How to Get a Strong Bass

The first thing most people want in electronic music is a good powerful, tight bass. This is often, to the inexperienced, simply achieved by turning up the bass EQ or having lots of bass elements in the song. This isn't the case. Following that logic and progression will result in a muddy, horrible mix where the only audible elements are the bass frequencies themselves. What a mix really needs is a good balance, through which the bass will really penetrate and give people the eargasms they deserve.

The first thing we want to look at is the sensitivity of human hearing, if you look at the image below, you will notice that the  main sensitivity of the human ear is in the mid range as well as the upper-mid/lower-treble section. As the frequencies go out with this range, they are harder to hear.
This is good news for everyone as most speakers only really play the mid range and above (think tinny sounding cheap speakers). The essence of the song will almost always be in the mid range as proven by low band-width playback on old radios and television.

You can see here that iPhone and iPad speakers handle
almost no bass, same goes for most small devices.


The point I'm getting at here is, firstly, you want to ensure the mid range is good. If you want to compromise the mid range for more bass, the whole track will suffer. This is going to most likely sound worse than a track lacking in bass.

If you consider the above, you may realise that it can be used to your advantage, consider dubstep, a bass heavy genre where the "filthiest" drops are usually really bassy. Or are they?

If you actually look at the sounds the bass make, it is often quite distorted, occupying much of the mid range in upper harmonics as well. Because they are harmonics, we are still aware of the fundamental frequency even if it isn't through the roof in relative volume. 

In fact, this is why dubstep can sound filthy on most sound systems, simply because of the mid-range energy. While there are still sub-lines, they are usually just for low end power on big systems and the main sound is present without them.

So next time you write a bass line, consider making one with a lot of harmonic content so it fills the spectrum more, making it appear more than it is. All you need to top it off is a sine wave sub line an octave below for the sub feel in your chest and instantly heavier bass.

If your track is set for the clubs, remember at high volume the bass is perceived as louder anyway and so in your low-level mixing environment, always allow for that consideration. Figure out what tracks sound good in a club and use them as reference tracks, refer to them frequently and match the mix levels. Look at the spectrum of the song and see what are appropriate levels of frequencies.

Remember the bass never has to be this powerful,
just enough to punch air from the speaker
ports.