Progressive Rock Bass mixing tips ("Polarized")
I found that bass is one of the instruments that everybody got a tough time getting a good tone. Often time, engineers/bassists/producers struggled with getting the right low end, I am talking about 60hz range, most of the time I received bass recording that are lack of low end. That mostly because of their listening environment and studio monitors that doesn’t produce accurate low end response. Therefore, bassists or engineers they EQ’ed wrongly which is hard to reverse it in later stage. I always suggest bassists to record the bass flat (No EQ on the bass) if they aren’t sure about the tone, there are many ways to modify the tone later on in a more accurate listening environment. Another thing is adding pedals and distortions, a lot of bassists, who are not sure about what works with the track, often time add the wrong distortion/buzz/high end/overdrive to the bass recordings which is definitely not reversible later on. I always recommend to record the dry DI signal (straight from the bass) and the processed signal (with pedals, amp, effects etc), at least you have the DI signal as a safety. You can always re-amp the DI track later to get the right tone.
For different style of music it requires a different bass tone, a great session bassist will know what to offer to the table when it comes to that. Producers and engineers also contribute to that with their experience. Some style of music, you would want to use just the bass DI signal; some style of music, you would use a mostly a bass DI signal and a bit of the bass amp signal; and in some case you would use only the bass amp signal. For progressive rock music, I personally like the slightly overdriven bass amp tone, like the big tube Ampeg SVT, you get that tight & deep low end, with a focus & punchy low mid and soaring overdriven top end that cut through the dense wall of distorted guitars. But in reality, it is not easy & cheap to record a loud tube Ampeg bass amp at home studio.
This is the first song that I worked on for the album, I received the 2 audio files for the bass, 1 for the DI signal and 1 processed signal with Darkglass microtubes BK7 distortion pedal. The DI signal was sounding great to start with, it has a enough frequency information to start with, very usable material. The distortion signal wasn’t too useful in this case after you put it in the mix, I knew from experience it won’t the main tone of the bass, but I always kept it maybe I ll blend it in later one or for other purposes, who knows. Therefore the DI signal will be main signal for the bass. I duplicated the tracks and re-amped them differently to simulate a real amp situations that going to work in this track. I had a sound in my head from experience and understanding of this genre. I didn’t have a real amp either so I used IK multimedia Amplitude 4 to do a similar job, and it always deliver.
Original DI signal has good low end and high end, but the lack of lower mid range that give the bass size and definition. Therefore I ran it through a 1176 blackface compressor first to control the dynamics (limit it, so there won’t be any fluctuation in tube responses in the re-amp process), then re-amped it with a SVT classic. You hear the energy shifted, from loose tone to a focus and punchy tone. This is the main sound of the bass.
Original Bass DI signal:
After re-amping with a SVT-4:
Darkglass microtube B7K distortion:
Final bass sound: