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Church Sound: The Bass Mixing Basics

It's more than just a low-end addition, and there are plenty of options in attaining the right fit...
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

There is no one bass mix to rule them all. Each music style calls for a different bass mix. Songs within a genre call for unique bass mixes. The bass is more than just a low-end addition.

If you’ve ever listened to a bass solo in jazz or rock, it’s obvious it has a unique sound. This comes from how the musician is playing the bass and the genre of music.

Bass Frequency Range

The low E on the bass runs around 40 Hz. Increase two octaves and it’s only up to 165 Hz. This doesn’t mean bass frequencies only exist below 200 Hz. Far from it.

Examining fundamental and harmonic frequencies, the bass can produce sounds as high as 6,000 to 7,000 Hz. It’s easy to think the bass is only “low end” but it’s so much more.

The eight frequency ranges and their influence:

Boomy (40 Hz – 90 Hz)
Fat (75 Hz – 150 Hz)
Thin (40 Hz – 180 Hz)
Power (40 Hz – 150 Hz)
Impact (40 Hz – 150 Hz)
Clarity (190 Hz – 800 Hz)
Presence (800 Hz – 6.5 kHz)
Attack (120 Hz – 4.1 kHz)

Those first five are sub-200 Hz but presence can reach as far as 6.5 kHz.

Using a digital mixer, boosts and cuts are easy. What about analog boards? Analog consoles come in a variety of EQ designs, from a single sweeping mid design to sweeping mid’s for both high mids and low mids.

In the case of the single sweeping mid, focus on clarity or presence. In the case of two sweeping mids, focus on clarity, presence, and the fat or thin sound. This isn’t to say ignore the low-end shelving EQ.

Not sure where to start? Listen to songs the worship teams cover. Listen to the bass. Make notes on how it sounds. Now, you’ve got a goal.

A tip on bass EQ: don’t forget volume control. I’ve had times where the fix to my bass mix was to cut a few dB so it would sit in the right spot.

Conflict Resolution With The Kick

Sculpting a mix means mixing instruments against each other. In the case of the bass, much is done with the kick drum in mind.

The bass and kick can support each other and take turns driving a song, and vary from one song to the next. Know the role of the bass in each song and contrast the two appropriately.

Summary

The bass guitar produces a wide range of frequencies and a lot can be done. The bass is as important as a rhythm guitar and, with a little work, your mixes can sound even better!

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