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Tip to Make a Bass Line More Audible

LoudLon [moderator]
Posts: 1823
11 months ago
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Earlier today I got a PM asking me for advice on how to tune your ear better to pick up a bass line from a song. The short answer is that there is no easy way. You have to put in the time. Sit down and replay the song three, five, twenty, fifty times, however many times it takes until your ear has locked onto the bass.

However, there are some songs in which the bass has been under-mixed, and no matter how well-tuned your ear is or how many times you run through it, you just can't make it out. In those cases, I've found that adjusting a song's tuning up one octave can help the bass pop out better.

When faced with such a song, I use a program called Transcribe! (not saying you have to use that program, I'm not a paid representative, any program that lets you adjust tuning will do). In replying to the PM earlier, I decided to whip up a clip wherein I presented a song in its original form, with a bass line that isn't totally clear, and then presented it with the tuning shifted up an octave. Notice how much more clearly the bass stands out in the altered portion:

From there, it's just a matter of remembering to tab the original, lower octave, not the higher, altered one.
Posts: 3139
Wow that really works, I guess the bass falls below the frequency that most people's ears are tuned to and this trick brings the bass into that frequency
Posts: 460
It can be your ear, but also the speakers you are listening through often don't cover the bass frequencies well - on this laptop I'm using you can't hear any bass at all through the speakers. No kick drum, either. It's just not audible through these half inch “full range” drivers. I use headphones (the Apple earbuds aren't bad, either) to pick up the bass if I have to listen on the laptop. Or use the line-in on my practice amp.

Or kick things up an octave, as Lon does. Or maybe both?
Posts: 460
And maybe I'm the last to find this out, but YouTube allows you to change the playback speed, with no tone shift, off the Settings menu for the video:

It gets pretty unlistenable below about 75%, but it can be useful to figure out what is being played, especially in faster sections of a song.
LoudLon [moderator]
Posts: 1823
I didn't know that. I'll have to check that feature out. Thanks for the heads up.
My solution is kind of hybrid. In hard cases I use full size headphones and eq the song for more bass (and sometimes less mid and/or high). To find the right notes I try to play along. If this doesn't give the desired result, I try playing along one octave higher. Works great for me…

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