With this article we hope to help you understand how to EQ jazz bass when you come across it in your mix.
As a rule of thumb, start with a low-cut filter around 60-80 Hz and boost, if necessary, around 100-150 to achieve a meaty sound, and to avoid muddiness apply a cut around 200-250 Hz. To get rid of any plastic sound, you should apply a gentle cut around 1-1.5 kHz and to achieve a bright and velvet sound, apply a high-shelf boost around 5 kHz.
Before applying an equalizer, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, you need to keep in mind that Jazz Bass is very versatile in terms of tone, so you need to tweak it accordingly to the desired result. Then, to save you some time editing the track, you should record your Jazz Bass properly. If there are some minor issues that spoil the general impression of the recorded material, then you should spend some time editing and fixing them. Finally, if you want your bass track to sound smooth and consistent, it’s a good idea to apply compression, but try not to overdo it.
A bit of history
In the golden age of the 50’s and 60’s, Fender had already invented a few very famous guitars, the Telecaster, Stratocaster, the Jazzmaster, and Precision Bass. The last one specifically was designed by keeping in mind precise intonation, loud and boomy sound, and ease of use. But at the end of the 50’s, it was time to look further and expand the existing bass category with a new bass that would complement the Precision Bass. That’s how the Jazz Bass was born.
It’s pretty obvious that Jazz Bass was a deluxe instrument because it had 2 pickups instead of one, therefore, giving tonal versatility that wasn’t previously provided by Precision Bass. It’s said that the secret weapon of this guitar was its bridge pickup which was capable of producing trebly high-end and deep and low midrange growl. Additionally, Jazz Bass had tone and volume controls for both pickups and their tonal personalities could be blended in various ways. So, you got a wide-range palette of pleasing bass sounds that were very unique in those days. Also, the bass had an especially user-friendly neck, which was mentioned multiple times by a number of bass players, that was more narrow at the nut and thinner front-to-back.
Interestingly enough, despite being named Jazz Bass, when it was released, a lot of jazz players ignored the fact of its existence. But as some time passed, this bass was noticed, liked, and played by jazz players in some cases.
As it was said before, Jazz Bass offers you a great deal of tonal versatility and it has 3 basic controls. The knob closest to the input jack adjusts the master tone of both pickups. The knob closest to the bridge pickup controls the volume of the bridge pickup and provides a brighter tone. And the knob closest to the neck controls the volume of the neck pickup providing a warmer tone.
Speaking about the master tone knob, with its help, you can add or cut treble frequencies from the overall tone, in other words, the overall darkness or brightness of the signal. The bridge pickup knob, when turned clockwise, makes the overall tone more defined and brighter, and it adds attack, punchiness, and bite to the signal. By tweaking the neck pickup knob, you will get a less defined, deeper, and rounder tone.
Before starting recording, you ought to make sure that your Jazz Bass is tuned and you have to check tuning between every take. It might look rather boring, but it’s way better than fixing tuning later. Also another good idea is to use an audio interface with suitable preamps or a DI box. You should monitor the situation, reassure yourself of having proper gain levels and be aware of clipping. When using a real amplifier, double-check the placements of your mics, and do as many takes as you need till that moment that you have the right sound.
Edit & Fix
It’s quite a common situation that after you’ve done all necessary preparations, there are some audible issues with tracks that need to be fixed right away. You may be a beginner musician or a very seasoned one, still, it’s hardly unlikely that you’ll get a stellar part in one take. So, to eliminate any inconsistencies, you should review and relisten to all of your material and edit the tracks together. Nothing would stop you from combining two parts from different takes into one.
The main idea of applying compression is to make the Jazz Bass more consistent and smooth. To achieve that, you should use a slower attack in order not to choke the initial transients. To bring up the sustain of Jazz Bass guitar, you should set a slow release. The numbers would differ from situation to situation, so set the attack and release in a way that you will hear a low end to be consistent and smooth throughout your track.
If you used automation on your bass track, then you shouldn’t be bothered by the consistency of gain reduction. But if it’s not the case, then generally, it’s 3-6 dB of gain reduction, so you have to set the threshold accordingly. Talking about ratio, it all relies on the effect that you want to achieve. Depending on how you want your compression to be subtle or more aggressive, you should either use lower ratios or higher ones.
Once you have the track with the recorded Jazz Bass edited, fixed, and compressed, if necessary, it’s time to apply EQ. Basically, there are only two essential moves you have to consider, which are subtracting or adding volume to different frequency ranges, a functionality available in any EQ plugin. That said, there are a lot of specialized EQs to choose from out there on the market, and you should really make your choice according to your vision of the track, and apply them as needed. It is important to keep in mind the aim and the style of your recording, because a lot of EQing decisions rely on that. We’ll explain the general view of bass equalization further ahead in this article.
The best place to start EQing a Jazz Bass guitar, as any bass guitar, is a low-cut filter. The reason to do that is that there’s a lot of information in sub-frequencies that you don’t want to leave in your mix, as there’s a chance that you’ll end up with an incoherent and very muddy mix. In order to avoid that, as well as avoiding conflicting your Jazz Bass with the kick drum, you should apply a low-cut filter somewhere around 60-80 Hz. Generally, it’s a good idea to boost low frequencies when possible in order to achieve weight and meaty sound. So you can boost around 100-150 Hz and it would do the trick.
When it comes to bass guitars, Jazz Bass included, the low-midrange is that area that you should pay attention to. Because it is likely that your Jazz Bass will overlap with other instruments in this range, that will cause the mix to sound rather muddy and a bit boomy, in order to avoid that, you should apply a cut around 200-250 Hz which should do the trick and emphasize your Jazz Bass. If your Jazz Bass sounds a bit thinner than you want it to, you can add 400-600 Hz to achieve warmth and fullness. But be careful because if you add more than that, you will end up with a woofy sound.
Within this range, you can find frequencies that are considered to be harsh, plastic, and generally very unpleasant to the ear. You should definitely get rid of them by applying a gentle cut somewhere around 1-1.5 kHz. If you aim at achieving an edgy tone, you should consider adding a bit more, up to 2 kHz, this will give you clank and definition.
It’s a good idea to add some sparkle and make a velvet sound by applying a high-shelf boost somewhere around 5 kHz. Also, you should be prepared that those frequencies might conflict with those that are in drum overheads, so you ought to choose which one is preferable for you. If you want to achieve a cleaner and more contained sound, it’s a good idea to apply a high-cut filter somewhere around 15 kHz.
If you’re already a happy owner of a jazz bass guitar, you know that you have a really mighty and versatile instrument that, when tweaked according to your musical idea and style, will give a really superb result. Whether you’re a beginner musician or a very seasoned one, you still have to spend some time editing and fixing some minor issues in your recording and possibly applying compression. As Jazz Bass is indeed a bass guitar, you should apply standard mixing and EQing process as you would with any bass guitar, that said, you might go for a specific type of EQ to achieve certain coloration.