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Are you Making These 5 Bass Mixing Mistakes?


This is a guest post by Kim LaJoie.

Bass mixing isn’t easy. It’s one of easiest ways to tell the difference between a lousy mix and a great mix. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your bass will sound boomy or hollow or tubby or messy or indistinct. In a great mix, however, the bass just sounds right. Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to know exactly what right is, or how to replicate it in your own mixes.

In my experience, getting the bass to work well in the mix is not a matter of knowing the right techniques. You know what to do – adjust the tone, maybe use some compression or saturation. But knowing what to do isn’t a ticket to great bass. It’s not about the what – it’s the how and why.

And, interestingly, it’s more about listening than doing.

Bass Mixing Mistake #1: Not mixing in an acoustically treated room

Oh yes, this is mistake number one. Rooms have uneven bass response – the bass sounds different depending on where the speakers are and where you are.

It’s worse with small rooms. And while you probably can’t expect to have a perfectly flat bass response in your room (unless you’re a mastering engineer), you can make a big difference by using .

Bass Mixing Mistake #2: Not knowing your monitoring environment

Ok, so you’ve got a pretty decent room. All good? Nope. You need to know your room. You need to know how your speakers sound in your room. And the best way to do that is to spend a lot of time listening to your favourite music. In your room. On your speakers. I told you it’d be more about listening than doing.

Bass Mixing Mistake #3: Not checking a variety of playback systems

Sounds great in your room on your speakers? Congratulations. Unless you’ve checked it elsewhere, you never know.

Speakers and rooms can vary a lot in their bass response – even if you’re working in an acoustically treated room, it’s easy to get it wrong.

Listen on a wide variety of speakers. . Take it out to the car or the office or the iPod. You’ll probably hear something that surprises you. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need.

Bass Mixing Mistake #4: Using certain tools and techniques just because everyone else seems to do it

Oh yeah, this is a big one. The internet is full of people dispensing dubious advice on how to make your bass sound amazing. The trouble is, a lot of this advice works some of the time. Collapsing to mono, high-pass stereo unison/chorus, saturation, magic compressors, layering, and side chaining are all techniques that work sometimes.

But they don’t work all the time. You need to think with your head (the one on your shoulders) and decide on which techniques are appropriate for your mix. And to do that, you need to listen. Know what your mix needs before you start reaching for magic fixes.

Bass Mixing Mistake #5: Thinking everything depends on the bass

Again, some perspective is in order. Bass is very important. For a lot of music, getting the bass right is essential. It’s necessary,  things that are necessary for a great song. Yes, you know this. Good. Don’t lose focus.

Don’t spend four weeks mixing a single song. Get the bass right, but know when you’re chasing your tail.

Most times it’s not your tools that need improving, it’s your mind.

Kim.

Image by: D.Reichardt


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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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LEAVE A COMMENT

  • Purecountry70

    Great Post,thanks for the info, I guess one question I have is,  is it possable to get a pretty good Bass sound in a small room.my Bass sounds are boomy, and the number one thing in my opion that you mention, was , doing what everyone else is doing, Also my other concern is I’am 59 and my hearing isn’t as good as I would hope for, another question I have is, is it a good idea to sub group the Kick Drum with the Bass .I also have a subwoffer, should I take that out and just go with my Monitors. 

    • If your room is small and/or boomy, there are still ways to get a decent mix. I’d suggest:

      1) Do as much as you can to acoustically treat the room. It might not be much, but do what you can.
      2) Make sure you listen on different playback systems. A great pair of headphones can be extremely useful as a reference because the room doesn’t affect their sound.

      I’ve written in more depth about these kinds of strategies here: http://blog.kimlajoie.com/tag/monitoring/

      If your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, you can still make great mixes. Unless you’ve got severe ear damage, your brain will automatically compensate for the natural degradation in your hearing. If you’ve got some major dips or other deficiencies, just be aware of them and be careful.

      Sending the kick and bass to a group bus is quite common. Try a few mixes with and without and see what suits you best. Personally, I almost never group the kick and bass.

      Subwoofers can be useful, but you need to calibrate it for your room. Otherwise it will give you a misleading impression of how your bass actually sounds.

      -Kim.

  • Purecountry70

    Great Post,thanks for the info, I guess one question I have is,  is it possable to get a pretty good Bass sound in a small room.my Bass sounds are boomy, and the number one thing in my opion that you mention, was , doing what everyone else is doing, Also my other concern is I’am 59 and my hearing isn’t as good as I would hope for, another question I have is, is it a good idea to sub group the Kick Drum with the Bass .I also have a subwoffer, should I take that out and just go with my Monitors. 

    • If your room is small and/or boomy, there are still ways to get a decent mix. I’d suggest:

      1) Do as much as you can to acoustically treat the room. It might not be much, but do what you can.
      2) Make sure you listen on different playback systems. A great pair of headphones can be extremely useful as a reference because the room doesn’t affect their sound.

      I’ve written in more depth about these kinds of strategies here: http://blog.kimlajoie.com/tag/monitoring/

      If your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, you can still make great mixes. Unless you’ve got severe ear damage, your brain will automatically compensate for the natural degradation in your hearing. If you’ve got some major dips or other deficiencies, just be aware of them and be careful.

      Sending the kick and bass to a group bus is quite common. Try a few mixes with and without and see what suits you best. Personally, I almost never group the kick and bass.

      Subwoofers can be useful, but you need to calibrate it for your room. Otherwise it will give you a misleading impression of how your bass actually sounds.

      -Kim.

  • Ricardo Rivas

    Yes, not to know well your room acoustics is one of the beginners most erro, i remember
    wasting day solving bass problems.
    Here is and advice, now wen i have dude about a bass i use to use an audio spectrum analizer 
    almost production softwares comes with one, and locate the peaking frecuencies or the
    weak ones and applyng and parametric compresor so you can lift up the weak ones or
    limit the peaking ones, almost basses have diferent responce on diferent strings.
    I ask you if you ever have use or know how to use the aduio spectrum analizer in convination
    with other free software nad an well knowed microphone you can make an bery desent
    and cheap way to know the frecuenci respons of your monitoring and room.
    If you want i can help.
    Bye. Have a nice day.  

    • Purecountry70

      thanks for your comment, I appreciate it, my room is 10′ x 14′ x 7′ I built a vocal booth in it. I have 3 x 4 accoustic pannels in either side of the mixing desk. I face  the far wall and theres plenty of room behind me , also with accoustic pannels on the walls. I bought these Moving blankets 4 of them, and was thinking of putting them on the walls.

      • Ricardo Rivas

        Yes cover the walls but maily the windows, and maily to the nearest to your
        listening area, covering all back wards an the sides of the monitoring area
        is a good cure, but you need to know if your monitors an amplifiers are
        reproducing fathfully the sound, they may have a flat response.
        I ask if our friend BJöRGVIN in other ocations have posted something
        a bout this, if not it would be a nice post about how to test and check out
        our rooms.
        Bye i come back later.

  • Ricardo Rivas

    Yes, not to know well your room acoustics is one of the beginners most erro, i remember
    wasting day solving bass problems.
    Here is and advice, now wen i have dude about a bass i use to use an audio spectrum analizer 
    almost production softwares comes with one, and locate the peaking frecuencies or the
    weak ones and applyng and parametric compresor so you can lift up the weak ones or
    limit the peaking ones, almost basses have diferent responce on diferent strings.
    I ask you if you ever have use or know how to use the aduio spectrum analizer in convination
    with other free software nad an well knowed microphone you can make an bery desent
    and cheap way to know the frecuenci respons of your monitoring and room.
    If you want i can help.
    Bye. Have a nice day.  

    • Purecountry70

      thanks for your comment, I appreciate it, my room is 10′ x 14′ x 7′ I built a vocal booth in it. I have 3 x 4 accoustic pannels in either side of the mixing desk. I face  the far wall and theres plenty of room behind me , also with accoustic pannels on the walls. I bought these Moving blankets 4 of them, and was thinking of putting them on the walls.

      • Ricardo Rivas

        Yes cover the walls but maily the windows, and maily to the nearest to your
        listening area, covering all back wards an the sides of the monitoring area
        is a good cure, but you need to know if your monitors an amplifiers are
        reproducing fathfully the sound, they may have a flat response.
        I ask if our friend BJöRGVIN in other ocations have posted something
        a bout this, if not it would be a nice post about how to test and check out
        our rooms.
        Bye i come back later.

  • Awesome tips as usual! The bass is foundational and we know if we don’t have a good foundation, the building most likely will fall!

  • Awesome tips as usual! The bass is foundational and we know if we don’t have a good foundation, the building most likely will fall!

  • Yani Socratous

    numbers 2 an 3…
    These are the things I had to learn, and man.. you’re spot on. i wish I found your site years ago… Bass mixing has always been the hardest thing for me.

    thanks mate

  • Yani Socratous

    numbers 2 an 3…
    These are the things I had to learn, and man.. you’re spot on. i wish I found your site years ago… Bass mixing has always been the hardest thing for me.

    thanks mate

  • Rubencardos

    Love the advice. I love the “chasing your tail” expression, as that used to happen to me a lot when I first started doing mixes.

    • Yeah right? Sometimes you just need to stop and think, isn’t this just becoming counter-productive?

    • John

      I concur Rueben…  striving for perfection and over thinking lead to this.. and then your head spins.. and the chase begins.    It still about the song. A friend once offered a simple statement that had great impact during my early mixes;  “strive for perfection, settle for excellence”.. put many things in perspective…

  • Rubencardos

    Love the advice. I love the “chasing your tail” expression, as that used to happen to me a lot when I first started doing mixes.

    • Yeah right? Sometimes you just need to stop and think, isn’t this just becoming counter-productive?

    • John

      I concur Rueben…  striving for perfection and over thinking lead to this.. and then your head spins.. and the chase begins.    It still about the song. A friend once offered a simple statement that had great impact during my early mixes;  “strive for perfection, settle for excellence”.. put many things in perspective…