How to Use High Mids to Find the Bass Tone You’re Looking For, Reprinted Courtesy of carvinaudio.com
Some of the awesome adjectives bassists use to describe their ideal tone- for instance, “grindy,” “punchy” “clanky”- can be attributed to a single knob present on many of today’s bass amps. While the big picture of overall tone depends on a myriad of different factors, from the amp and cab to the bass itself, and of course the player’s technique, the often-overlooked high mids knob can be just what you need to dial your tone into its sweet spot.
As we have mentioned before, the primary job of the bass player in a band context is to hold down the low end. However, even though it’s a bass guitar, the way the midrange and treble are dialed in has an instrumental role to how the bass sounds in the mix. Straddling the line between these two crucial EQ points is the high midrange, also called the high mids or upper mids.
If you’re used to the standard three-band EQ (bass/mid/treble) setup, you may not be used to the midrange frequency being separated into low mids and high mids. However, Carvin Audio bass amp heads such as the B1000 and BX1600 come equipped with high mid controls for extra flexibility. While it may seem like it would take more time to dial in your sound with those extra knobs, especially in a live context, it’s actually quite easy. Simply put, the low mids reside around 400Hz and affect the fullness of your bass. A lot of sound resides in the high mids, located at approximately 800Hz. Sweeping the high mid knob can have a huge effect on the overall presence and attack of your bass sound. (For a complete primer on bass EQ frequencies, check out our previous article here.)
This is not to say that the high mids are the most important piece of the equalization puzzle, as proper bass EQ relies on each and every frequency band available. It is important to realize that the human ear naturally hears midrange frequencies louder and more clearly. This is also why the average listener will more readily discern a guitar than a bass guitar! For that reason, the bass’s midrange content will cut through the mix in a way that’s more perceivable to the audience.
When the high mid control is cranked, the bass sound will have more attack, edge, and definition. This is especially useful for genres like punk rock that require a gritty, in your face bass sound. If you want to add definition and clarity to your bass parts live, try turning up this knob and seeing what results you get. For pick players seeking an aggressive sound, this knob provides a prime path to a sweet spot, especially in conjunction with overdrive from cranking the amp drive or by using an overdrive pedal, but be careful to avoid excesses. Similarly, bassists who play with their fingers and want a more pick-like, articulate sound out of their bass will get good results from a bump in this range.
If you’re going after warm, rounded tones, rolling the high mid knob back can help you get there. By doing so, the harshness and clank is gradually removed from the bass sound. Too much cut here and things might get a little muddy, so be sure to make small adjustments at a time. A good practice is to start with the high mid knob set around the center position and play, as you normally would, and then adjust the knob to taste.
Even though you are playing bass, mids, and especially high mids are important! Knowing when and how to adjust the high mid knob can go a long way, when dialing in your character of bass tone and how it sits in the mix onstage.