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How to make your bass sound 'alive' in a recorded mix? (strings question)

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by jmattbassplaya, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    I was wondering if while recording it was better to use a fresh pack of strings, strings that are slightly broken in, or completely dead strings? My band just recorded a new track, and so far I'm not too pleased with my tone. We haven't done any mixing, but even still my tone just sounds dead and somewhat flabby (as they normally do whenever my strings are dead like they are now). I was thinking of redoing my lines with fresh strings later this week, and I just wanted to hear some of your guys' thoughts on this and if you think it makes a real difference in how punchy, growly, and prominently your bass will sit in a mix.

    Here's the track!


    ps. Our rate isn't based on time, so I could go back and do it to my heart's content.
  2. TRyan5289


    Jul 18, 2012
    Davenport, Iowa
    I haven't done any recording, but I can assume that I'd like fresh strings, but slightly broken in to take away some of the "zing."
  3. miiitch


    Nov 27, 2011
    use your DAW´s eq?
    less lowend or more top-end could help
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    When you say dead strings normally sound flabby to you, that tells me it's probably a good idea to change them.
  5. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008

    I only ask because my band has been saying to wait until after mixing, but I personally can't see how he could add the tone I want to my sound since it was recorded on dead strings.
  6. Neek


    Nov 26, 2008
    South Florida
    I wouldn't completely shrug off what mixing can do for your tone. I recorded a few tracks with a band once and was slightly disappointed in the sound of my bass, I blamed the fact that I ran through DI and couldn't hear the tone I was used to hearing through my live rig. After the tracks were mastered, I fell in love with how the bass sounded. It wasn't "my" tone, to be honest... more like "the recording engineers take on my tone", but it sounded noticeably better than the raw recorded tracks did.
  7. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Good to hear. I know stuff can be done (have seen it happen before) but I've also had a lot of trouble cutting through our recorded mixes. I know all about adding mids, but it has never seemed to be quite enough. The one constant throughout every recording I've done was that my strings were never new.

    *edit* well, minus the live recordings my band has done, but that's because I have a very middy live tone.
  8. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I might experiment with compression on the track as well as the EQ. Most DAWs have some sort of compression plug in or they're cheap enough. I don't like strings just out of the pack, but after about 3 days to a week they hit their sweet spot for me.
    I have found that you can actually ride the level a bit more when the signal is even. I don't use a pile of compression, but a little helps.
  9. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    I like more mids than sounds right when solo'd a little bit of overdrive. It works magic in the mix and light OD is actually pretty widely (and to a surprising extent of fuzz) on a lot of well known recordings.

    I wont go near a recording process without fresh steel strings. I find they loose their zing after about 15-18 hours of studio sweat.

    I like your youtube vid, solid band!
  10. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Try a set of new strings.

    You can EQ out frequencies you don't want, but you can't add frequencies that aren't there to begin with.
  11. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    "Just fix it in the mix" is kind of a trap.

    The mix will only be as good as the quality of the source recording. This is in regards to both sonically and performance wise. If you play it like your bored no amount of EQ or other "magic" is going to make it sound alive.

    Change your strings.

    I always put on new strings when recording guitar or bass or new heads when recording drums. The DAW's EQ plug-ins have a hard time amplifying a freq that isn't there because of dead strings or heads.

    In short your processing should be for "enhancing" and not "fixing". Of course I'm no pro and this is just my dos centavos.
  12. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Fresh strings "speak" better. it's easy to roll some highs out if they sound brittle, but there's no replacing harmonic content that isn't there.

    You also might try recording through a miced amp or re-amping if that doesn't work in the space you're in....
  13. Chromer


    Nov 28, 2012
    That's one of the things the many varied flavors of distortion are for -- adding harmonics.

    But seriously, get as close as you can to the final sound you want while tracking. Is the session "worth" a new set of strings?
  14. I always put new strings on sometime within a week prior to going into the studio. Then, I always insist on bringing my amp, and splitting my signal between my amp with a mic on it, and a sans amp bddi going direct in. No matter what bass and what I'm amp I'm using, this formula has consistently produced fantastic results, and has changed the minds of a few engineers in town who were wary of recording live bass amps.
  15. uOpt


    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    In what band context? Powerchords and mad keyboarders with big left hands will usually make the point about the sparkle from fresh bass strings a moot point. Playing just just an acoustic guitar? Better not kill it.
  16. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Use flats
  17. Strings make a difference, sure. But more important is consistency in attack and the quality of your notes - duration, muting unwanted flack - precision playing providing a solid and consistent wave form. EQ can do amazing things even with a relatively flat and mundane sounding track.

    I have found that the bass' sound and the sound of the drums are interrelated and that the other instruments' frequencies all factor into how you sound.

    The bass and the kit are complimentary players with the bass adding 'notes' to the kit and the kit adding 'punch' to the bass line. I like to start there with sound - getting the bass and kit to really work well as a single entity in the context of the song.

    As you bring in more instruments you add in more frequencies that are going to fight for ear time. Sometimes the guitars, vocals and other higher-register instrument just have way too much push on frequencies that they really don't need. Your guitar player is going to cry like a baby when you roll off his lows - but doing that will almost instantly free of that sonic space for the bass.

    Likewise with the upper frequencies on the bass (really bright strings) trying to steal the spotlight from the higher register instruments - so again, attenuating some of the upper frequencies of the bass can remove high-end clutter. Like your guitar playing friend, this may not sound super great to you soloed, but in the mix it will sit better.

    I try to find what frequencies are actually providing value from the bass - keep those and roll off the rest. You usually end up with a lot of bands 'out' and you won't even miss them because they really aren't doing anything for you anyway. Find the frequency that provides that chest punch - keep it. Find the one that adds that nice, warm mid hump - keep it. Find the one that helps define the attack - keep it. Then play with those to refine your overall sound. Roll back the rest and let the other instruments have more breathing room.

    But without hearing what you are working with and without some sort of reference recording of what you'd like your bass sound to be, it's hard to advise on specifics.
  18. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Here's a VERY rough mix. Parts still need to be re-done, added, overdubbed, written, removed, etc... so realize this is an incomplete song in it's current form :) Let me know what you think about my tone and how we can make it better!

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  19. Cool tune!

    I wouldn't be surprised that a little eq tweaking might be all you need. I thought the general sound of the bass in the mix was solid. Nice and gritty. There are definitely some mixing decisions that will help everything find it's space better - right now it's a bit of a pile-up (but not bad at all).

    You could also be suffering from over-listening and tunnel-hearing, if I can quoin a phrase. Since time is not a hardship, give yourself some time away from the tune. Try to forget about it a little - even let someone else do some mixing - then come back to it and see how you feel. It might surprise you and you may discover you actually love what you hear. Watch out for ear-fatigue! Listening constantly can make your ears stop hearing things properly. Then you end up compensating for your dull ears, not for things that really need help.

    I am no expert and I should have tossed that out up front - but it sounds to me like your bass sound is very workable.

    I guess I am also trying to say not to over think it too much. Get the mix mixed a little more - do some of that frequency management and see if you can't massage it into what you are looking for. Google home studio DAW mixing tips - there are tons of resources for adjusting different instruments' frequencies so they don't fight each other.

    Personally, I like to go into a recording situation with my bass freshly adjusted and set up to ensure evenness and noiselessness. I use flats - and I LOVE the way they sound in the mix, but I also bring a bass with rounds just in case there really is a need for that glassy, piano-esque brightness.

    In my opinion and based on that track, I think you'd really be surprised how well a set of flats will do! If you can, give that a try - that, like a little eq tweaking - may be the ticket.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  20. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    I actually think I was suffering from over-listening because I've been listening back to it some today and I can't seem to think why I was so against my tone just yesterday. I think I jumped the gun a bit and need to wait until some mixing has been done because my tone really does have some nice natural growl to it.

    For anyone wondering, I recorded with a Modulus Q5 with EMG's direct to the board and with a tube compressor.

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