The bass guitar and the kick drum dominate the low-frequency range. The bass guitar works as a bridge between the kick drum and varying instruments.; therefore, it is of utmost importance to build a solid foundation for any song.
Every bass sounds different based on numerous factors – like wood type and playing technique. Therefore, there is no one way to EQ bass. However, while there is no exact science to EQ a bass guitar (it is more an art), learning how to do so successfully can make it shine among other instruments.
In any mix, for better sound, your low-end content needs to be just right – too little, our track loses punch, too much, and it becomes incoherent.
In this article, we have jotted down rough guidelines on bass EQ. Consider these a jumping-off point to great bass resonating to a great sounding mix. Is that not what we all want?
High Pass Filter
Anyone with an understanding of bass EQ will immediately advise you to focus on the high pass filter. As the name suggests, it lets through high frequencies while blocking low ones. Now, if we have you scratching your head, allow us to explain.
Engaging HPF, present on the channel strip of different consoles, will roll off anything around 80Hz and below if set to do so. In addition, some mixers allow you to choose where you like the frequency to cut; this comes in handy with instruments like the hi-hat.
Apart from high to mid-range frequency instruments, you can use the HPF to clean up the low end of any mix by rolling off the sub-bass content. The rule of thumb is: if you cannot hear the sub-bass frequencies well enough, go for the less is more approach.
The HPF allows you control over the sub-bass frequencies. This prevents distortion and potential ruining of the mix’s balance.
Keep in mind that most average listeners own speakers that will not reproduce sub-bass between 20 Hz to 60 Hz. With HPF, you can clean it up to make a world of difference.
Low Pass Filter
The low pass filter does the opposite of the high pass filter. In other words, you can use it to cut frequency to roll off the high end. So now the question is, how can you use it to EQ bass?
When it comes to energy and power for bass, it resides somewhere between 60 Hz to 150 Hz. Over that and up to 5 kHz, you get clarity, thanks to harmonics and overtones. Thus, anything over 5 kHz is not helpful for bass tracks. You can use the low pass filter to cut any frequency above 5 kHz, otherwise likely to add unwanted noise like hissing and distortion.
Clearing up the upper frequencies will also allow more room for instruments and vocals that reside there, like hats, cymbals, chimes, and guitars, to name a few. Moreover, cleaning up the high end allows the bass more space as it kills the competition with powerful mid-range instruments.
Kick and Bass: How To Make Them Work Together
While every mix is unique to its genre, a basic rule is to choose either the bass guitar or the kick drum to dominate the low end. EQ them similarly, and you will find yourself in trouble with the instruments competing for space rather than working with each other. This will result in a muddy low end, something that we do not want.
While subjective, EQing these instruments the opposite way allows both room and results in a crisp low end. But, how do you do that?
If you boost one at a certain frequency, make sure to cut the other one simultaneously. This allows them space to shine without the competition.
Bass Guitar’s Key Frequency Ranges
To shape and refine the general characteristics of the bass track, you need to know the four key ranges. Please note that these are approximate ranges that may vary according to the mix and genre.
- If you boost between 80 Hz to 200 Hz, you will add fullness and energy to your low end; that is, your track will be much more lively.
- If you find that your mix sounds muddy or boxy and your bass guitar is not as clear as you would like it to be, then try to cut between 200 Hz to 500 Hz to clean up the bottom end to add the much-needed clarity. However, if you record in a small room with poor acoustics, it is likely to be present in all your tracks, regardless.
- Boosting between 500 Hz to 1 kHz will result in pronounced intelligibility and punchiness.
- If you boost between 1 kHz to 5 kHz, you will get much more clarity on the upper overtones.
Boosting and cutting means adding or lowering the volume, respectively.
Bass EQ: Important Pointers To Keep in Mind
Now that we know how to clean up the high and low end and which frequencies to boat and cut, let’s get into a few pointers that will help you in EQing bass for the best outcome.
Low-End Clarity Is Essential
Go for acoustic treatment and a high-quality subwoofer to hear the low-end with clarity to make informed decisions on what to change. If you do not have that, invest in studio headphones that support as low-frequency a response as possible.
Unique Settings For Every Recording
Understand that every bass guitar recording is unique, even when using the same one. While you can use the above-mentioned information, you will have to curate it accordingly for every individual recording.
Solo Vs. Context
When making changes to the base tone, listen to it on its own. Whereas, listen to the mix fully once done with individual adjustments to see if it works as a whole.
Trust Your Ears
Understand that all the tips in the world cannot explain what exactly needs to be done to EQ bass. This is entirely subjective to the music genre, the mixer’s taste, and the desired output. The specifics change every time. Thus, you will need to listen and decide what sounds good and what doesn’t.
Understanding how to EQ Bass does not have to be complicated. With the above-mentioned tips and tricks, you can do it all. However, it is vital to put these guidelines to practice. Clean up the low and high ends and work within the mentioned frequency ranges to enjoy truly phenomenal mixes.