Today I have a great tutorial that will give you some techniques you can use to compress a bass sound. Good bass compression settings will help your bass sound sit well in a mix and work well with other low-end instruments like the kick drum.
Throughout all my experience in audio production I have found that there’s only a few compressors that work well on bass sounds. Not all compressors will work well on bass sounds.
For me, the plugin that works well with most bass sounds is the CLA-3A by Waves. Other plugins that are good for bass compression are the UAD 1176 Compressor, Waves CLA-2A (but good on bass guitar), Waves Bass Rider and the DBX 160. These are the ones I have tested, feel free to share the one you like in the comments section below.
Bass Compression Settings
Before you can start compressing your bass, ask yourself whether the sound does need to be compressed or not. I always record my bass sounds using a bass guitar or a midi keyboard so the volume of the sound will never be constant so I have to compress.
Look at the image below for a visual example of a sound that is not constant in volume.
As you can see the velocity is not the same so I’ll need to compress the bass to help it sit well in the mix without any parts jumping up and down while the whole song is playing.
1st thing I’ll do is export the midi part into a mono wav file, not stereo because I want the bass sound to be in the center of the stereo image. Even when I record a bass guitar I always use a mono channel for a punchy and more clearer sound.
The next thing I’ll do is insert at least 3 to 5 compressors then choose one that is working well on the project I’m working on. I never find myself using the same compressor, every project has a different compressor and the settings never stay the same.
To find good envelope settings for compression I always push the ratio to unlimited. A high ratio will make the compression obvious and will make it easy to get a good envelope(attack and release time).
A simple guideline you can follow is to use a fast to medium attack with a fast release for a bass with short notes. If the bass notes are long then use a fast attack with a medium to long release time.
But there’s no right or wrong, your ears should be the judge. How much gain reduction you need will depend on the dynamics of the sound. Play your bass sound then compare the difference between the soft and loud parts.
If your loud part is peaking at -10dB and your soft part at -13dB then your gain reduction should be around -3dB to get the loud and soft part in the same volume. But the ratio setting will play a big role as it will determine how much compression must be applied.
It is true that the bass notes need to be even but for someone like me who’s making music that has a jazz feel, I always have to keep everything organic so I don’t compress much. If you’re making pop, rock or ectro house music then you can use heavy compression.
Always try to use speakers when mixing your bass, avoid ear buds or at least get a good pair of studio monitor headphones and use a lot of reference material.
One last thing I have to mention is that be careful with your attack setting because if it’s too fast it will cause the bass to distort and kill the transient.
That’s it for today, see you again tomorrow for another production technique. Hope this post will help you get some bass compression ideas. Leave comments below to let me know what you think about the post or if you have any questions.