In a dense mix, an electric bass track can get easily buried in the background. It’s not anything you’ve done wrong really; our ears are just naturally inclined to pick up the mid/high frequency content (especially when there’s a lot of it).
For this reason, your low end is usually working twice as hard to keep up. It’s the same concept and struggle that your speakers face, and why so many people look for high wattage subwoofers for their cars and home theater setups.
In the studio, you need to mix for all listening environments though, not just the nice ones.
Here’s one simple way that you can hack some reinforcement back into your bass in the studio:
Step 1: Duplicate Your Bass Line with MIDI
There are plenty of ways to do this, none simpler than playing along with a MIDI controller or drawing the bass part out in your DAW.
If you’re not so confident in your ability to play along with the bass, all hope is not lost.
Another favorite trick of mine is to use a tool like Melodyne (or a built-in “Audio to MIDI” feature if your DAW has one) to export the MIDI from an audio performance. This approach is sample-accurate; meaning each nuance of the performance should align perfectly with the underlying bass track.
Once you’ve got the MIDI, it’s time to bring it all together. On a new track, we’re going to load up Sub Destroyer – a low-end generating virtual instrument we made for situations just like this.
As you can see in Fluff’s demonstration below, Sub Destroyer’s stock setting is more than sufficient at adding a bit of backbone to a muddy bass guitar:
The real focus shouldn’t be on how Sub Destroyer sounds in isolation. It should be on finding just the right balance when turning it up in the mix to provide emphasis to your bass without becoming overwhelming or sticking out in front.
Subtlety is the name of the game.
When To Use This Trick
The biggest benefit to using Sub Destroyer as a bass reinforcement tool is its flexibility. You don’t need to mix with this trick in mind.
Since Sub Destroyer is using MIDI to add more depth to your bass, it’s not going to be affected by the processing on your bass guitar track. You can use it alongside the bass as you build your mix, but you can just as easily go in after you’ve done most of your mixing to give it a little extra push.
Trying the same thing with some other techniques will risk your mixes integrity and balance – something we try to avoid whenever possible.
Have Your Own Bass Hacks?
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