A Quick Tip On Mixing A Stubborn Bass Line

Stubborn Bass Line, Bass, Compression

I’d like to preface this week’s post by saying I play several instruments, but I will always be first and foremost a bass player!

So, the tip I’d like to share this week holds a special place in my heart when I’m fighting with a bass part that doesn’t want to keep steady levels. How many of you have been there? I know I have. If you haven’t I want to live in your world!!! There are many factors that can cause an unstable bass part. It could be the player or maybe a cheap bass with dead spots or even dead strings. When problems occur, low frequencies stick out like a sore thumb. They aren’t tight, level, or consistent.

I have the great Andrew Scheps to thank for this great trick I am about to share. I’m a huge fan of parallel compression on bass. I still use it a lot, but I don’t always care to use it. I feel sometimes it can color the signal in a way I don’t care for. Maybe I’m just guilty of overusing this technique on bass from being a proud bass player! Ha! If you have a transient shaper this is where this tip is going to help you. Take a transient designer and side-chain to your bass track with the attack turn down all the way and the sustain turned up some, but usually not all the way. This in turn will keep the low end of the bass from neither jumping out or completely disappearing from the mix. I found this to work very well and a great alternative to overusing compression, parallel compression, and volume automation. This is a brilliantly easy and effective technique you can add to your arsenal granted you have access to a transient designer.

It’s the many small tips and tricks along the way that make the biggest difference in our mixes. Most importantly it’s how we judiciously and effectively use them. Here at MixCoach our members are learning these kinds of great concepts every month. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend taking it for a test drive. Come on over and join the great community forum we have. Until next time I hope you guys get to use this tip and go mix some great tracks!

How do you go about mixing a stubborn bass line!

Stubborn Bass Line, Bass, Compression

By MattButler

Matt is a tracking and mixing engineer at Backporch Studios and Pathway Studios in Tennessee. He and his father run a music business called Butler Music Group in Nashville, TN where Backporch Studios is located. He is also a talented multi-instrumentalist who gives private lessons from home. He prides himself in being a technical geek and has a passion to help the community of MixCoach in any way he can.


  1. Wow great tips! i’m gonna use it now!
    I’m a bass player also who play other “lesser” instruments:)
    Like Jaco Pastorius once said, we have the most important role in a band. We’re so cool we don’t need the spotlight to shine!:)

  2. Nice tip… I’ll be trying that for sure. I once heard that many bassists become sound engineers because when in the studio with their bands they generally get their bass parts done early so start to take an interest in what the engineer’s doing. Not sure what this says about drummers though!
    Andy (bass player) P.
    p.s. love the Jaco quote…

  3. Hey Matt,

    I’m excited to use this. I struggle with basses that exhibit resonant notes a lot times and am always unsure how to treat them.

    I’m struggling to understand the setup of the trick. Are you duplicating the bass track and inserting the transient designer on it? Can you talk a little more on the “side-chain to your bass track,” portion of the setup?


  4. Hey Matt,

    This is a great article! Thanks for sharing. Is there any way that you could show us this technique in a video? I’m not exactly sure what a “transient designer” is. Thanks again!


  5. Hey Matt, Can you detail the statement? ” Take a transient designer and side-chain to your bass track”. Thanks, Steve.

  6. Interesting idea, BUT! I have the same question as Joel LeGros: what do you mean “side-chain to your bass track”? There has to be at least two tracks involved in side-chaining right? One getting side-chained and another doing the side-chaining. Yet you only mention the bass track. And side-chain usually is a function of a dynamics processor like a compressor. So, where does the transient designer go in this chain? Actually this is as clear as mud. You probably know what you’re talking about but I and many others see a giant hole in your explanation. I’m just sayin”

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