Setting up a Channel EQ on bass guitar isn’t all that different from an electric guitar frankly, especially in terms of how long it takes to actually do it.
If you’ve read my other articles on using EQ in Garageband, you’ll know that I recommend using Garageband’s pre-sets, which provide a great jumping-off point or foundation from which to work.
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As usual, we’re going to introduce the simple step-by-step process first, and then we’ll explore a more in-depth and sophisticated version afterward.
How To EQ A Bass Guitar In Garageband
1) Go into the plug-ins in the Smart Controls.
2) Select “Channel EQ.”
3) Choose one of the following pre-set: Bass Boost EQ, E-Bass EQ, Electric Jazz Bass, Slapped Bass EQ, or Upright Standard Bass EQ.
4) Select the one you think sounds the best, and then make further adjustments to your liking.
Things to Know Before EQing A Bass Guitar
As most people know, a bass guitar is much lower in pitch than a regular electric guitar. As a consequence of this, the bass guitar’s strings have to be much thicker, which introduces even more low-end frequencies.
A guitar’s frequencies, for the most part, lie between the 500Hz and 5000kHz range, whereas a bass guitar falls more between 20Hz and 2750kHz.
Personally, I find that the Bass Boost EQ found in Garageband’s pre-sets sounds the best, although, the presets that come as part of Fab Filter’s mastering suite from Plugin Boutique are better, particularly the Pro-Q 3 EQ which allows you to solo certain frequency ranges to see how everything sounds.
It gives the bass guitar a nice fat bass sound through a slight increase of the sub-bass frequencies, drops out a bit of the low-mid range, and also increases the high-end.
You can see what the Bass Boost EQ looks like in the image below:
Of course, I’ve followed my own advice, and I’ve attenuated some of the frequencies that I find less desirable. That’s the point of the pre-sets: to use them as a guideline.
Another one I like to use is the Electric Jazz Bass EQ, which is a little more nuanced in terms of its EQ increases and attenuations.
The Bass Boost EQ, in its default position, acts more like a volume boost than an EQ alteration because it increases the frequencies all across the spectrum.
You can see the way the Electric Jazz Bass EQ looks in the image below:
10 Tips For EQing A Bass Guitar
1) Boost The Highs – 1500kHz to 2300kHz
As I mentioned above, the vast majority of the bass guitar’s frequencies are in the lower end of the frequency spectrum.
Consequently, in my opinion, it seems like it’s always a good idea to boost the higher end frequencies, ie, 1500kHz to 2300 kHz, just to introduce more clarity into the bass guitar’s sounds.
For the most part, I would almost always avoid huge increases to the lower end of the bass guitar, and instead, opt more for increasing the higher frequencies.
The reason being, in conjunction with all of the other instruments in the mix, there will be a lot of competition already in the low end as well as in the lower-midrange.
It might seem like it’s a good idea to boost the low-end if you want the bass frequencies to cut through, however, I would argue that boosting the higher frequencies of the bass guitar is going to introduce more clarity and presence, as well as simply make it sound a bit better.
This might seem like it contradicts the pre-set that I mentioned above, but it doesn’t. It’s ok to increase the lower end of the bass guitar’s frequencies a little bit, as long as the increases are small and not massive.
2) Attenuate the Low-Mid Range – 100Hz – 300Hz
Like I mentioned already, the lower-midrange is a common culprit in the mix that almost always needs attenuation in several different instruments.
For instance, I almost always cut the lower-mid-range of an electric guitar, as I do with the bass guitar as well, especially the point around 200Hz. I would argue that this holds even truer when it comes to the bass guitar, simply because it already has so many lower frequencies.
This is going to free up space for other instruments in this area as well, including the kick, snare, and other parts of the drum kit.
When I mix a song, I always try to create some sonic space in the lower mid-range simply because I think it eliminates some of the muddiness and just makes it sound a whole lot better.
You can see what this is going to look like in the image shown below
I would argue that this tip is perhaps one of the most important because the low mid-range frequencies seem like they’re the most unpleasant. It’s the “muddiness” frequency, and it really helps to get rid of these.
3) Use a Wide Q (Wide Boosts/Narrow Cuts)
When it comes to boosting the lower range frequencies, and many other frequencies of the bass guitar, it’s best to use a wide rather than a narrow Q, due to the fact that you don’t want huge increases in frequencies on certain notes but not others.
A wide Q will solve this problem, and make the sound of the instrument ultimately a lot more consistent.
This is what a wide Q looks like:
When it comes to cuts, however, you want to use a more narrow Q.
This is what a narrow Q looks like:
4) Cut the Mid-Range Frequencies Of Slapping Bass Guitar
If you check out Garageband’s preset for the slap bass guitar frequencies, you’ll notice that some of the middle range frequencies are attenuated by quite a lot, and then the lowest and highest frequencies aren’t attenuated much at all.
This is because when you use the slapping and popping technique on the bass guitar, you ultimately end up producing more mid-range frequencies.
For that reason, it’s not a terrible idea to attenuate the mid-range frequencies just a little bit, and then leave the other frequencies alone.
5) Remember the Kick and Bass Guitar Work Together
This concept holds true for hip-hop production as well, regardless of whether you use a bass guitar or Initial Audio’s 808 Studio II from Plugin Boutique (my favorite 808 plugin).
In other words, when you’re EQing the bass guitar, try and pay attention to the kick drum as well, because they’re working together (by the way, my article on making 808s has tips that can be applied to the bass guitar).
Moreover, it doesn’t hurt to actually find out precisely where the kick drum is hitting on the EQ spectrum analyzer, and then attenuate or decrease it, and then in the same area of the spectrum analyzer of the bass guitar, you increase or attenuate it depending on what you did to the kick drum first.
This is a technique that’s often recommended for creating bass and kick sound great in hip-hop, in fact, it was one of the tips in my 10 tips for 808s article.
Essentially, it just molds the two together, creating space and complementing the other, that way there isn’t so much competition for the same frequencies.
6) Make Sure You Use Studio Headphones
Due to the fact lower end frequencies tend to be much harder to hear, it’s much better to use proper headphones like Beyerdynamic’s DT 990 Pros from Amazon for the process.
Ultimately you want to ensure that you’re making well-informed decisions in the mixing stage, rather than just winging it and coming out with something that sounds good on your laptop speakers but then awful on everything else (a problem I already explored in my review of the DT 990s).
7) Use Solo Intermittently
Truthfully, this tip can apply to almost any part of the mixing process.
In fact, as I explained in my article all about it, I do it all of the time.
Whenever I’m mixing music, not only do I have it in Mono for a majority of the time, but I’m also switching between Stereo and Mono and Solo and Regular as I’m working.
I find this makes it easier to make informed decisions on how everything sounds together.
8) Cut out the frequencies between 8000 kHz and 10,000kHz
Cutting out the aforementioned frequencies isn’t a bad idea for a number of reasons.
For one, it makes more room for other instruments in the mix, such as the hi-hats, cymbals, synths, and arpeggiators, but the highest range frequencies aren’t really necessary anyway, due to the fact that the bass falls between 20Hz and 2500kHz anyway.
In other words, the bass guitar doesn’t have many super-high range frequencies, so you might as well attenuate them altogether.
9) Use 1-5dB Adjustments
This holds true for many other instruments in the mix, as well, including piano which is the basis for almost every single MIDI keyboard (one reason I recommend getting the book PianoForAll from their site), but I digress. It’s always best to make very small changes to the EQ because it’s really not that necessary to attenuate or increase frequencies to the point where it’s completely unnatural, unless, of course, that’s your goal.
If you’ve made huge adjustments to the EQ, as well, you may find that you’ll wind up with something that sounds out of place and weird, even so much to the point that listeners will notice, which is really saying something because the casual music listener doesn’t notice many subtle changes.
10) Understand Each Frequency Range
In other words, here are some ranges to concern yourself with
15Hz to 60Hz
Boominess, Warmth, Power
This range represents the sub-bass frequencies.
For the most part, these frequencies are so low that if increased too much, they’ll make the mix sound booming to the point of discomfort, but on the other hand, if you eliminate them altogether, it will just sound like there isn’t any heart or soul in the track.
60Hz – 250Hz
Warmth, Fat or Thin.
This range, similar to the sub-bass frequencies, is still quite warm and boomy, but they’re getting to the point where they’re beginning to sound more like “openness,” to me.
In other words, it starts to sound like the bass guitar frequencies are literally opening up, and the lower notes on the bass guitar are more audible and easy to hear.
200Hz to 500Hz
Hollow, Boxy, Muddy
At this stage of the frequency spectrum, we’re getting to the point where increases and attenuations are starting to become way more obvious and easy to hear.
For that reason, I usually err on the side of caution when adjusting this range, regardless of whether I’m increasing or attenuating. If you increase the frequencies within this range, you’ll introduce more boxiness, as they say, or muddiness.
500Hz to 1000 kHz
At this area of the frequency spectrum, I find that each note kind of sounds like it’s more defined and easier to hear.
Increases at this range kind of highlight the actual pitch of the note more, rather than having the bass guitar all kind of have the same vibe regardless of what note you’re playing.
Moreover, increasing the ranges in this area is going to make the bass guitar punch through the mix a little bit more.
1000kHz to 3000kHz
Pick Attack, Clarity, Definition
Increasing this range often illuminates the sound of the pick hitting the strings, assuming you’re using a pick to play the bass guitar.
Like many other instruments, the range between 1000kHz and 5000kHz tends to make everything sound “lighter” so to speak. There is also more clarity.
However, this is the range where a lot of the imperfections might shine through as well, including amp hiss, weird picking technique, the sounds of the environment, and so on and so forth. ISP’s Decimator II Noise Gate from ZZounds is a great way of eliminating these sounds right at the source.
Additional Frequency Tips
1) 40 – 80Hz = Thump
2) 650Hz = Attack
3) 2000 kHz – 2500kHz = Snap
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That’s all for the bass guitar, for now.
When it comes to using EQ, less is almost always more.
This applies to nearly every instrument used in the music production process, so always err on the side of small boosts and cuts, rather than substantial adjustments.