Last updated on April 5, 2018 by Rob Mayzes

Without a solid bass part, your mix could sound thin and weak.

Getting the bass right is vital in creating a track that sounds full and professional.

So, what’s the key to dialing in a tight, solid low end?

Compression.

In this video, you’re going to learn the fast bass compression trick that will instantly make your tracks sound more professional.

 

Here’s the truth without solid bass part your mix could sound thin and weak.

Getting the bass right is vital in creating a track that sounds full and professional.

So, what is the key to dialing in a tight solid low-end?

Compression.

In this video you’re going to learn the fast bass compression trick that would initially make your track sound more professional.

And after teaching almost a million people about mixing I know that a lot of people get this wrong, so keep watching if you struggle with compressing bass and want to learn how to compress bass like a pro.

But first be sure the grab my free bass mixing cheat sheet to make sure you get the bass right every single time.

There is link in the description or a link on the screen now.

Okay. Let’s dive right in.

So, what’s the bass compression trick?

Using multiple compressors on one bass part, in most genre the bass needs to be heavily compressed to provide a solid foundation.

So in rock, pop, hip-hop that kind of stuff, obviously we’re not referring to like jazz or acoustic here but anything that’s generally processed and needs that foundation we need compression to achieve that.

So, if you are working with jazz something like that stop watching this video now, because you don’t need to compress the bass.

If you’re working lighter genres you won’t need any compression at all, but if the track calls for it and you want to make your low-end more consistent keep watching.

So, in those genres we want every note to be the same volume and instead of automating it which we could do, but that’ll take ages we can compress it it’s a much faster way to achieve this.

Now, sometimes just one compressor sounds good, but whenever you’re aiming for heavy compression it’s best to use what most people would call serial compression.

And this is simply the act of compressing the bass at two, three or maybe even four different points and normally this would be once or twice on the channel itself, and then maybe again on a buss. And you probably got some kind of compression on the mix buss too.

So, this is serial compression, all these different points of compression throughout the mix.

And in this case we’re actually going to go through the acts of applying two compressors to one bass channel.

So, let’s just bypass everything we’ve got going on here so we can start from scratch and we’re going to remove this compressor, remove this compressor and let’s just have a quick listen to the track.

So, it’s quite open but the bass is playing this long sustained notes and we really want those notes to kind of fill that gap between the kick drum hits so that it sounds full and it doesn’t sound thin and empty between those kick drum hits.

So, the first thing I’m going to do is load up a compressor any would do. I’m just going to use the stock Logic compressor for this and I’m going to dial in quite high ratio 4 to 1 with vocals stuff that’s a bit lighter you’re probably going to use 2 to 1 or less, but with anything rhythmic like kick, snare, bass it’s good to start around 4 to 1.

And then we’re going to get rid of this knee and we’re just going to start by adjusting the threshold until we see around 5 to 10 dB of gain reduction.

Now, I’m going to turn off auto-gain because Logic has this annoying feature.

And once we’ve dialed in that gain reduction we’ll increase the makeup gain to compensate.

So, that sounds about the same volume to me.

So, in the next step is to start tweaking our attack and release time.

And we’re going to start with a medium release or an auto-release.

If you have an auto-release button just use that unless you have a reason to start tweaking release time.

So, with the bass we might actually want to slow this down quite a lot, because they’re really long sustained notes.

So, you can play around that with that in a sec, but let’s start with it on auto and let’s just tweak that attack time and we’ll start slow and bring this up until we start to notice the bass is sounding dull and it sounds a bit less aggressive because that means we’ve gone too far. We’re starting to compress that transient.

Better to opt for slow attack times whenever in doubt so let’s just start slow and bring that up until we start to notice the bass losing some of its life and then back off a bit.

So, around there sounding good.

We don’t need to spend too long on that and let’s just experiment with a slightly longer release time. A hundred is a good place to start for anything that’s not too fast like a kick drum or a snare drum that’s going to stop ringing out really quickly.

A hundred is a good place to start for like bass, guitars, and mix buss anything like that, so we’ll start there and then we’re going to tweak to taste.

Now, what you’re going to notice is that as that note is ringing out this needle is slowly going back to zero.

And what we want to try and do with these long sustained notes is get the needle to go back to zero between the notes but make sure it’s not going back too quick because the slower it goes back the most sustained we’re going to get from the bass because the compressor is just slowly relaxing and it’s kind of going against the note as the note rings out the compressor relaxes and increases the volume.

So, let’s tweak that and make sure we’re getting back to zero between notes, but also we’ve got a nice slow release to counteract that note.

And that’ll do. It’s sounding pretty good.

So, the next step then is to just duplicate this before we even think about adding a new compressor and using different settings a really quick shortcut is just duplicate it.

And let’s listen to what that does.

So, now we’ve got quite heavily compressed sound and I’m not sure I’m liking that.

So, let’s back off that threshold a bit, because we’re using two compressors we can be a bit subtle with each of them.

And again we want to check it’s the same volume so I’ll just play around with these, play around with the makeup gain.

Let’s compare before and after, so we’ve got two compressors now.

This is with them bypassed.

Now, let’s bring them back in.

So, it sounds quite musical. The bass doesn’t sound too compressed.

It doesn’t sound like it’s just been squashed, but we’re getting that consistency.

The notes are ringing out for longer.

We’ve got a nice solid foundation now for the track.

Let’s flick back and forth a few times quicker.

So, you can really hear in the sustain of that note. Without the compressors that note just kind of fades out and we lose a lot of that bottom and a lot of that fullness, but with the compressors that fullness is always there.

And if we go to a different section now let’s have a listen to how consistent the bass is.

So, now that we’ve got a nice consistent bass it’s going to be easier to place in the mix, and it’s important that you spend lots of time on volume balance at the beginning of your mix getting a good level.

But once we’ve applied compression even though we’ve done our best at volume match it there is a difference, because now every note is more consistent.

So, before some notes were loud some were quiet and we set the level as best we could, but now it’s a more consistent level.

So, we can go back to this volume balance and adjust this fader until the bass is at a good point in the mix.

Let’s check some references.

So, I think that’s a good place. We can come back to that later, but make sure you actually set that fader before you start compressing before you do anything.

But also afterwards come back and readdress that volume balance, because that can have such a huge impact on the mix.

And if you find that your mix overall has got too much low-end instead of trying to use EQ or multiband compression something like that on the mix buss to fix it you probably just need to turn up or turn down the bass guitar or the kick drum.

So, always go to volume balancing first.

Now that we’ve got the volume of the low-end right what if we want the bass to cut through the mix a bit more what if we play around with this fader and we get it to point where the low-end of the track is sounding consistent. It’s not overpowering. It sounds like it’s going to translate well on lots of speakers.

But the bass guitar plays an important role and we want it to cut through the mix a bit more.

Well that’s where the saturation comes into it and instead of boosting with EQ, which you could try boost that upper-mid something like that.

I normally prefer just add a bit saturation to help the bass cut through the mix a bit more if it plays an important role.

Great free saturation plug-in is Klaghelm IVGI and we’re going to use high frequency response.

We’re just going to bring up this drive until we start to notice that the bass cuts through the mix a bit more.

So, that’s definitely helping the bass to cut through, but it’s messing up the tone of the low-end a bit more.

So, I’m going to try a different plug-in, another great saturation plug-in from FabFilter because with this I can only saturate the top-end and I can leave that bottom-end unsaturated and say below 200 and I can just try adding some saturation to this top-end.

So, now we’re bringing out that top-end a bit more that’s going to cut through the mix, and also cut through on smaller speakers.

So, just a little bonus tip for you there, but don’t forget serial compression using two compressors on your bass is a great way to get a nice consistent powerful low-end without squashing the bass and without sounding over-compressed.

So, that’s how you compress a bass guitar, but what about EQ? What about everything else involved in the bass mix and process?

Well, I put together a free bass mixing cheat sheet that you could download and use as a reference when you’re mixing and if you really want to learn how to mix bass like a pro and make sure you get the bass right every single time be sure to grab that free cheat sheet.

It’s going to guide you through that process and go deeper into EQ, compression, balancing everything else involved in mixing bass.

So, it’s completely free.

There’s a link in the description below or on screen now.

And now I want to hear from you.

Let me know in the comments below. Have you ever used serial compression on bass before?

Just comment with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If you’ve done it before let me know. If you haven’t comment with a ‘no’ because I want to see how many people have used this technique.

And if you do give it a try let me know in the comments below how you find it too.

So, that’s all from me.

I’ll see you same time same place next week.

And remember Create Regardless.

 

Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.

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