Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

How to EQ Bass Using These Little Known Harmonic Secrets


Tired of Boomy Bass and Flabby Low-End? Download Your Free Guide: 6 Steps to Fix Your Muddy Mixes

A reader writes in with a question about how to EQ bass guitar so I thought I’d take a moment to give you an in-depth guide on fixing many of the frequency problems you’ll encounter when mixing low end.

Here’s their question to get us started:

“On my recording, I’m using a sub-synth for the bass. It sounds good on stereo with good speakers, but the bass is almost not present on other smaller playing devices. Boost the harmonics? Cutting through frequencies? So the problem is that the bass doesn’t cut through in the mix at all. Should i make another layer of the sub-synth on another track? Or should i try to use another bass guitar sound and see how it comes out? Or should i leave the sub-bass, and add another bass guitar sound with it together?”

You’ll inevitably encounter a similar problem when you’re mixing low-end in your home studio.  If you mix on great monitors with a nice bass response, you don’t realize how your EQ decisions affect the mix on other playback systems. And when you play your mix through small speakers, the bass guitar will likely vanish.

Adding Bass Harmonics

To answer the question above, adding another layer of sub-synth won’t do any good. It’ll just add more bass and unneeded low-end mud. It certainly won’t make the bass cut through speakers that don’t hear that low-end anyway.

I would say stick to the sub-synth but try to add more harmonic content in the higher frequencies to make it stand out on smaller speakers.

Alternatively, you could add a different bass synth that’s more natural sounding and easier to manipulate in the middle frequencies.

Here’s a quick video on how to EQ bass to make the harmonics cut through on small speakers.

EQ’ing Bass Isn’t All About the Low-End

A common misconception about bass instruments is that you should focus only on the low end to make them sound full.

It’s still all about balancing the lows, mids, and highs, even when mixing a bass instrument.

The biggest mistake you can make is adding low-mids to your bass to make it stand out because you’ll inevitably end up with a muddy mix.

And you don’t want that, do you?

If you keep boosting the low-mids too much, you’ll eventually have a very muddy and boomy mix.

For your bass to cut through speakers with a narrower frequency response, you’ll have to focus your energy higher up on the frequency spectrum.

This Frequency Range Causes Muddiness

If you’re struggling with muddy mixes, you must stop adding this frequency range to your bass.

There’s no better way to cause muddiness than to overload your mix with the low-mids.

I know you want “weight” in your mixes, but if you instinctively add low-mids, your mix will suffer because the low-mids will immediately muddy up your mix.

You’re making your mixes muddy without even knowing it because you think the bass guitar needs all that low-mid energy.

Unfortunately, too much of the low-mids will cause muddiness.

A better way to do it is to add thickness in the lows by adding BASS to the bass!

Then add tone and clarity.

Here’s a quick video I made to explain why you (might) be doing this all wrong!

If you do it as I do in the video, you’ll have thicker bass mixes with more definition and clarity without muddiness.

Creating Tone That Cuts Through the Mix

Try the following techniques if your bass isn’t cutting through the mix.

If your bass is really grooving and thick due to a nice boost at 100 Hz, try boosting the harmonic multiples of that frequency.

If the fundamental frequency is 100 Hz, adding broad boosts to 200 Hz, 300 Hz, and higher in the right multiples enhances the natural sound of the bass without excessively boosting one big frequency.

Also, if your bass guitar is sounding muddy, skip the low-end boosts and concentrate on adding the harmonics. It gives you a well-rounded bass guitar sound without cluttering up the low end.

Boosting around 300 – 400 Hz enhances the bass’s tone without cluttering up the low-mids. And if you add a parallel chain that saturates some boosts in the mids and high-mids while filtering out the low-end in the parallel chain, you’ll add presence and enhance the string noise – in a good way – without adding excess bass that muddies your mix. See the top video above for details on how to accomplish this.

Try that instead of adding low-end the next time you’re trying to mix a fuller bass. I guarantee it’ll be a game-changer.

Since we’re on the subject of how to EQ bass guitar, let’s go through some of the frequency ranges to see what’s helpful and what you should avoid.

How To EQ Bass in the Low End

As always, the lowest frequencies often get in the way, so it’s always a good idea to filter out any unnecessary frequency information.

You can clear up that bass sound by simply filtering up the lowest end of the frequency spectrum.

However, be careful when you use that high-pass filter on a low-end instrument. Since that’s where most of the character of the instrument lies, filtering it out can lead to a thin-sounding bass that has lost all of its power.

Then, if the bass guitar needs some extra thickness, boosting the frequency range between 50 and 100 Hz will give you that low-end thickness. But be careful; as I said before, too much can quickly muddy up your low end.

I’m usually pretty wary of boosting the bass between 100 – 250 Hz. It tends to add muddiness very quickly, which is one of the surest signs of an amateur mix. Cutting in this range can quickly clear up your low-mid muddiness problems.

However, if your bass needs a little extra roundness, then tactfully boosting these low mids can give it a little more thickness without excessive boominess.

If you find your bass guitar clashing with the kick drum in the mids, then you’ll want to take the tips in this article with you to your next mixing session.

How to EQ Bass Tone That Stands Out

Don’t neglect the importance of the middle frequencies. Just because it’s a bass guitar doesn’t mean you should forget about everything above the low-mids.

A common misconception about bass instruments is that you should focus only on the low end to make them sound full.

In fact, it’s still all about the balance between the lows, mids, and highs. The middle frequencies above 300 hz is where you add clarity and punch to your bass guitar.

Adding a boost of around 300 – 400 Hz brings out the bass’s tone without cluttering up the low-mids.

And if you add a parallel chain that saturates some boosts in the mids and high-mids, you’ll add presence and enhance the string noise – in a good way.

Try that instead of adding low-end the next time you’re trying to mix a fuller bass. I guarantee it’ll be a game-changer.

Bass Presence

Boosting around 600 – 900 Hz (I’m being broad here because it depends on so many factors) makes the actual tones of the bass guitar shine through. You won’t just hear the low-end rumbling beneath all the other instruments; you’ll actually hear some definition from the bass notes.

Some engineers like their bass guitar a little brighter than that, though. If you need to have the bass ‘pop’ just a little bit more, boosting the frequency areas around 1 – 4 kHz gives you even more clarity and presence to the bass strings.

It can bring out the plucky sound of the bass guitar, especially if the bass player is using a pick, similar to that garage-y Pixies sound so prevalent in the 90’s.

I wouldn’t venture much further up the frequency spectrum. Most of the higher frequencies just add hiss and high-frequency noise that’s not particularly flattering to the bass guitar. You could even filter out the highest frequencies with a low-pass filter to focus your sound solely around the frequency areas you want.

Follow These Bass EQ Starting Points

For a quick overview of the frequency spectrum when it comes to EQ’ing bass guitar, check out the EQ starting points in this video where I go over the presets of the Audio Issues EQ plug-in.

EQ Bass With the Best of Them

It’s hard to hear how these tips work without using them in a session, so go open up your DAW of choice and go play around with your bass guitar.

If you’re still confused and struggling or just need more info on EQ in general, check out EQ Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to EQ and get my Audio Issues EQ plug-in as a free bonus.

The Audio Issues EQ is unique because it teaches you how to EQ and recognize frequencies while you’re EQ’ing. That way you can keep creating without feeling like you’re stuck figuring out the frequency spectrum.

Image by: jesusraydan

If you liked this post, share the love:


Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

*Spam sucks and I will not share your email with anyone.

About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

Björgvin’s step-by-step mixing process has helped thousands of musicians confidently mix their music from their home studios. If you’d like to join them, check out the best-selling book Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.

LEAVE A COMMENT