When You Want More Than Just Feeling It…
There were requests a while back to talk about bass guitar in the same fashion I’ve talked about vocals and drums. This isn’t really that post because I need to tap Briley for that one as he’s still my biggest mentor when it comes to mixing bass. But in the meantime, I tried something new last week that I kind of liked and is pretty easy to try if you’re looking for something new to play with.
These tips come courtesy of Jayce Fincher who is the Tech Director for the Attic at North Point. The Attic is where our high school and middle school kids get together and make a bunch of noise. Before Jayce ended up at North Point he used to play bass in a little band called Marvelous 3, and a couple weeks ago I walked into a conversation between Jayce and one of our FOH volunteers on mixing bass guitar. Jayce was talking about the challenge of getting the note of the instrument to cut which is something I struggle with. Jayce had a couple of pretty basic tips for helping to get the bass note to sit right without the whole instrument turning into a washy mess of low end.
Start by leaving the bass guitar out of the subs when you initially put it in the mix. This is most easily accomplished if your subs are aux-fed. If your subs aren’t on an aux, you can achieve almost the same effect by either turning off your subs or utilizing a high pass filter or a low shelf on the EQ. However you do it, the goal is to get all of that head-y low end stuff around 100 Hz and the rest of the sub-bass pulled out. Once you’ve got all of that out, it is a lot easier to find the note and get it defined. Start by cleaning up any remaining mud down low, and then go looking for the note if it’s still missing. Jayce recommended starting to boost around 500 Hz, but I think you could find what you’re looking for going up to 700 and even as high as 1k; I think it’s going to depend a lot on the instrument and player and what’s happening with the rest of your mix. Once you have the bass guitar sitting in your mix nice, start dialing it back into your subs until you get the right feel you like back without overwhelming the rest of the mix.
When I played with this last weekend, I definitely liked it, but I still found myself using a little of the “dirty” bass trick that Briley and a guy named Scovill like. Basically I take the bass guitar and double patch it on the Venue into two channels. One channel is the “clean” channel which I stick a compressor on and EQ in a traditional fashion. The second channel is the “dirty” channel which additionally gets a SansAmp plugin; the SansAmp gives it some grit and nice harmonics which help it cut a bit. I’ll then blend the two to taste with the dirty channel giving me more “note” and the clean channel giving me more “I’m not happy if I can’t feel it” low end.
I would love to hear any other tricks some of you guys have on getting the note of the bass to cut without overwhelming your mix with low end. The comments are open.