Bass Guitar is very hard to mix. It is always the main reason why the mix sounds either dull, thin or mud. The major problem is that all instruments have bass frequencies, but not so heavy as bass guitar and a kick drum. In a mix, all instruments are played together and the primary problem lies in the bass frequencies, it is why every time you heard tracks that are not mixed, it sounds mud.
But take note that a good bass guitar recording is essential for a perfect bass guitar mix. Before you mix your bass to get the clarity and punch it needs; spend some time to get a perfect bass guitar recording. This is very important. If you are having a difficult time getting your bass to sound good in the mix, probably its poorly recorded. Take some time to read this important tutorial on bass guitar recording techniques and ensure that you are recording your bass correctly and in optimum levels.
I have been mixing for years and I love to present these two techniques I learned from experience in mixing. Basically you can only apply one technique per song. But you will have two choices how to approach mixing bass guitar in the mix :
The Rock Bass Guitar Sound Mix
How is this done? In this mix, the objective of the bass guitar is to sound heavy and partly dominant in the mix. As a rock producer, I like the bass guitar to sound aggressive and up front in the mix. Did you notice that once you hear rock tracks today such as Trapt, Green day, Simple Plan, their bass guitar is very dominant? It is a secret of sound engineers in how to make bass guitar loud while avoiding mud.
As a guide, we will designate 45 Hz to 250 Hz as the bass frequencies where kick drums and bass guitar mainly reside. The problem is how to blend those two together.
Since the bass guitar needs to sound heavy and dominant, it should occupy mainly the bottom 45 Hz to 250 Hz. But….
We will dip 100 Hz for the kick drum spikes to shine through. I usually dip the bass guitar around 100 Hz with Q settings of around 2.0 and -9dB reduction.
To balance, I will boost kick drum at around 100 Hz with Q settings of around 2.0 and 9dB~12 boost.
To sound better, I will apply high pass filter or a low shelf filter (so it will attenuate frequencies lower than 50Hz) on kick drum around 50 Hz -3dB reduction, for the deep bass guitar frequencies to dominate the sub woofer, making it sound heavy. If you are not familiar what these shelving filters would mean, you can read this important introductory tutorial on filters. In that posts, you will learn what are these parametric EQ terminologies (most parametric equalizers are equipped with shelving filters):
a.) Low pass filter
b.) High pass filter
c.) Low shelf filter
d.) High shelf filter
But I will not apply boosting to bass guitar at any frequencies between 45Hz and 200 Hz.
I finally boost 250 Hz for bass guitar to make those notes more audible, I use Q of 2.0, and boost at 3dB.
As a rule the kick drum needs to be dip at around 250Hz to 400Hz with Q of 2~3, to remove this card board sound, this makes the bass guitar notes more audible as well as the distortion guitar.
What about other instruments??? It is simple. All instruments are to be applied with high pass filter or a low shelving filter at around 250Hz -6dB reduction.
This will make the bass frequencies 45Hz to 250Hz, a place just for bass guitar and kick drums.
What is the result? A heavy bass guitar sound typical for rock music.