How To Mix FAT Bass Guitar: Using Distortion To Fatten Up Bass Tracks

Have you ever found yourself in a situation whereby you’ve mixed the bass the best way you know how but you still can’t get the bass to cut through the mix or translate well in all sound devices?

In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to mix FAT bass guitar, you’ll learn how to use distortion to fatten up bass tracks in a mix.

In most professional recordings you’ll find 2 types of bass tracks, the DI (Direct Injection, this is a bass sound that is recorded though a DI box) and an Amp (simply explanatory) bass sounds. While in some cases you’ll only find the DI.

In most mixes, only using the DI bass will work just fine and in other cases having both will help the bass cut through a dense mix and become audible in small speakers and smart phones.

So, in this tutorial I want to show you what you can do if you only have a DI bass that is not cutting through a mix.

How To Mix FAT Bass Guitar: Using Distortion To Fatten Up Bass Tracks

The best way to make sure that your bass guitar or even a synth bass cuts through a dense mix is to duplicate the original signal then turn it into an Amp bass track.

The problem with modern recordings is that they tend to sound too digital and clean. To help fix that problem, first insert a tape machine emulation plugin to make your bass track sound warmer, smoother, punchier, and more analog!

The first thing that I usually do on any bass track (DI, Amp, Synth etc) is to insert a tape emulation plugin to give it some sonic character and analog sound.

Once you’ve added some warmth to the duplicate bass track then the next step is to crunch or crush the duplicate with an amp emulation plugin. A solid amp emaulation plugin without any fizziness lets you crank up your bass without losing the low end.

This will result in a fatter sound that will cut through a dense mix, audible in small speakers and translate well in many sound devices.

You can apply this process to a VST instrument bass sounds as well, so don’t think this will only work with live bass sounds only.

Just make sure that you choose a solid amp emulation that doesn’t add unwanted fuzziness or compromise the tone.

The next step will be to shape the tone of your bass track using an equalizer.

The things that I usually do is to remove the low-end because this is a duplicate of the DI so you’ll have phase issues that will take away all the punchiness of the bass track.

So, to avoid phase cancellation I use a high-pass filter together with a low-shelf filter cut.

If the amp emulation plugin that I’m using is adding some muddy frequencies then I’ll sweep around the frequency spectrum then reduce the mud.

Then I’ll create a boost in the upper midrange frequencies to emphasize the presence and snap of the bass so that the notes can become more audible. This way you can easily tell which notes are being played on the bass.

The EQ should be your final step and at this point your bass should be cutting through the mix.

Another thing I would do is to add a compressor just for character, maybe with a -1dB of gain reduction since the amp would have reduced all the loud peaks and kept the volume of the bass consistent.

The compressor is just there to take care of the loud boost that I created on the EQ to make sure it doesn’t go out of control. To EQ into compression also gives you a more pleasant sound that cuts through.

The final step is to bring down the volume of the amp bass then blend it with the DI bass. Don’t make it too obvious and make sure it doesn’t overpower the DI.

If for some reason you still can’t hear the bass clear in other parts of the song then the best option will be to group both bass tracks then use automation to help the bass to be audible throughout the entire song.

Feel free to automate the bass tracks individually if you have to. Do what will work best for the project that you’re currently working on.

I trust that you found this tutorial valuable and it does help you learn how to fatten your bass tracks, and be confident to send your final mix for mastering without any doubts.

If you have any questions then leave a comment below or even if you just want to add to the discussion comment below. If this tutorial does help you improve your mixes then please share it to spread the love.

One comment

  1. This method worked very well for me. It took a bit of experimentation to find the right amp and compressor, but the final results were very good. It did a remarkable job of tightening up a flabby bass. Even just the first step alone (Waves Abbey Road J-37 plug-in) was a big improvement.

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