It’s happened to us all. We get a mix that’s just rocking out of our main monitors, yet when we play it on some tiny computer or phone speakers the bass instrument completely disappears. Here are some steps to take to ensure that the bass on your next mix will speak on just about any playback system.
Most of the time the problem comes from misunderstanding exactly what frequencies affect the bass instrument. Too many times we think that it’s the frequencies below 100Hz (especially 60Hz) that provide the bass we need. While it’s quite true that those frequencies are important for what we might call the girth of the sound, they won’t reproduce well on small speakers, and that’s where the problem lies. In other words, EQing too low.
The actual frequencies that make the bass speak are further up the frequency range. For instance, somewhere between 120 and 200Hz will actually begin to provide the low end that you’d expect from a bass instrument and allow it to sit in the track more successfully with the drums.
Sometimes a bit further up at 250 to 320Hz or so will provide some definition to the low end, while 700Hz is a magic frequency that will allow the instrument to poke through the mix.
If high-end on your bass is your thing, then 1k to 1.5kHz or so will start to bring that out, while 2.5k to 3kHz or so will bring out the string noise of the instrument (unless it’s a synth, in which case it will get more buzzy).
In other words:
120Hz to 200Hz
250Hz to 320Hz
1kHz to 1.5kHz
2.5kHz to 3kHz
Of course, these frequencies are approximate because every song, arrangement, instrument and player are different, but they’ll get you in the ballpark for a bass sound that translates to any playback system.
My buddy Dave Pensado basically uses the same frequencies, but has a different way of getting there, as you’ll see in the following video.
You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.
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