Problems with levels (Bass mainly)

Hi folks

Im a newbie although Ive been using Audacity for some time now pretty much through trial and error for a year or so.

I am recording my own music now (Guitar and vocals) and I add drums from either online stock Drum tracks or from stuff like Band in a Box. The Bass I do myself with a Bass effect on my Boss GT5.

So I build up several tracks in Audacity, get the levels where I want them and through my PC monitors (Which are ok) it sounds half decent. I may play them through a set of cheap headphones or my laptop speakers and it all sounds different on each output device. What I find is if I then play the exported track on say the car Audio system or a proper hifi system the bass is often way too “bassey” :smiley: and dominates the recording.

Its totally trial and error if I get it right. I have to really knock off the bass on the PC and it sounds feeble but then on a decent stereo it probably sounds ok.

I am sure I am going about it all the wrong way but is there a way to kind of set each track within certain parameters so Im not getting normal levels on one type of player and dominant Bass on another?

Getting music to sound good on multiple different systems is quite tricky, particularly when dealing with bass.
Small speakers will typically not produce very low frequencies. Medium size speaker may either lack bass, or exaggerate bass.

Ideally, you would use expensive “studio monitor” speakers when mastering, and good quality “studio” headphone for listening closely to high frequency details (it’s often much easier to pick out clicks and hiss through headphones than speakers). You would also test on a range of cheaper speakers.
Few of us can afford really good studio monitors, so we have to make do as best we can.

If the majority of the bass guitar’s sound is below 200 Hz, then it will probably be very quiet in the mix when listening on small speakers.
Some mid-size speakers, particularly “computer speakers” or “multi-media speaker” may exaggerate low frequencies so as to give the impression of better bass response.

As a general tip, try to EQ the bass guitar sound so that it has a reasonable amount of mid-range content, rather than all low end frequencies.
Try to avoid excessive peaks in the spectrum.
A typical music MP3 would normally show a fairly even slope like this:

Many thanks for this Steve. A really useful reply.

As I suppose with many like you say I am not using studio monitors or expensive kit. Its just a progression from messing about in my old office at home with a guitar and a mic to experimenting with recording my own stuff and doing my own backing tracks. The Bass does seem to be the main issue and you have explained it well as to why that might be.

I Guess one solution seeing as you suggested boosting the mid range would be to maybe try using the equaliser in audacity on the bass tracks to boost the mid and drop the bottom end. It is still going to be trial and error though but I have one track in question that I Did recently that I would like to test it on. So I will give that a go and report back. I played it on my PC monitors sounded great, laptop / iphone headphones sounded great, laptop speakers sounded great, car stereo the boom of the bass drowned the lead guitar and when it hits a low Em Chords the windows rattled. :smiley: Sounded dreadful. Mind you this particular track there were two low frequency bass tracks as I had my guitar playing the bass using a bass effect on my GT5 and also a low frequency synth effect on one guitar track. I could probably have dropped the bass guitar effect really and just kept the low frequency synth effect.

I could post a youtube link to the track in question but not sure if youtube doesnt alter frequencies or not anyway so it might be different to the MP3. Here it is anyway.

It’s difficult to tell for sure with just the mix-down version, but I’d suggest that you try taking a bit of low-end off the guitar (around 300 Hz and below) so as to leave more “space” for the bass line. That may make the guitar sound a bit “thin” on it’s own, but your audience is not listening to the guitar on its own, they are listening to it with the bass and everything else.

Thanks but did the bass not sound dominant to you? I thought it was the bass if anything that needed knocking down. Its odd as I do a wide variety of stuff and each track ends up sounding different. Sometimes I can use the exact same bass effect on one track and its fine and on others it booms like hell despite the levels looking the same.

It really is going to be trial and error I think. I am going to try your suggestion with the mid range boost on the bass first though as that may well prove a good common denominator for most playing devices. When people say producing and sound engineering is a bit of a black art they are not kidding! :smiley: Great fun though.

I don’t think the bass needs to come down much, but at the moment, if you bring the bass down it will tend to get lost behind the guitar. Each instrument needs a bit of room to breath. Instruments should blend, but not fight each other. The mix now sounds to me like the bass and guitar are competing for that mid/low frequency range, which is tending to make the low end boomy and indistinct. (just my opinion - it’s for you to play with :slight_smile:)

Ah! I get you. Competing for the same frequencies. I wonder then what would be the best all round solution for listening to “drafts / proofs”. Obviously the pro monitors mentioned earlier but Im not in a position to spend a load of cash. I have some old Boss Headphones over ear type. Never tried them. Ill do what you suggest on the guitar and bass and give it a whirl

I think its working. Made a fair bit of difference and its no longer bouncing the doors on the car stereo but it does sound feeble on the laptop speakers but less distorted.

This is an upload of the altered version. More mid range bass with the bottom end lowered on the guitar. Needs some work but Im learning some stuff now.

This is another one that sounds ok on my kit but play it in the car and the bass is way too low and dominant and the bottom Em blows the doors off, sounds awful.

Will have a play with that one as well.

Chalk and cheese songs though huh? :smiley:

Thanks for all the help again Steve. Ill get there but its clear there is no magic fix button.