EQ bass is ever popular, and it only seems to be on the increase so it’s not hard to see why it might be a skill you’re interested in possessing.
Bass EQ is essentially where you adjust the specific frequencies of a given sound, whether that be adding or taking away treble or bass, or emphasizing or deemphasizing specific frequencies in the middle.
Be warned, it can get a little complicated but EQ bass can become a real dealbreaker for the low-end of any song. It’s something even the most experienced in the field can struggle with.
If you get this skill down perfectly you’ll find yourself showered in eternal flattery and admiration, however, get it wrong and you will compromise the entire song.
Do not panic though, because that’s what I am here for. Let’s get you making music like a professional!
Before You Start
Before we even attempt anything else, we need to get the basics down. Here’s everything that you’ll need to know prior to recording.
No Two Tracks Are The Same
Every recording that you make will need its own unique EQ settings. It doesn’t matter whether you record the exact same song, with the exact same instrument, there will still end up being slightly different needs for each recording.
Your Best Tool Is Your Ears
While tips throughout this article can be generally followed, you’re going to have to really listen to your music to make the correct decisions.
Solo & Context
It’s always good to listen in solo mode so that you can hear the exact sound of the bass guitar but make sure you also switch and keep listening with the full mix to make sure that they are blending well together.
Headphones & Subwoofers
If you have a subwoofer available, use it. If you don’t have a subwoofer, studio headphones will work well. This is important because it is impossible to make the best choices if you can’t hear the music clearly.
High Pass Filter For Sub Bass Roll Off
Now, this may seem a little odd for some people, but the best first decision I believe you can make is to use a high pass filter. What this does is it lets high frequencies go through and blocks out the lower frequencies.
You may be wondering why I’m suggesting this, especially for a bass guitar, but there are two fundamental reasons for this, to control the Sub-Bass frequencies, and to also make room for the kick drum.
Control The Sub-Bass
While listening through basic speakers or lower quality headphones, you’re not going to hear your sub-bass going out of control. Listen to the same song with a subwoofer, and trust me, you’ll notice. It’s really important to get these frequencies under control.
If you are struggling with your sub-bass, just use less. Honestly, poorly executed sub-bass will ruin the music you’re making much worse than just using less sub-bass in the first place.
Make Room For The Kick Drum
For most popular modern songs, the kick drum is your best friend and will often have its own segment of bass frequency race, potentially more so than the actual bassline.
Essentially the kick drum and bass tend to fight for dominance in this section, but you want the kick drum to come out victorious.
I’d suggest reducing the sub-bass slowly to about 20 Hz for the bass track. This makes room for the kick drum to really be felt. The balance of bass and kick drum is super important so you’ll want to spend some time here.
Add A Low Pass Filter
So you’ve got the bass down now, which is great as that builds the power and energy of the sound at around 60-150 Hz. This is what is felt by the listener. Now we want to focus on what the lister hears.
And that’s where harmonics come into it. These are at around 5 kHz.
Ditch The Noise
There’s rarely any useful noise about 5Hz in a bass track.
It’s unlikely any sound above this sound is going to be decent to use, however, what you are likely to have at above 5Hz is a nice bit of room reverb, as well as hissing and cracking, and other annoying sounds that will potentially ruin your track.
Using a low pass filter will cut or considerably lessen the volume of these unwanted sounds.
Make Room For Other Instruments
Ditching the extra unwanted sound also makes room for sounds that you do want. Cymbals, vocals, chimes, and the likes all live in that higher frequency, and freeing up the sound allows for them to be clear and heard.
Now the low-end and high-end sounds have been generally cleaned, we can move on to sculpt the general sound of the bass.
Bass Guitar Frequency Ranges
When you begin to really sculpt the bass track and its general characteristics, you’ll want to do this in both solo and full mix. Luckily bass is one of the easier options. You’re going to have four bass frequency ranges to deal with:
- 80 Hz – 200 Hz – This gives your song its fullness and its energy.
- 200 Hz – 500 Hz – This is responsible for the boxiness and muddiness.
- 500 Hz – 1 kHz – Gives the song its intelligibility and punch.
- 1kHz – 5 kHz – Produces the harmonics and clarity.
How To EQ Bass Guitar
You’ll want to stick with adjustments of 2 dB to about 5 dB. If you need more than this then there’s probably an issue elsewhere with your track.
For best results record dry (with no effects whatsoever) and add them in later when you have full control over them.
You’ll also want to use quite wide Q’s (curves.) This will sound very natural and musical.
The most common mistake that takes place is assuming because you can’t hear the low-end bass that much that you need to kick it up a notch. But this will ruin the track. Instead, play with wide boosts at around 700 Hz- 2 kHz.
So now that you’ve learned to control the low-ends, and high-ends, and sculpt the middle, you should have a whole track, sounding great!
Keep in mind that this is a really difficult skill that will take a lot of practice, so don’t be disheartened if your first attempt doesn’t go to plan. Keep trying, train your ears to find that perfect balance, and I’m sure you’ll be producing chart-topping sounds in no time.
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