Hi everyone! Today we're gonna talk about how to get a good rock-metal bass sound, and how to find its place on the mix, which is one of the hardest things to get; often, in facts, bass tends to disappear, covered by the lower frequencies of the guitars, or to be too loud, making the mix muddy. Our aim should be to find a place where to place where to set the bass, avoiding to make it fight with the other instruments, and if we'll succeed, we will obtain a much more glued and punchy mix.
Let's get started!
First off you obviously need a decent bass, and an audio interface of any kind, in order to get the signal to your daw. Don't use "the mic in" of the integrated sound card that comes in bundle with the pc, because the sound will be awful :)
You can help yourself by tweaking with the bass knobs until you find a good starting sound, then you can record your track, making sure that the signal isn't too high nor too low. If it's too high, it will distort/cut frequencies, if it's too low, you will have to raise the volume later, raising the noise too, and obtaining a high-volume weak sound.
We can use a Line recorded bass, a microphoned bass amplifier or a Virtual Bass (Click here for a dedicated article).
Now there are two ways to proceed:
1. Single track: first, to give punch to the sound, use a bass overdrive-preamp simulator, like the TS-B.O.D. which is a great freeware vst that simulates the legendary Sansamp Bass Driver, then you can add a Compressor, with a fast attack (tending to zero), a longer response time (250 ms), a -30db threshold and a ratio that may go from 10:1 to 20:1, to infinite:1, according to how steady is your hand :)
After that, is time for the Equalizer, which may vary strongly from mix to mix.
My general suggeston anyway is to filter everything below 40/50hz with a high pass filter, and above 7000hz (cut even more, if you thing you don't need so many highs) with a low pass, then you can scoop-subtract some more frequencies (but not too much) on the 2/3khz area to leave some more room to vocals, and boost around 80/100hz to give to the track some more low-end.
In order to reduce boxiness we can also cut between 180 and 250hz.
So this bass chain is: OVERDRIVE->COMPRESSION->EQUALIZER
2. Dual track: this method is a little more tricky, but should give you a more extreme distortion, while keeping the same punchy lows, at the same time.
First, take the unprocessed track you've just recorded and duplicate it, then the first copy and compress it like on the first method, then add the equalizer, filter everything below 40/50hz with a high pass filter, and above 7000hz with a low pass one, and cut (9 or 10db) a bit around 500hz, with a small Q (so a wide range of frequencies affected). Then take the second track and add a distortion on the vst chain (Click Here for a dedicated article about FREE VST BASS AMP SIMULATORS), crank it really high, making it sound almost like a guitar (ALMOST, not TOTALLY, we'll need this track only for the grit), and add an equalizer, setting a low pass filter above 4500khz more or less (you choose the curve), and a high pass below 500hz, just to keep the growl. Finally, mix the two sounds, finding the right amount of volume to obtain a good, tight and defined low, end and some crunchy mid-highs.
So the chain with this method is:
Sometimes it's also a good idea to put a SECOND COMPRESSOR (click here for a dedicated article about Serial Compression) or a LIMITER at the end of the chain, not to squeeze the sound (for this task we have already used a Compressor) but just to set a threshold, to make sure the bass will stay on its place and will not consume headroom later, in the Mixing and the Mastering phase.
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