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I Can't Hear Bass

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Blackhole12
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I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 01:37 AM Reply

I have been making music on newgrounds for long enough that it makes me feel old. Many things have changed, like the fact that my music isn't completely terrible anymore, but one thing hasn't:

"THIS NEEDS MORE BASS!"

Four years ago in my AP Music Theory class, I noticed that I was able to very accurately deconstruct and transcribe 4-part harmonies... except the bass. For notes near or lower than C3, they blurred together into an indistinct mess, making it impossible for me to decipher them. I thought, perhaps, this was just the shitty sound system we were using, but none of the other students had any trouble with the bass at all. I began to get suspicious - I had never really liked bass, but my only experience with it was either a blurry, indistinct rumble, or something I could feel, and if I could feel it, chances are the music was way too loud for my liking. I have sensitive ears, and listen to music (and everything else) at a significantly lower volume than most people. Hence, by the time I can actually feel the bass, you are probably bothering my ears.

Unfortunately, having sensitive ears doesn't have any advantages. Testing with a sine wave indicates I can hear up to 17.3 kHz, and down to 60 Hz, which is perfectly normal. This, however, didn't help me when someone sent me a song and asked if I liked it. I said it was boring. They asked about the bassline. I said "What bassline?" Just for fun, I took one of my more bassey songs and started cutting out some of the low frequencies. I couldn't tell whether the filter was on or off all the way up to 160 Hz.

This indicates one of two possibilities: Either I never listen to things at a high enough volume to really notice the bass, or I can't hear it. Either way, everyone always tells me my songs need more low end, but short of putting my foot on my sub or looking at EQ levels, I really can't tell what they are talking about. I'll "improve" the song to closer match their liking without ever being able to tell the difference. I can go to a venue with obviously properly configured bass and I still can't hear it. Naturally, this means everything involving bass is completely opaque to me, because its just thumps and rumbles, and that's if it isn't making my ears bleed. To this day I have no idea what the difference between muddy bass and not-muddy-bass is because I can't hear it.

As far as I can tell, my musical experience is missing a component that many people seem to consider extremely important. It also means my avatar is almost as ironic as my love of techno music is.

FatKidWitAJetPak
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 01:44 AM Reply

Hmm... its may possibly be the headphones you are using. Tell me, do you hear the bass in this song?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqykkgKycxM

The bass line really kicks in before one minute. It goes up and down a little bit in the background, accompanied by a hard solid bass for beat in the foreground. It has many layers and may be a little hard to focus on, since it is Psychadelic Trance, but try replaying the first segment a few times.

And im using fucking Bose. Lol.

*which i love >:C*
Blackhole12
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 01:55 AM Reply

At 9/3/12 01:44 AM, FatKidWitAJetPak wrote: Hmm... its may possibly be the headphones you are using. Tell me, do you hear the bass in this song?

As I tried to explain in the post, this has occurred regardless of where I am, what headphones I'm using, or what sound system I'm hearing it through. I know this because I've never experienced anything different. Music didn't suddenly have "bass" when I switched to high quality headphones or hear something through a high quality sound system short of it simply being loud enough so I can feel it, which is usually just incredibly annoying. Again, I'm not sure if its just me not playing things at a loud enough volume to notice the bass, or if I'm actually not correctly processing frequencies below 160 Hz. I can still detect them all the way down to 60 Hz, though, and in that song I certainly hear a bass synth in the background, but I can't tell you if that's the "bass" I'm hearing or simply the overtones, and you have no ability to explain to me if I am or am not missing something because by definition I could not possibly understand it.

Breed
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 03:40 AM Reply

I'm sorry but this makes the opposite of sense to me. Generally when someone hears less or more of a certain range they are prone to accommodating to make up for it. It's like when people use beats headphones to mix their music. Because the bass is boosted so much in them, people end up thinking their bass sounds fine when its actually weak in the mix.

The issue of discerning bass pitch however is pretty well known. Most people experience it somewhat, and others more so. When I took aural classes in college, more students than not had this same experience. Some people are opposite, and don't hear melody lines or high end pitches very well. I personally was blessed with a very small bit of a midrange(1-3khz to be more precise) sensitivity. I don't discern pitch in that range all that well so mid parts in a transcription are always my problem. It also happens to be the range of human speech integrity, which means on occasion I don't understand people well(especially on phones), even though their voice sound plenty loud.

Learning that about yourself is how you fix your problems. In this case, I think your low end hearing is just fine. It may be a part your speaker system having a skew to the upper end causing your bass to sound larger than it is. And it may be a part in your own head where you can't really hear the harmonic significance of the fundamental bass/subbass line, and as a result it feels more natural to you to lower it a bit.

Really though,, if your hearing is what you say it is, then your mixes should sound too bass-y, not bass lacking.

Blackhole12
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 04:32 AM Reply

At 9/3/12 03:40 AM, Breed wrote: The issue of discerning bass pitch however is pretty well known.

This is, as far as I can tell, the primary issue here, in that my pitch recognition completely dissolves beyond C3. I know I can hear bass in that I can tell when tones are playing all the way down to 60 Hz, as I tested, but I still have difficulty being able to recognize that its there in a song below 160 Hz. The thing is making the bass really loud doesn't ever help in any meaningful way, in that I can't even tell the mix is bassy unless it destroys my sub. The fact that I've given one of my songs to someone for them to improve the low-end and being totally incapable of recognizing the result, despite the fact that I know I can hear tones down to 60 Hz seems to indicate some kind of perceptual issue, but I'm not really sure what it is. It can't be that the bass is too quiet, because then I'd do what you said and that doesn't happen. It can't be that the bass is too loud, either, because then I'd want to turn the bass down, and I simply can't tell if something has lots of bass or not (without touching something).

So, its a very subtle and bizarre issue.

stratkat
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 05:02 AM Reply

All my old music lacks a low end, people told me the same thing, more low end, I was most concerned with composition and melody, butafter I bought monitors, and god headphones and producing for a while, I have to fill the low end, really I have to fill the whole spectrum or it feels hollow. I played guitar 5 years prior to producing, and I've produced for 2.5 years, and only in the last year maybe a little less, I've been filling out the low end. Though I have produced as long as you, I do have a very high output of music and spend a lot of time in my DAW, and am currently going to school for electronic music production at berklee. Maybe you just need to develop your ears a bit more? Better studio phones would help too, with good ones you can hear the bass, with others you feel it, then with crap ones it's nonexistent.

Blackhole12
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 05:48 AM Reply

If I need to develop my ears more, why can people who have zero experience in this point out to me that I have no low-end and I can't tell at all? People give me examples of songs with low-end and I can't figure out what they are talking about.

Every single time I post about this the answer is always "You need better headphones." How can this be true when people with much crappier setups then me can still tell that I have no low-end? How is it that almost everyone can tell that my song is missing bass no matter what off-the-shelf equipment they have? They don't have studio monitors, they don't even know what an equalizer is, and they can still tell that I am missing a low-end, and I don't know how to fix it because I can't tell.

FatKidWitAJetPak
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 09:00 AM Reply

At 9/3/12 05:48 AM, Blackhole12 wrote: If I need to develop my ears more, why can people who have zero experience in this point out to me that I have no low-end and I can't tell at all? People give me examples of songs with low-end and I can't figure out what they are talking about.

Bass is very subtle to me, but ive noticed a very, very wide variety in bass tones. Some purposely make the bass subtle while other blow it up in your face. PantyRaid, for example, uses a very noticable bassline in this song here, while the example i used before has a harder to hear bassline. Explain exactly what you hear in this song. They really use a large range of low frequenies and high frequencies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZVEFpMXo5E&sns=em

Mrmilkcarton
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 10:24 AM Reply

Bass is tricky. If you can't hear it then maybe you should just use an analyzer that shows you the frequencies of your song. Low end works weird, I can't for the life of me remember the technical term but the way it works is this.... In many stereo systems you'll see a setting for "Loudness" what this essentially does is boost the low end by some some ratio to the volume. The lower the volume the more it will boost the bass to make it sound even. As you boost the volume the loudness make up will get lower and lower because the bass won't have to be boosted as the loudness evens out.

I've always perceived bass as the driving force to the harmonic integrity of the song. Without the bass my chords are open ended and don't flow quite as well as they do with it. It's personal taste how you mix your bass though, too much will ruin it too little may make it seem thin.

PS this is the loudness thing i was talking about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-loudness_contour

RobSoundtrack
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 01:01 PM Reply

Dont forget, if you are deciphering complete pieces, others may be using context clues for bass.
Like you said, you transcribed the four part harmonies.
If you have a four part harmony, you probably already know the underlying bass tone....


BBS Signature
Blackhole12
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 08:45 PM Reply

So to test the whole volume thing, I turned the volume up much higher than I normally do and listened to my submission to the NGADM round 2 (which supposedly needs more low-end), and then to the pantyraid song, which supposedly has a very noticable bassline, on my normal desktop speaker + subwoofer setup.

As far as I could tell, there was no particular difference between the songs. There was that bass thump my kick had and then various other rumbles that I could feel if it was turned up load enough, but that's about it for a "low-end". Whatever incredibly noticable thing that song has that my song doesn't, I can't really tell what it is.

So then I took out my headphones, which have a range of 10 Hz to 30000 Hz and all that did was make the bass even harder to hear even when I turned up the volume way past what I'd normally do. I can kind of tell when the bass synth in the background starts getting incredibly low, but only because it becomes almost impossible to hear. Just to make sure my headphones weren't broken somehow, I confirmed that I can still hear down to A1 (55 Hz), barely, on a really loud volume. I keep trying to identify something that sounds like the low-end in those songs that apparently have really obvious bass, but every time I do, it is always still present in all of my songs, which supposedly don't have low-end.

This is me listening to songs as loud as I can without it making me wince on high-quality headphones, and I have no idea what those bass heavy songs have that my songs don't. Because my hearing range is normal, it seems like it would have to be some kind of mental auditory processing issue, but I have no idea what to do to about it, and its really frustrating to me because I just can't figure out what this magical low-end thing that everyone keeps complaining about in my songs is, and I'm trying to listen for anything I wouldn't normally notice or some subtle feeling but it isn't there.

FatKidWitAJetPak
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 09:17 PM Reply

At 9/3/12 08:45 PM, Blackhole12 wrote: I'm trying to listen for anything I wouldn't normally notice or some subtle feeling but it isn't there.

So, NOTHING from the pantyraid song I linked? Maybe you should see a doctor about your hearing.

BlazingDragon
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 09:38 PM Reply

At 9/3/12 09:17 PM, FatKidWitAJetPak wrote: So, NOTHING from the pantyraid song I linked? Maybe you should see a doctor about your hearing.

^This. I'd be freaked out if I stopped processing those frequencies. I guess ignorance is bliss if it has always been that way for you, but I love low end. Especially with piano music, I play in the lower octaves all the time. In orchestral music, I even write melodies for the double bass down there. Does that mean you would just hear a wall of harmonies?

I'm not advertising but am very curious. Can you hear the low melody in the string bass on my song starting at about :36? I guess I can't imagine not being able to hear that at all. It's definitely the most important thing going on musically.

jpbear
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 09:45 PM Reply

dont plan on making music for clubs then xD

Blackhole12
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 10:12 PM Reply

At 9/3/12 09:38 PM, BlazingDragon wrote: ^This. I'd be freaked out if I stopped processing those frequencies. I guess ignorance is bliss if it has always been that way for you, but I love low end. Especially with piano music, I play in the lower octaves all the time. In orchestral music, I even write melodies for the double bass down there. Does that mean you would just hear a wall of harmonies?

I'm not advertising but am very curious. Can you hear the low melody in the string bass on my song starting at about :36? I guess I can't imagine not being able to hear that at all. It's definitely the most important thing going on musically.

At :36 I can tell that there is some kind of double bass string going on, and if I listen very carefully I can tell that its definitely changing notes, but I have absolutely no idea what those notes are. They're all too low for me to be able to tell that the instrument is doing anything other than making some kind of stringy-noise. It actually does end up sounding like a giant wall of harmony. I can't hear the majority of the melody until briefly at :46 and then again past :52 when the string goes up high enough that I can differentiate the notes. The rest of the time its just this low rumbling noise that changes every now and then. It's there, and technically I can "hear" it, but honestly I never thought anyone could hear a melody being played that low, because it turns into undecipherable rumbly-noise for me.

I like the rest of the song though xD

BlazingDragon
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 10:29 PM Reply

At 9/3/12 10:12 PM, Blackhole12 wrote: It's there, and technically I can "hear" it, but honestly I never thought anyone could hear a melody being played that low, because it turns into undecipherable rumbly-noise for me.

No that is a melody in a range that is normally very decipherable. Oh my gosh...I can't imagine the number of pieces ruined by this, especially when the melody is down there. Please go see a doctor. Now if possible.

I like the rest of the song though xD

And thank you. :p

Blackhole12
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 3rd, 2012 @ 10:40 PM Reply

At 9/3/12 10:29 PM, BlazingDragon wrote: No that is a melody in a range that is normally very decipherable. Oh my gosh...I can't imagine the number of pieces ruined by this, especially when the melody is down there. Please go see a doctor. Now if possible.

But, what do I say? It took me years to figure out that I had a problem at all, and people only ever test for hearing range, but I can still hear the bass frequencies, I just can't distinguish them. I don't know how to really explain this in any meaningful way to a physician, or what physician I could see to get this checked out. I can hear bass but I can't tell what its playing? I've never even heard of this kind of a problem before because apparently I'm a freak :C

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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 4th, 2012 @ 08:35 AM Reply

Have you thought about boosting the bass on the master track with eq (my monitors actually have a subtle bass boost, I don't use it for mixing much,) and/or the high end on the bass temporarily to mix it into the track? I usually put my bass as low as it'll go in octave and keep it's/a good sound.

I sometimes even use a sub bass and a square/saw bass, scooping and raising frequencies so they don't over do it or clash.

Filling the spectrum is important in a lot of music.

Also anyone who can hear bass on stock speakers/cheap earbuds with no experience must have a gift, because when I listen through my laptop speakers, it's like half my song is gone.

FatKidWitAJetPak
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Response to I Can't Hear Bass Sep. 5th, 2012 @ 01:46 AM Reply

But, what do I say? It took me years to figure out that I had a problem at all, and people only ever test for hearing range, but I can still hear the bass frequencies, I just can't distinguish them. I don't know how to really explain this in any meaningful way to a physician, or what physician I could see to get this checked out. I can hear bass but I can't tell what its playing? I've never even heard of this kind of a problem before because apparently I'm a freak :C

Do some searches for a local audiologist. These doctors specialize in running tests for hearing
Impairments. You may also refer to a otolaryngologist. I would suspect your brain has a problem with deciphering certain sounds. Thay, or you have a hearing disorder. Tell the doctor your difficulties and let us know how it went.