What’s wrong with scooping the mids of your bass?

Human ear can hear sounds between (roughly) 20Hz and 20KHz. And it is not objective; we hear some frequencies better than others – typically the mids.

Generally speaking (ignoring artistic philosophies and whatnot); humans like to hear a full spectrum in a song where all frequencies between 20Hz and 20KHz are occupied and the volumes are set according to our subjective ears. Humans also tend to dislike the mud-ball sound where certain frequency ranges are overburdened by frequencies – possibly by multiple instruments.

So; our general purpose is to spread our sounds to the frequency spectrum in such a way that the entire spectrum is filled while instruments don’t clash and fight each other in overburdened areas. Typically; kick drums dominate the subs, cymbals dominate the high trebles, female vocals dominate the high-mid – trebles, etc…

Now… What’s wrong with scooping the mids? Depends on the mix.

If the “mids” (whatever frequency you mean by that) need to be dominated by other instruments; scooping the mids of your bass would be just right way to go. Jazz Bass and StingRay are two typical basses which easily produce that sound. However, you need to ensure that your lows don’t clash with the kick and your highs have enough room to be heard. Otherwise, you will get a muddy mix where your bass is choked and won’t be heard as well.

However; more often than not, the low-mid area of the spectrum is relatively idle. That’s the perfect place for the bass guitar to sit and dominate, because it is higher than the kick but lower than the musical frequencies of snare / guitars / etc. That’s why Precision basses are so popular – they naturally sit there without much effort.

Number of instruments is also an important factor here. Humans hear mid frequencies better than others, and hear frequencies relative to each other. For example; if you add too much treble on your amp, you may perceive a loss of low-end despite the fact that you didn’t touch the bass knob. Likewise; if you have a mid-heavy bass sound in a dense mix, it won’t sound out-of-place because you hear it “relative” – within other instruments. But in a sparse mix, too much mids can sound harsh and unpleasing to us because we hear it too much already.

In this light; if you have a limited number of instruments (like a power trio), you could find a relatively mid-scooped sound more musical and pleasing (typically a Jazz Bass) because there is enough sonic space for everyone. Additional mids may even stick out too much and sound unpleasant.

As your mix gets more and more dense, you may want to shift towards the relatively idle area of the low-mids (typically a Precision Bass). This may sound too harsh to your ears when playing alone; but in a band situation where other frequencies are already filled, it will sound nice because you’ll perceive it relative to other sounds.

None of those are laws or engraved rules; I merely wanted to point to the “right” direction with typical examples.

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