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How do I get a good bass sound recorded?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by DirtySocks1379, Feb 26, 2003.


  1. I just finished up a 6 song demo with my hardcore/classic rock/metal band. We mixed the whole thing down and now you can barely here me when played in my car, and when you can (during the parts I brought the bass volume up while mixing) the bass is so deep my speakers break up when it's not even that loud. It seems that the bass is to deep and does not cut through enough. I used a split guitar cable running to an EBS TD650 pumping an 18'' pa speaker and an all tube svt pushing 8 10"s. I thought this would be a killer sound but it is actually quite muddy and not clear, like I had said. It does sound pretty good on higher end home stereos, but i want it to sound nice and clear out of everything, any input is appreciated.
     
  2. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pennsylvania
    Someone posted this article a while back.
    EDIT
    Bruce Richardson
    Senior Editor ProRec.com


    Getting the bass sound right is one of the hardest parts of recording modern music. When the average listener subconsciously listens to music, the bass is the instrument that they're listening to. And they probably don't know it.

    So, how to record that killer-thumpin-groovular bass?

    I do a lot of work with Chuck Rainey. Chuck is one of the all-time bass masters, with credits ranging from Aretha Franklin to Steely Dan to Sanford and Son. I have learned a lot about getting good bass sounds working with Chuck - and other artists - and can share a little applied wisdom.

    First off, I'm a big fan of Fender basses.

    I do like Roger Sadowsky's basses, though... but they are very Fender-like as well. Lots of expensive basses sound great on stage or amped, but really give you living hell when you try to take them direct... they're so 'supercharged' that they either completely take over the mix, or disappear. No middle ground.

    If you can possibly help it, do not track the bass with the player in the control room listening to the monitors.

    Bass players, like everyone else, tend to be very locked into their perceived sound, which is a combination of the acoustic sound coming off their instrument, and the way they set up their amp for performance.

    Then you get a player in the control room, again listening to a combination of his instrument's reflected sound and what's coming out of the monitors. Unless he's well versed in studio work, he'll start pumping up the bottom end, trying to get some "feel." He's adjusting, you're adjusting...see-saw-see-saw. Then, when he leaves and you're trying to mix, you realize you've got a big muddy mess on your hands, because those strings are no longer in the room brightening up the apparent sound.

    The best luck I have with recording bass is to put the player in the room with his amp for a few minutes to get his sound. Then I mic his amp...put him in an iso closet, and mic his strings with a condenser mic to get the acoustic attack. Putt the mic on the strings, right at the pickup end of the fretboard. Blend a LITTLE of this in with the direct / cabinet sound.

    Also, I run a DI on the direct, or take it out of the amp if it's a Trace or other well appointed rig (and if the player's tone controls are not too wanked out). Run each to a separate track.

    Then you've got everything you need. The bass player knows you're getting "his" sound on tape, so he relaxes and just listens in the cans. You will have every element of the sound necessary to make the part work in the mix after he's gone.

    Good bass players' tracks always sound noisy when soloed. Chuck Rainey's tracks sound like someone's working on a Buick in the background. But plug it into the mix, and the magic is there.

    Bare bass tracks, well played, are homely, noisy, scrunchy sounding beasts...but those qualities are the things that punch it through. That's why MIDI "faked" bass parts sound so awful to me, no matter how clever the programmer...they just don't have the extraneous funk that makes the groove.

    I personally try to let the amp mic drive the sound, with DI for some low lows if necessary, and a bit of the string mike to get a little "metal" in the pops, without having to eq the snot out of the signal. The string noises, finger scrunches, pick noise, grunting, etc, that the mic picks up are priceless in terms of putting some humanity in the track. No compression on that mic, by the way.

    Spend some time with that amp mic. Get it right. No EQ...just move the mic around till the sound is as good as you can possibly get...WITH THE TRACK. At least the drums. If it won't sit in the mix as tracked, then you're going to fight the bass sound till the bitter end. It's got to go down pretty much where it needs to be if you're going to get the killer track.

    Hopefully you need only mild compression, if any, on the amp mic. Depends on the player...some players are not very even, and that's a much bigger challenge. You've got to call that one...it's completely dependent on the player. You're more likely to need some on the DI, but again, as little as you can get away with. You can always add more later...taking it off's a bitch.

    We all know those tunes where the bass just makes you want to bust loose at the seams. When it's right, the bass part sells the groove more than any other instrument in the mix.

    Panning depends, too. If it's a hard-nose groove, then straight up the middle. Or not. That's unfortunately one of those million dollar questions. Whatever sounds good. If it's artsy, then sure, run it left or right, just to break some sonic ground.

    I just did a loop project with Chuck Rainey where we went one channel straight up the middle, direct, through a Manley VoxBox. Killer, killer preamp. God's preamp of choice. Made for vocals, but has a line in, and the short signal path, with the killer compression, eq, and limiting...and all the amazing Manley hand-built tube circuitry....WOW.

    Only $4K. If you've got it to throw down (I certainly don't), the VoxBox is a bass tracking godsend.

    And a few more tips: if the bass lacks note definition, try a longer attack on the compressor, so that the attack of the note gets through before it clamps down. This may help.

    Is the bass active? If you can switch it into passive mode, try that. Bass players with active pickups seem to always use the active pickups. Active pickups can throw a lot of bottom at you.

    Bass is one of the hardest instruments to track successfully. Hang in there...
     
  3. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pennsylvania
    As a follow-up.

    My recording technique has been to take up three tracks-
    Mic'ed on my rig with the mic up by the 210 playing at pretty low volume (practice-by-myself levels).
    I split my cable with a DI box and send to my rig and then run a direct line from the bass to the board post eq line from the preamp.

    It affords me the ability to pick and blend from the different signals. I think it works well for what I did.
     
  4. Woodchuck

    Woodchuck

    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta / Macon (sigh)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    The best thing I ever got was an Aguilar DB900 direct box. I wouldn't be in the studio without one.
     
  5. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX


    I'd really like to buy this man a drink. No, I'd really, really like to buy this man a drink. I'm half tempted to track down a former bandmate-cum-recording engineer and let him read that right before I ****-slap him. What I thought sounded fantastic, he would always deride as bad technique on my part... :eek: ;)
     
  6. devane rocks

    devane rocks

    Feb 27, 2003
    atlanta ga
    Well, first I like to record di. 2 I record on tape so to get the bass to hit right without that low end demo recording sound I like to compress the piss out of my sound (evens my tone across the strings)
    #3 fender fender fender ive recorded with god knows how many of my basses jacksons spector you name it over the years and nothing will out do my 1970 fender p bass .#4 ive never had much luck with subs in recording ,18s ( in my opinion) hit the tape way to hard and mud up a sound , but im not working with 2" tape in my studio so that might have a little to do with it . im working with synth and analog mixing with my sound . but try to direct input eq it compress it and play .dont know if this helps its just what I do . check my site
    www.devanenet.com

    gene
     
  7. Good article, I've read it a few times before.

    But since you already have the tracks recorded...

    I don't like recording 18" cabs. Too bassy (yea, I said it) most of the time. I'm a standard 15" or 10" kind of guy. So if you have that 18" on a seperate track, either back it off or drop it in the mix. Your speakers are probably breaking up because you're trying to push too much bass through speakers that just can't handle it --- Higher end stereos will be able to handle this better, so that's probably why it sounds good there.

    If you only have one track to work with, try compressing it some (more?), which may take out some low end. Otherwise use some EQ to take out the super-low stuff (like -6dB @ 50 hz or so - experiment). If you're compressing, try bussing or auxing the clean signal to a compressor. Then mix the 2 together - I doubt it will help but it's a cool little trick.

    Do you play with a "scooped mid" tone? Stop that. Use EQ in the mix and record as dry as possible.

    Or try boosting some @ 250-1K - whatever brings out the meat without bringing out the boomy low end.

    Maybe try sending that signal to the Ampeg and recording that, then mixing the original and the mics together.

    There's a lot you could try. Let us know what worked.
     
  8. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Interesting.

    I've only ever gotten a reasonable bass sound going straight into the desk.

    Maybe I should try the technique of micing up the amp too and mixing them together.
     
  9. Definately. One of my favorite tones was my AmDlx stright into my DM-24, with a little low end added on the bass - it was perfect for the song. Most of the time I'm recording punk/hardcore/metal/power pop stuff though, and the attack of a mic'd cab adds, and I hate to use this word, "punch" while the direct track rounds out the sound, filling in where the amp and mic comes up short.

    Either way I try to record direct, with 1 mic on my 10 and another backed off a little ways on my 15. But I have the luxury of lots of available tracks and routing options. :)
     
  10. devane rocks

    devane rocks

    Feb 27, 2003
    atlanta ga
    I use synth to fill out that low end if needed .Im working on mixing like 4 to 5 tracks of bass to see what i get.Over done you might say but fun none the less.:D my new recording set up is going to be
    track 1 mic swr 8x10 track 2 mic swr basic black 15
    thats for the analog which the swr mobass will split the two analog and dig sounds. I will use my second 8x10 cab on track 3 mic for the dig and then id in from the mobass to see what i can get .
    i love the sound i get already but i really want to try this to see.Ill mix every thing down to one or two tracks.Funny thing about all of this with all the stuff i have i like to di live and have the cabs for looks :D im silly like that. Im also going to try to hook my mackie board to my puter to see if i like that sound to.

    gene