear Phase just to add a little sparkle to the mix. Boost the the 1KHz-3KHz with a Low Q and a Light increase in dB or a Tighter Q for steeper dB increase. But everything depends on the recording / Soft Instrument / Genre
    these are just my defaults or as I call them Bass-START, another similar I have for Vocals, “VoX-Start”, etc. there handy but in all Boosting is not a bad thing. Bring out the good in a sound and take out the bad, listen in context with the rest of the mix, as I’ve heard from Chris Lorde-Alge ” No One is Solo’ing individual parts of a track. Eq / compress your Mix in context, whether it’s steep boost or low boost, distorted or not, if it Cuts thru the mix better, sounds good then Do It!”
    I’m a firm believer in boosting the sounds you like it can keep the organic feel

  • thecowboywhey

    Excellent stuff, thanks for sharing this.

  • filiz cuvalci

    Thank you very much.

  • Heidi

    I have a question. I play in a metal band, it’s really thrashy black metal/death metal fusion kinda stuff. We tune down to drop A. We love the sound of such a low tuning, but when it comes to recording, we’re having problems getting the bass right. Those same low mids you recommend cutting absolutely dominate the sound, and there’s very little sub – it’s all barky, muddy mids that doesn’t cut through the mix, and no push, no warmth, no thickness. The bassist uses good, thick strings and changes them regularly. He’s had it set up at a shop. He’s using some pretty fancy EMG pickups. But no amount of EQ, compression, mild distortion – nothing – seems to fix it. What would you recommend we do to fatten up the low end and add some serious heaviness, and get rid of the gross low mids? We’re doing DI for the bass, but can use an amp and mic. Though we’ve already tried that too, and still had the same problems.

    We’re wondering if maybe he just needs a different bass… I’ve got a friend who uses a j bass that sounds so, so much nicer than our bassist’s p bass. And I’ve noticed there’s not a lot of 5 string p basses out there… I’m starting to think I’ve discovered why.

  • james del

    Hey! Thank you for posting these articles! I’m mixing a song that relies heavily on the bass part sound “good”. It’s a walking baseline so it needs to be heard and felt. I was insecure about how my EQ was looking so I stumbled upon your article and saw that your EQ and mine are almost identical! Suddenly I feel much better and confident, thanks again- I learnt a bunch here! Rock on :)

  • Joel Everett

    Thanks for this article – great starting points.

  • Loukas Avgerinos

    Hi there.When the bass player is not good at all,and the playing is weak what you do then?

    • Joe Gilder

      I say you hire a new bass player. Or maybe play the part on a keyboard or with a MIDI/virtual instrument. I know that sounds like a non-answer, but if the source isn’t good, you can’t fix it.

      • Loukas Avgerinos

        hi Joe.I thought about that.I believe it’s The Best solution because i can’t mix the bass.I have huge gaps between the notes when he wrote.I hope i will figure it out soon. Thanks a lot

  • Bao

    This info is still good and very helpful, thanks. I’ve been working mostly with synth and computer generated sounds, but now moving to live instruments, so this helped a lot in dealing with our bass guitar.

  • And

    Very good tips for tuning bass. It has been my long time headache, that bass rumble, annoying rumble! Thanks a lot!

    • Joe Gilder

      hope it helped!

  • Roy

    Sorry can I ask why you boost 1k-3k which suppose to be the noise of pick and finger? I don’t quite sure about the reason.

    • Joe Gilder

      If you can’t hear the pick and finger noise and you WANT to hear it, boosting 1-3k can help.

  • rama

    do you think its better to do additive eq-ing before compression?

    • Joe Gilder

      Nope. I think additive EQ tends to work better after compression.

  • Listenrjack

    Hi !!! Great post Joe …Two question i will have. Im agree abaout everything you ment here.How much is important volume of bass chanel ? to adjust for exp when you doing eq of bass what is your gain of the bass chanel ? Do you first making eq on gain 0 and later put volume down..maybe this is a stupid question but even the small things can be crucial Second question how much is important to be behind the speakers to listen better¿??

    • Joe Gilder

      Not sure I understand your questions. Volume is subjective. It doesn’t matter where the fader or plugin volume is set. What matters is how loud the bass is in relation to the rest of the tracks in the mix.
      As far as listening behind the speakers, I’m not sure what you mean.

    • zoo psy

      Hi Joe !!! great link…What do you can tell me about bass eq distorzion ? ,,I know that depend what kind of music you make and what exactly need, or want from bass,,but for some eq bass distorzion basic im interesting

      • Joe Gilder

        Distortion is great for making the bass cut through and be heard better. I’ve seen it used in lots of genres, even country.

  • eirhan

    good, solid advice! I always find annoying buildup around 125-135Hz, with almost all bass sounds and a lot of drums.

    • Joe Gilder

      Yep. It’s amazing how a 120 Hz cut can add bass. :)

  • Red Adam

    Let me just say, these articles have been a godsend to a beginning “producer” (and I cannot put enough quotes around that).  Already, applying just the advice here has made my band’s demo tracks waaay better, and more importantly, listenable. Thanks a million.

    • Joe Gilder

      That’s awesome to hear, Red. Thanks for the comment!

      The best part is that YOU did the work and applied something you learned. That’s golden.

  • Byouno93

    I was mastering a track for a client and I noticed afterward my head was throbbing. I thought it was perhaps the sub at first but after some limiting I still felt my head throbbing. After some EQ sweeping, I found it was an annoying resonance at 300 htz. 

    Good tut man!

    • Joe Gilder

      Thanks! As it turns out those “headaches” can be really helpful. :)

  • miguel

    Hey man this is great stuff. thanks for sharing, it has helped allot on my learning curve. God bless

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  • JJ Jettflow

    Does it matter which equal you use for the high pass? My “go to” equal is waves H
    -EQ but it has a lot of options for the highpass. Would I be better off using say my Q10 for the highpass and then using the H
    -EQ for the actual sound sculpting?

    • Joe Gilder

      The answer is probably “whichever one sounds best.” For HPF it’s nice to have some options as far as the slope. Q10 doesn’t give you this, so I’d probably go for something with more control.

  • Leo

    Thank you for the valued information.
    Best Regards

  • Leo

    These pages are so interesting… and the EQ shape helps too.
    Im new to bass and compression though… and end up with awful finger noise once compressed….. so end up cleaning between each note and adjusting the wave form note by note…..instead. Lots to learn.

    • Joe Gilder

      It’s not unheard of to do some pretty in-depth editing. Another thing you might try is putting a de-esser on the bass track. It will potentially turn down all the finger “squeaks” when they pop up.

  • Katz

    Also remeber to check the bass sound at with the speakers at different volumes as the louder the sound, the more prominent the lowest frequencies Also check them on a variety of speakers.Pay close attention to the eq of the kick drum and the way in wich sidechaining the kick drum to the bass affects the overall sound. Finnally remember that different kinds of EQ’s sound different and some bass sounds are only possible if you are willing to part with some $$$$.

  • Katz

    This information nmay be helpful to some but if you listen to a variety of records you will find that the low frequencies that are cut on some songs are the same frequencies that are boosted on others. Any person wanting to consistently good bass sounds should explore all the ways in which the sub bass, bass and bass presence frequencies affect the tone.

    • Joe Gilder

      You’re totally right. Every genre, heck every song, might need different bass treatment. To me, that’s what makes mixing bass so much fun…and also so frustrating. :)

  • Joe Gilder

    It’s really up to your ears to determine if you’re eliminating something

  • AdamG

    This is a great post, Joe. The whole series really hits the nail on the head. I find bass is such a tempestuous beast.

    In regard to your comments about bass headaches, I recently had a serious encounter with this in a London night club where the room (and for argument sake the music) was tuned to, what I would say was, an abnormally high frequency. (I’m not going to speculate what freq it may be, but it was higher and ‘tighter’ than normal, in a BAD way)

    It was only about 1 hour before I started getting a serious amount of pressure behind my ears on my skull which turned into an aching headache. I was also wearing -15db rated, professionally moulded ear plugs. Leaving the dancefloor was the only relief.

    The punchline here is I have been back to the same venue since whilst the music was actually LOUDER and not had the same headaches. The whole sound was different.
    Cheers and keep up the amazing posts

  • Kevin Miller

    Great info. These techniques help with live sound, too. The most common situation I come up against (I am a bass player) is getting a good tone in a big, boxy, hard floored, hard walled room. This helps a lot.

    • Joe Gilder

      Yeah, bare walls and floors are a pain sometimes. Hope this helped a little!

      • Misterfneder

        Yes, helps a great deal. Have now been back to three or four more “problem rooms” and it has helped in every case. I am also EQ’ing for a stronger fundamental tone these days and even using flat wound strings towards that end, which also seems to help in the echo chamber rooms.

  • Blake

    Hey man, thanks all a lot for this information. I had been messing around with trying to mix bass for the first time and after about 10 minutes I was like “Dang I’ve got a headache. Time to google help.” I’m so glad I found your website. Sounds pretty great now. I’m sure I’ll be back here in the future!


    • Joe Gilder

      Glad I could help. Thanks Blake!

    • Joe Gilder

      Thanks Blake! Glad I could help!

  • http://homestudiostudiocornerHSC moffat banda

    I have a fretless bass guitar. When it comes the sound i seem to be dealing with un necessary low end sound. please help

    • Joe Gilder

      There’s really no magic to it. Just use an EQ to turn down some of the low frequencies.

  • moffat banda

    How do deal with fretless bass rumbling noise in the low ends

  • Danny

    Great website for this beginner…..thanx. Quick question are you listening to all tracks while eq’ing(using this technique) the bass track or soloing?

    • Jekyll

      Most likely both, you wanna solo it to see what you’re actually doing to the instrument, then bring it in the mix. Fitting into the mix is the most important part. If a track sounds good solo doesn’t necessarily mean it will sound good in the mix

    • Austin Kintz

       You should definitely listen to the whole mix. If you have a conflicting frequency, do a frequency sweep with the bass solo’d, cut the frequency, and then un-solo the bass. If the cut you made is too noticeable, roll the frequency back up until the bass is sitting nice in the mix.

  • adam

    nice tutorials mate ive learnt a lot from these. you explain every thing so clearly , thanks mate.

    • Joe Gilder

      Thanks so much! And thanks for commenting!!

  • B.C. Fortenberry

    Great stuff, Joe. I sometimes forget how much there is to learn when you're just getting started. Like in sports, you have to get the fundamentals down because you'll be using them every time you tackle a project.

    BTW, the Renaissance EQ that Joe's using in this lesson is included in the 2nd Musician's Bundle from Waves. Not very expensive and excellent for the money. Having said that, the methods Joe's covering here apply universally to parametric EQ's and the plugs that come with all the major DAW's are perfectly serviceable, IMO.

    Trust your ears and don't be afraid to experiment! You probably won't break anything.

  • Hwangman

    Love this post. Bass has been a major pain ever since i started recording it. Always sounds either way too muddy or way too thin. The tips here are fantastic. Can't wait to hook up my new gear and give it a try.

  • Alan Russell

    Pretty similar to my “method”: Hi-pass the rumble, eliminate the resonance (that 100-300Hz range), bring out the finger/pick noise (1-3kHz). Done!

    Never thought of hi-passing it like a madman temporarily though, great tip!

    • Joe Gilder

      “Like a madman” … yep. :-)

  • Graham

    Great idea on using the high pass temporarily to dial in the bass tone you like. Will use that one for sure!

  • kevinblaine

    Having read almost every single post you've ever written (fanboy numero uno!), I have to seriuosly say that this is one of the most helpful posts you've written! You DEFINITELY hit the nail on the head with this one. Nice job Joe! Now, back into that Taun Taun before you freeze to death with that arctic cold front coming into Tennessee.


    (Hopefully someone will get that reference.)

    • Joe Gilder

      I don't know whether to thank you or be weirded out. Hmm…the verdict?

      • kevinblaine

        P.S. Did you get a new commenting service?

        • Joe Gilder

          I did. You like?