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.

Thanks.

Content last updated on June 21, 2012

  • Emerson Maningo

    I agree..If you have the Waves plugins as one of your audio mixing tool.

  • Julius van Ijperen

    Using the renaissance bass plugin from waves you can add some harmonics to the bass, in some cases this will give the bass more body.

  • Azael Lima

    HI. I´d like to thank you for yours tutorials.I´m from Brazil and learning a lot. Thanks

  • Julius van Ijperen

    using the renaissance bass plugin from waves you can add some harmonics to the bass, in some cases this will give the bass more body.

  • Alf

    Thanks for the tips!
    Just one question: were you starting with a miked bass amp or a DI direct line from the bass?

  • Metalman

    Thank You for your reply. I’m looking forward in using your info on my next song I’m working on. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and good luck to you in your career!

  • Emerson Maningo

    In mixing, you should do it individually..For example specific EQ for bass, then to kick drum, etc. How you will be able to isolate EQ issues individually if you are doing the EQ adjustments on the main out channel?

  • Metalman

    Great article. I want to ask do you do the eq adjustments on the main out channel or do you do it on the individual tracks?

    Thanks!

  • Jim Spencer

    Very useful tutorial!! I have been producing records for 20 years, and use principally these same techniques to great effect.

  • Kevin

    Thanks for this post.. I’ve been mostly working with hip hop artists and I’m now getting into mixing rock and pop.. I’ve tried some of your suggestions and they have improved my rock mixes greatly!! Thanks Again!

  • Emerson Maningo

    I appreciate the compliments. Many thanks also!

  • danny

    You are the best , this tutorial change my life!

  • Jason

    Thank you very much for the awesome article, the results are amazing!

  • Jungleland2

    Great advice! I am recording a band that does not use bass drum (more 60’s sound but also Stooges/White Stripes sounding. I am playing bass for them (they are a guitar/drum duo)and have not been able to get the bass to fit into the mixes. Too boomy, too quiet, too in-you-face, too hidden every mix sounds good….except for my bass. Nothing has been working.

    Tonight I will try placing “bass” and “other” into their specific frequency ranges with Hi and Lo pass filters and see if that helps. I’ll do a “green day” mix and a “country” mix (your two options) and see which way we should go (I expect #1 but w/o the top end as pronounced)

    I’ll try to post them over the weekend

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  • Stevan Lazarevic

    It is a little late to try out those techniques cause it is midnight :)…
    I have a question for you.
    Have you been working with hip hop instrumentals?? I would like to read about some kick n bass
    mixin in that genre.
    Also, I ll try this out first thing tomorrow and post comment here.

    Big thanks.

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Andyx,
    Yes I am applying compression only to the bass guitar. It is outlined here: https://www.audiorecording.me/audio-compression-tips-for-mixing.html
    I do not compress kick drums…because for me it do not sound nice.

    Cheers.

  • Andyx

    Hi Emerson,

    Thank you for such a great tips. Do you also apply any compression to your bass and kick drum tracks to add something like “punch” to kick+bass sound? If yes, could you, please, share you experience with us? Thank you!

  • Dave

    This has been a revelation to me. My mixes sound infinitely better, thanks for explaining this as my low end never worked for me until now. Cheers.

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Ivan,
    I just written a tutorial on how to mix a baritone guitar. Thanks for checking out my blog!

  • Ivan

    How would you mix a Baritone guitar with standard guitar, bass and drums?
    Which range of frequencies the baritone occupies?
    What should be the EQ adjustments?
    Thanks a lot

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Anonymous,
    The higher the Q , the lesser will be scope of the EQ adjustments. Small EQ means wide adjustment covering a broad range of frequencies. Q of 1.0 is medium bandwidth. Q of 3 to 4 is small bandwidth adjustment while a Q of 0.5 is a very wide frequency adjustment if we are talking about EQ.

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi George,
    Sorry but I cannot remember receiving your demo. Anyway you can always do a huge sound by either parallel compression or decreasing reverb. Reverb will make the sound thin and ineffective in rock music.

    Cheers,

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Anonymous,
    About your inquiry: “By applying a high pass filter at 250Hz, I lose the heavy guitar sound.
    Do you have tips to mix a heavy guitar sound with a heavy bass sound.

    If you mix it right, apparently the low bass will support the guitar so it will sound heavy too. You can even apply a distortion on bass, mix it with my suggestions, then the bass bottom sounds heavy with distortion..Listening to resulting mix , it sounds like you have heavy guitar bottom..

    Cheers

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Robert,
    Mixing bass with distortion is a very creative idea in rock music. During the mix, one channel can be distorted and other one is clean. One panned in the center and other slightly off-center. Do a parallel compression, one is compressed, the other one is not. The result: Another super-rock bass mix.

  • Anonymous

    Hi thanks for this great forum and sharing your knowledge-!!
    I record mainly jazz and was wondering if these same principles apply for eq and panning of bass and drums? Also you have Q 1.0 not sure what that means?
    Thanks!!!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, i agree with most of that eq wise. Something to keep in mind is that the db adjustments will obviously need to changed dependent on the freq makeup of the source matrial (some bass guitars have more inherent low end than others and in diff freq positons than others) also, another essential element in low end mixing is bass ducking. though the trick lies in getting hold of a good side chain compressor.

  • Viking

    Hi. Nice tip, and I do something like that too.. But I dont agree about roll of any other instruments from 250. The GuitarWall needs bottom too.. rolling off from 250 on those guitars makes them to thin in my opinioun and experience.. So if u mentioned the Main guitars in rock as instruments nr 3 among kick and bass guitar, I agree completely.. Another thing: boost kick at 100 with 6-12 db (if i remember right) is very very high boosting.. To much boosting often fuck up the mix.. Exept of that, u gave good tips to the readers 🙂

  • George

    Hi Emereson, I’m George from Guatemala City, I’ve sent you a demo remember? So I’m mixing my producion by now and I wonder one thing. Have you ever heard Metallica’s Garage Inc. Disc One and Nickelback’s The Long Road??? These have something in common: the same guy mixed them: Randy staub. I would like to know your personal appreciation of this productions and maybe some tips to reach up this sound, cause it’s so huge… Plus, can you tell me a good way to start the mix with, for example, the voice before the guitars, etc? Cause I’ve mixed just instrumentation without vocals. I’ll tell you how my production is advancing ok. See you soon!!!

  • dmar9

    This is so cool. Been working on recording heavy sounds for ages. Always going for a very dominant Bass sound. All of this advice is so useful. Up until now been mainly relying on effects and just gereally EQ ing each instrument. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Great article. I’m finally able the make a heavy bass sounds good in a rock mix!
    But I still have a problem. What about the heavy guitar sound? By applying a high pass filter at 250Hz, I lose the heavy guitar sound.
    Do you have tips to mix a heavy guitar sound with a heavy bass sound
    Thanks a lot.

  • Robert

    What about that lately bass tones with a lot of distortion “stone” Many bass players use one amp for clean and other amp for distortion, but not everyone, what you thing about recording bass like this:

    Grinderman: No pussy blues
    Elbow: Grounds for divorce
    TV on the Radio: playhouses

    To me it’s a new bass era where most bass players try to push to the limits their instruments.

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Fulvio,

    Sorry for the late reply of your comment. Anyway, I have tried Christian Cummings suggestion in the past but it made the bass sound so weak. 400 Hz on the bass line is not effective to create punch in rock!

    Anyway, my bass rock mix suggestions above (on my post) works for me very well, as it will create agressive and heavy bass rock sound while avoiding those muddy sound.

    Applying high pass filter at 250 Hz seems to thin out the bass as it will pass all above 250 Hz and attenuate below. In this case, this is not a good idea.

  • Fulvio

    I read on Christian Cummings site that another application is to reduce 400 Hz on the kick drum (which reduces the “cardboard box” sound) and increasing 400 Hz on the bass line (to add distinction). In that case how about other instruments? Still high pass filter at around 250Hz  ­6dB reduction?

  • Emerson Maningo

    Many thanks also for visiting my blog. I am glad you made it in getting good sounds for your bass.

  • radio roswell

    Thanks for the tips. Of all the research this was the simplest and made my bass sounds much better.