HOW I MIX
Learn something new, get better in mixing!
Last year I was mixing and mastering the melodic heavy rock album Energizer by the band Angelous from Czech Republic. Drums were written in MIDI, no real audio tracks provided. Guitar tracks were recorded through Line6 guitar processor and bass was recorded DI, straight into the audio interface.
The band recorded everything themselves, at home studios.
For bass guitar recording there was a Dingwall bass used, played by very talented and experienced Jarek Musil Network member Jan (Žanek).
In the video I am showing you the 1st phase of my mixing and mastering service which is all about getting the most out of the recorded tracks and sending the first mix version to the band.
So this is not the final mix, this is more of a behind the scenes video of my mixing and mastering process.
I was mixing and mastering all ITB (In The Box = no outboard gear used, plug-ins only).
I like the distorted bass tones, you know.
In the end, for the final mix, the band asked for cleaner bass guitar tone - you can hear it in the final song video here:
Here is my guide for mixing heavy rock bass guitar:
0. General approach - across genres
When it comes to bass guitar mixing, my approach is pretty consistent.
The biggest difference across the variety of musical genres I am mixing and mastering is in the re-amping stage.
If I need to get a devastating, distorted and ultra-aggressive bass guitar tone for a metal or hardcore song, I re-amp the bass with all my clean, crunch, hi-gain and fuzz chains.
But if I mix a softer genre like funk or folk, I do all the same mixing with all the same mixing plug-ins, but with clean re-amping tracks only.
This way I get consistent quality across different genres.
1. Re-amp the DI track
When re-amping the DI bass track, I usually go pretty much crazy about the number and types of re-amping tracks. It's not uncommon that I end up with up to 16 re-amped tracks for bass.
I am usually starting with cleaner tracks, using GK Amplification 2 Pro plugin by Audified, typically clean 2001RB amp with no cabinet. Really clean tone.
For the second track I usually go for Marshall JCM800 style overdrive, using the legacy AmpLion 1.1 Pro by Audified with guitar cabinet and bass-oriented mic like AKG D112 or Audix D6 or both.
Then I go for crunch bass guitar tones using boosted Marshall JCM800 amp sim plugin and boosted GK Amplification 2001RB amp with cabinets. I usually prepare 3 different crunch tones.
When I want to go more extreme, I also do some HiGain re-amping, usually Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier guitar amp sim plugin, such like legacy Audiffex AmpLion 1.1 Pro plug-in again, boosted and with guitar cabinets and bass mics.
If the song calls for it, I also use some fuzz tone tracks. To fuzz-out the bass, I usually use some plug-in prototypes I have made with my collegue from Audified. Those prototypes are not available to buy yet.
Since I have developed my Crystal bass plugins with Audified, I started adding another re-amping tracks with those little distortion plugins called Sphene and Peridot. I use them alone as well as in combination with GK Amplification 2 Pro plugin.
Yeah, getting up to 16 re-amping tracks for bass is not a problem for me, I am crazy, you already know :)
2. Blend the DI track with the re-amped track
I always blend DI track with every re-amped track. Nothing special, but it's very important point, because blending the re-amped track with the DI track keeps bass still being the bass.
3. Add sub-bass track
I always blend an extra sub-bass filtered track with every re-amped track to emphasize the low-end of every bass guitar re-amping tone. I am usually using 2 Low-Pass filters in a row to really filter out everything above 200Hz.
4. Mix all the tracks together and balance the levels of individual tracks to taste
Once I have all the re-amping tracks (including blended DI and Sub-bass tracks), I am finding the right balance between all re-amped tracks. Since every re-amped track is including the actual re-amp track blended with DI track and sub-bass track, then every bass guitar track is already sounding pretty good alone.
In some cases I end up using only 1 or 2 bass guitar tracks. For some genres it’s absolutely enough. Even some heavy bands are prefering quite basic clean bass tone.
But what if we mix all those great bass guitar tones together?
Yeah! That’s exactly what I like to do the most. Blending all 16 bass guitar tracks together brings way more excitement, fatness, depth and uniqueness to my final bass guitar tone.
Even the process alone is really exciting. Building this kind of bass guitar tone is like cooking a multi-layered cake with all the tasty ingredients. Every layer brings something special to the whole thing. Every layer is complementing each other, working as a team. And you can choose if you want to get more of the strawberry layer or more of the chocolate layer.
5. Route all the tracks into the bass bus
Once you have balanced the individual re-amped bass guitar tracks to your taste, then send all the tracks into one bass guitar bus and here you will continue in crafting your monstrous angry bass guitar tone.
6. Bass bus processing - TDR Nova
When it comes to bass guitar bus processing, I usually use 2 multi-band processors in a row. The first one is Tokyo Dawn Records Nova. It’s a great multi-band dynamic Equalizer that can be used in several ways. Very useful tool.
In this case I am using the TDR Nova as the first normalizing tool. I usually setup High-Pass and Low-Pass filters to get rid of the unwanted super-low frequencies as well as useless super-high frequencies.
Nothing special, right?
But it’s not all!
To really get that angry bass guitar tone under control, I set up the threshold of every band to negative 20 dB. This means that if there are any exceptional peaks in the overall bass guitar tone in any of the bands, the TDR Nova will slightly reduce it.
This makes the bass guitar tone way more controlled.
It reduces some unwanted peaks in the signal, but only if it’s needed.
Quite smart isn’t it?
In the most of the times, TDR Nova is acting only on the Low and High shelves.
Acting in the mid-range is quite unique in my mixes.
7. Bass bus processing - Audified ToneSpot Bass Pro
Another permanent tool in my bass guitar mixing approach is my own bass mixing plug-in.
I have designed ToneSpot plug-ins back in 2018, but I am still using them on daily basis, even I can see some things I would do differently after years.
But it's normal.
It's my workhorse plug-in that sits on my bass guitar bus on every mix I do.
Since I have designed it to fit my approach...
What are the main benefits of using ToneSpot Bass Pro plugin?
I am using ToneSpot Bass Pro mainly as my main bass bus Equalizer.
Since I have designed the Shaping module to perfectly fit the important frequencies of bass guitar, I can shape the overall tone of the bass really fast.
No searching for the right frequencies, just grab the knob and twist it.
If I feel that the bass is not cutting through the mix, I simply boost the Cut Through knob.
If there are some fret-noise sounds too prominent in the mix, I just attenuate the Fret Noise knob.
If the bass is too thin, I just boost the Body or Thump knobs.
And there are some additional little buttons and switches such like "Growl", "Scoop", "Vintage" or "Tight" that shape the tone really nicely in one click.
There are some pretty complex equalization shapes hided behind the hood of those buttons.
"Tight" button really is very powerful button. It is a multi-band processor in combination with 3 equalizing filters hided under a single switch.
In my mixes I am mostly using the ToneSpot Bass Pro to make the bass guitar tone more fat and cutting-through the wall of electric guitars or synths.
8. Bass bus processing - Steinberg Multi-Band Compressor
The last plug-in on my bass guitar bus is the stock Steinberg Multi-Band Compressor.
The final normalizing tool.
This Multi-Band Compressor acts similarly like the TDR Nova.
Some engineers hate this Multi-Band Compressor because it seems like it's doing nothing.
It can feel like an "invisible" compressor.
And that's the beauty.
Normalizing the sound while being almost "invisible".
But believe me, it definitely does something!
And I love it.
I usually set up the thresholds of all bands all the same to really normalize the overall tone of the bass guitar.
9. Bass bus processing - Limiter?
I know that there are engineers who are also using a limiter on the bass guitar bus.
But for me, it haven't worked yet.
Who knows, maybe in the next mix I will need to use the limiter on the bass guitar bus too!
There are no rules when it comes to mixing and mastering.
If it sound good, it is good.
No matter how you have achieved the result.
Only result counts.
So take this little guide as an inspiration, not as the rules.
If you would ask another mixing engineer on how does his bass guitar mixing approach looks like, chances are that some of his tips will be the exact opposite to mine.
And it's a good thing.
Personality is healthy.
Music is adventure.
Now, go and make your mix the best sounding mix you have ever done!
Are you struggling with your mix?
Do you need a fresh perspective on your mix?
Do you want to get a constructive feedback on your mix from another engineer?
Do you need an advice?