1. Check your acoustics. Small projectstudio rooms reveal their biggest weaknesses below a couple hundredHz, because the length of the bass waves can be longer than your room dimensions—which leads to bass cancellationsand additions that don’t tellthe truth about the bass sound. Fixyour room, put in bass traps, and if allelse fails, do a reality check withquality headphones.
2. So much is in the fingers. A good bassist makes all the difference in theworld. As just one example, frettednotes can give a tighter, moredefined sound than open strings(which are often favored for live playingbecause they give a big bottom—but can overwhelm a recording).
3. Compress, compress, compress. Normally you don’t want to compressthe daylights out of everything, butbass is an exception, particularly ifyou’re miking it. Mics, speakers, androoms get really weird in the bassrange, with uneven responses. Compression can help even these out, givinga smoother, rounder sound. Also,try using parallel compression—i.e.,duplicate the bass track, but compressonly one of the tracks. Squash onetrack with the compressor, then add inthe dry signal for dynamics.
4. Put highpass filters on otherinstruments. Clean up subsonics andlow frequencies on instruments that don’t really have any significant lowend (e.g., guitars, drums other thankick, etc.). A low cut filter, as used formics, is a good place to start. Bycarving out more room on the lowend, there will be more space for the bass to fit comfortably in the mix.
5. The right EQ is crucial. Accentingthe pick/pluck sound can make thebass seem louder. Try boosting a bitaround 1kHz, then work upward toabout 2kHz to find the “magic” boostfrequency for your particular bass.Also consider trimming the low end oneither the kick or the bass, depending on which one you want to emphasize,so that they don’t fight. Finally, manymixes have a lot of lower midrange buildup around 200–400Hz because so many instruments have energy inthat part of the spectrum. It’s usuallysafe to cut bass a bit in that range toleave space for the other instruments,and provide a less muddy overallsound; sometimes cutting just below 1kHz, like around 750–900Hz, canalso give more definition.
6. Tuning is key. If the bass foundation is out of tune, the beat frequencieswhen the harmonics combinewith other instruments are like audiokryptonite, weakening the entire mix. Beats within the bass itself are even worse. Tune, baby, tune!
7. Edit in context. Because bass issuch an important element of a song,what sounds right when soloed maynot mesh properly with the othertracks. Work on bass and drums as apair—that’s why they’re called the“rhythm section”—so that you figureout the right relationship between kick and bass. But also have the otherinstruments up to make sure the basssupports the mix as a whole.
8. Beware of phase issues. It’s commonto take a direct out along with amiked or amp out, then run them toseparate tracks. Be careful, though: Thesignal going to th...