Tips in Mixing Bass Guitar like a PRO

The Pop Bass Guitar Sound Mix

This is very easy and simple to do. The principle is to avoid heavy bass sound to emphasize clarity, punch and elegance of vocals and guitar instruments. This is mostly applicable in pop music as well as country music.

The principle, how is this done?

The kick drum solely occupies the 45 to 150 Hz spectrum; this will make the kick drum sounds so fat and strong very catchy for pop music.

On the other hand, the bass guitar will rest at 200 Hz, it won’t produce strong bass but the bass guitar notes are highly audible and it will be there to support the song “groove”.

Specifically, the kick drum is boosted 6dB at 80Hz with Q of around 1.0. To prevent heavy muddiness which can affect clarity and airiness of pop music, both the kick and bass guitar are applied with high pass filter around 3dB reduction at 50Hz.

Also the bass guitar is applied with high pass filter (or low shelving) starting at 200 Hz, so it will attenuate frequencies below 200 Hz, making the sub woofer and the bass frequencies mainly composed of kick sound.

What about other instruments? Again a simple high pass filter or low shelf will be applied in all, as we do not need their bass frequencies to shine (such as electric guitar, acoustic guitar and vocals). I will set it at 250Hz, so below that frequencies, it will be attenuated. Take note that this is not one-fit-all EQ solution and you need to test and listen to the results. Some instrument do not sound good if you start shelving at 250Hz. For example a baritone guitar because of its lower frequency characteristics than electric guitar. So make sure you tweak the initial settings until it sounds perfect.

The result? A very clear and defined mix for bass, ideally for pop and country music.

If you need to hear audio samples implementing these concepts, you can listen under “My Works”. I am using Adobe Audition 1.5 or Reaper DAW for mixing bass guitar with the built-in parametric equalizer (can be found at Effects –> Filters –> Parametric equalizer). I also use Waves paragraphic EQ for most of my EQ adjustments.

EQ’ing bass correctly is only one part of the equation in arriving a great sounding mix. You still have a lot of work to do on your other instruments. You can read this tutorial for details on implementing EQ settings during mixing.

Panning bass guitar in the mix

As we all know, bass guitar frequencies are high energy in nature and occupies low and sub frequencies. They are very heavy and can take up the most space in your mix. This should consider when panning the bass. OK, let’s get started…

1.) First and foremost, the most important panning settings of bass guitar for rock and pop recording is usually in the center (“dead center”) of the stereo mix. If you are using audio mixing software, this setting corresponds to “0” in the pan settings.

2.) “0” means it is neither right nor left.

3.) Another good reason why you need to pan to the center is to avoid problems in mastering for vinyl. Read the “center the lows” section. Of course, this can make sense if your client is interested in distributing the final masters in vinyl.

4.) If you are panning the bass in either right or left, consider that its energy might diminish, as the loudest sound and energy are located in the center. There are times for creative reasons that you will pan the bass to either right or left such as in jazz or experimental music.

User-submitted suggestions about panning bass:

Panning bass can sometimes work. Particularly when there are multiple bass guitars in the mix. Rather unusual, but that’s the idea!

For bass drum my opinion is that it is best down the center. You can also try panning just the high end of the bass guitar(s) left or right while keeping the Low end centered. If the bass drum has some weight just make the bass guitar(s) a bit thinner than normal in the low end or carefully sculpt to taste. Using this basic idea you can even mix experimental music with more than one bass.

This is however not for the faint of heart. In my opinion it requires extra good timing to get it right. Definitely not recommended for dance or electronic music unless you do some heavy editing to get the timing perfect. (or if you want bad sound on purpose for effect)

If panning 2 bass sounds of any sort it might be best to try to balance that bass energy as much as possible so the entire bass energy is rather centered even if the bass instruments are not. It can be interesting if done with a bit of thought.

With the proper arrangement you can have 2 bass guitars and it can sound good but it’s not easy. That could be exactly what makes it worth trying! Anyone can pan bass guitar down the center. Try doubling, panning, delays, etc… If for no reason other than to see what it sounds like.

What about reverb and compression on bass?

As a rule, I do not apply reverb on bass because it can easily destroy the mix due to the undesirable audio characteristics of applying longer reverb tail on very low frequencies.

You can check out this tutorial to get some idea on bass compression techniques.


Content last updated on June 21, 2012