Processing Bass: EQ

The most important tool for processing bass is EQ. EQ allows you to emphasise and de-emphasise different frequency ranges. Pushed to extremes, it can be used to change the “voicing” of the bass – the placement of where it sits in the mix, and how the tone changes for each note.

Before you reach for EQ, though, you need to know your monitoring environment. I won’t go into too much detail here (maybe another time), but your monitoring environment includes factors such as your speakers, your sitting position, the size and dimensions of your room, the furniture in the room, etc. Room acoustics are a complex and subtle thing, and you need to know your own monitoring environment well. That means listening to a lot of music!

EQing instruments is difficult if you don’t know your monitoring environment. This is especially true when working on bass, because in most rooms the bass response is more uneven than any other frequency range. Compounding the issue is the fact that, mix-wise, there’s very little “space” down there – it can get quite cramped.

Assuming you’re ready to EQ, the approach you should be aiming to take is that of listening to your raw sound and imagining in your head what the end result will sound like. If you can do this, you won’t waste much time “playing” with your tools. Obviously this is something that comes with experience (which is why it’s important to make as much music as possible!). In the mean time, what do you do?

There are numerous “EQ guides” floating around on the internet, with various EQ ranges (or worse – specific frequencies), accompanied by descriptions of what happens when you boost or dip each frequency. While they’re interesting, they’re just opinion. I suggest you get your hands dirty and and explore the frequency spectrum yourself, with YOUR ears, with YOUR tools, in YOUR studio.

Grab an EQ, and explore boosting and cutting at various frequencies on your own sounds. Start to train your ears on what each frequency range sounds like. As important as the end result is, it’s equally important to train yourself about what your raw sound is like. For example, if dipping at 100Hz brings you closer to the sound you desire, bypass the EQ and listen to the raw sound. Reflect that this is what too much 100Hz sounds like (hence why you’re dipping there). Similarly, for example, if boosting at 100Hz brings you closer to the sound you desire, bypass the EQ and reflect that this is what not enough 100Hz sounds like. Get to know your sound.

Keep in mind at all times that EQ is relative. It’s never one-size-fits-all. Not even close. The EQ settings you use depend entirely on what your raw sound is, and what your desired sound is.

-Kim.

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  1. Hey Kim, excellent blog, looked through a few of you posts, there’s a wicked thread (unfortunately derailed toward the end :( ) here
    http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=29283
    that you may find interesting as “Yep” kinda echo’s your thoughts, or viceyversy.

    Please keep it up, looking forward to more posts.

  2. @Gareth Sherwood
    Wow, that’s a monster thread! Thanks for the link!

    -Kim.

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