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Old 03-07-2014, 12:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Why is the bass ususally so quiet?

In most bands I've listened to, the bass guitar is pretty..quiet. As soon as the distortion guitars come in, I can only hear the bass if I really listen for it, or but your bass setting higher in an equalizer or on your speaker or something. Like, the rest of the instruments are way louder.
Seriosly, I wonder, why is the bass ususally so quiet? I know that's not the case in all tyepes of music, but it is with most music that I listen to.
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Old 03-07-2014, 12:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Human hearing isn't as sensitive to lower frequencies, so the bass sounds seem to be quieter.



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Old 03-07-2014, 12:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Dylstew View Post
In most bands I've listened to, the bass guitar is pretty..quiet. As soon as the distortion guitars come in, I can only hear the bass if I really listen for it, or but your bass setting higher in an equalizer or on your speaker or something. Like, the rest of the instruments are way louder.
Seriosly, I wonder, why is the bass ususally so quiet? I know that's not the case in all tyepes of music, but it is with most music that I listen to.
It's not that it's quiet. It's that low frequencies are harder to detect especially amongst higher sound frequencies. Equalizers, settings, pedals... all that fancy stuff does not make the frequency higher (or lower, for that matter). Low frequency sound waves are also bigger so they dissipate much faster than high frequency sound waves, and low frequency waves also travel much closer to the ground and don't resonate or echo off of objects as well. If the bass was absent from a song, you would know it. The absence of bass sound in any music that usually has it is a glaring omission.

It's also harder to listen for bass sounds in any music since it's just there for harmonization and keeping the music moving along. In most genres, the bass is rarely featured as a solo instrument.

If you are alone in a room with a bass guitarist or a tuba player, or any other low instrument and you still can't hear it, then there is a problem with your ears.
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Burning Down View Post
It's not that it's quiet. It's that low frequencies are harder to detect especially amongst higher sound frequencies. Equalizers, settings, pedals... all that fancy stuff does not make the frequency higher (or lower, for that matter). Low frequency sound waves are also bigger so they dissipate much faster than high frequency sound waves, and low frequency waves also travel much closer to the ground and don't resonate or echo off of objects as well. If the bass was absent from a song, you would know it. The absence of bass sound in any music that usually has it is a glaring omission.

It's also harder to listen for bass sounds in any music since it's just there for harmonization and keeping the music moving along. In most genres, the bass is rarely featured as a solo instrument.

If you are alone in a room with a bass guitarist or a tuba player, or any other low instrument and you still can't hear it, then there is a problem with your ears.
Thanks for the explenation. I can hear the bass just fine if I think of it, but I usually just forget about it because it sounds that quiet. But if equalizers don't change anything, than why is it that when I put the bass equalizer up on my PC/Phone or on a speaker that it's easier to hear? At least it seemed like it.

When I was at the place I'm getting singing lessons , there was a band playing in a room downstairs. You couldn't hear that much, but the bass was the loudest thing of all, it made everything feel like, shaky. Why does it sound louder outside of the room than in the room? I have no idea how sound works xP.
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:17 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Another consideration is your listening environment and listening medium. When songs are professionally mixed and mastered, they're usually done so with the right amount of bass. However, if you are listening with speakers that can't produce such low frequencies, you'll be hearing the higher harmonics of the bass and it won't be as "full". Alternately, if you do have full-range speakers, your listening position might be compromising the low end in the form of nulls, where low frequencies meet in certain positions out of phase of one another and cancel each other out.

You can test this by moving around the room and noticing the bass level changing depending on where you are in the room. This is common in acoustically untreated rooms.

If you're listening on headphones, you might find a different experience with different cans than with speakers. The headphones make room modes irrelevant, but then again, headphones don't have 6 inch woofers on them, so they'll be reproducing low frequency content in different ways, to good or bad effect.

As to why bass sounds louder outside the room, it's because of the room and the length of the low frequencies, room modes, etc. There are very technical explanations available on the web if you search around for articles about audio acoustics.

Edit:

Regarding the mixing process, mixes are going to highlight bass more when it's supposed to be the focus, then when other elements are showcasing, the bass will usually be mixed in a more supportive role than a showcasing role, if the genre calls for it. In general, you're not going to want every element competing for attention. When we listen to music, we tend to focus on one thing at a time. The way songs are mixed take this into account to create a sense of excitement and emphasis on various portions of a song, and that can only be done well if certain sounds take a back stage to the elements being showcased.
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I know some of the posters above have said similar stuff, but in most mainstream genre bands (pop, rock, alternative, metal) the bass guitar is used to set the tempo for the rest of the players, and form the basis for the song. Few bands actually make use of the bass as an instrument as part of the song, such as a bass guitar solo.

Source: a close friend who was in a band.

In some bands like Aerosmith, that also employ a second guitar player to play rhythm guitar, the bass guitar is almost completely indistinguishable from the rest of the song.

There are some notable exceptions to this though.
The late Cliff Burton of Metallica created some KILLER bass guitar solos.
It's because of Burton that if I was ever going to learn to play an instrument, it would be the bass guitar.

Don't ever think that the bass guitar is unnecessary, good bass players are actually invaluable for a band and surprisingly rare.

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Old 03-08-2014, 03:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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As most of us already know, the bass guitar is usually just recorded for tempo purposes in the final mix more so than as a dominating instrument. Especially with a lot of the classic rock. At the same time, there are a lot of artists that build the song around the bass lines, like Peter Gabriel for instance. Most stereo systems have bass boost these days anyway, so you can actually listen to it either way, with or without a dominating bass sound.
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