Tools of a session bass player

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by TaySte_2000, May 7, 2002.

  1. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    My first multi forum thread. Which pedal are a must for a session bass player? This includes outboard pre amps, DI and pretty much anything else that isn't an amp or bass.
  2. Envelope Filter, octave, fuzz... Three of the most useful effects you can have in your arsonal. I also suggest the SansAmp BDDI as a buffer to lead your effects into, simply used to breathe a little warmth and top end into your effects before you go into your amp, it's great for adding body.
  3. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    ok..this is quite the multi-forum thread.
    As a session player i have found it necessary to have a very well equipped, efficient, and verstaile rack with pro level gear. This does not mean it has everything in it...but has the majority of what will be called upon.
    PreAmp: All preamps sound different. You should look for one which colours you bass in the best way YOU think. It MUST be dead quiet! The eq should be flexible...a true parametric is best. Tubes are of course nice, but many top notch pres, like old Neve console preamps, or the newer Raven Labs stuff, are solid state. The design of the circuitry is what matters...and is what you pay for.
    The pre amp needs to have the ability to send a +4 signal thus allowing you to got straight to tape if necessary (always the fattest sound).
    I sometimes use a vintage Microphone pre-amp as the first stage for my recording chain.

    Compressor: So many to choose from, and usually the studio will have at least one really good one, but chances are if there is only one it won't get used on the bass. Again shoot for quality. A good compressor will cost you, but it is worth every penny. For a pro level set-up, you can avoid the pedal types,or other "bass-specific" compressors. Most solid state comps would probably be overlooked by engineers in favour of something with tubes. Compression is a tricky subject, and it should be applied very gingerly. Therefore most engineers prefer is the bassist does not add his/her own compression. If you have your own compressor, and it is of requisite quality...then you might be able to work with the engineer . Tube Tech, ADL, Manley, Avalon, and legendary Teletronix LA2A are the weapons of choice. Price?...start at 2k and go up steeply!
    I have recorded thru old Fairchild limiters (like old Motown records) and some really old RCA broadcast limiters. They sound great...

    EQ: an outboard eq is a good option also. The one I am seeing quite a bit is Raven LAbs True Blue EQ which is VERY good...incredibly quiet and flexible.

    Headphone system: Often overlooked, this is a must. You will be wearing cans, and often the foldback systems and mixes may not be all you want, or too much of what you don't want. Having a seperate phone system which can interface with the studio's, can allow you to dial in your own headphone mix...saving a lot of aggravation and (hopefully) promoting your best quality work.

    Those are the necessary ingredients. You can add to that a good DI or two (you may be sending multiple tracks) and a high quality fx processor. Usually you do not print with effects...they are added later in a much more controlled mix...but if fx are part of what you hear, you can add chorus, delay, verb, whatever to your headphone mix only just for comfort.
    I might say here that if you go in and string together a bunch of pedals you will make the engineer wince and cringe. He will probably drop a DI into your line and avoid all of that regardless. If you are breaking into session work, you will most likely not be asked back. FX pedal are fine for stage, but in a recording enviroment they simply do not have the signal integrity necessary. FX are more than likely going to be added to your bass track, if any, once all the pieces of the track are together, and can therefore be controlled to fit into the mix. ANd the fx used are most likely of the highest quality, on a parallel sidechain and printed to a sperate track.
  4. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    ...of course the most important component is your attitude. Think, act and dress professionally. Don't just show up on up early. Have your gear in order (don't waste time having to patch your rack together..that should be wired before hand). Your bass(es) should be in perfect playing condition (strings, intonation etc.).
    And leave your ego at the door....when doing sessions it is important to remember that you are not the artist. You have been hired because you have a special skill, even if that skill is ONLY being able to play a simple groove with good time and feel (and believe me, that is an IMPORTANT skill to have!), you are there to serve the vision of the artist and producer. Be positive, even in regards to your own part (trust me, if you think you could have done it better...everyone there knows you could have done it better too. The question is whether or not there is time for you to do it better...). Even if the part you have is simple and boring, don't complain; attack it with all the passion you can. Don't offer suggestions unless asked; most of the time they don't want to hear your feelings on the track.
    Be a fast study. Have big ears. And never let them see you sweat....
  5. BFunk

    BFunk Supporting Member

    I disagree with this. I know of many effects pedals that sound great in the studio. In fact if you came in with some kind of digital rackmount multi-effects unit and expected to use it for distortion, I would through it out and grab an EH Big Muff, Dredge-Tone Angler or some nice tube equivalent. I would definitely use my Moogerfooger lowpass filter over most rack units. In fact most dynamic effects sound better if you track them along with the direct sound. This is because these effects interact with the player, causing changes in attack, release, and other nuances of performance. Post processing of these effects lack the warmth and character it produces. Time-based effects sound better post-tracking. I would more likely use a rack delay unit than a floor one, especially if it has pre-delay. But I wouldn't count out the sound of an EH Memory Man, or a Echoplex tape echo. Of course the rack version of the Line6 DL-4 would be at the top of my list.
  6. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    lo-z: of course there is a caveat to anything....and that being here is "what the session requires", and since the original thread was about what gear is used in sessions I would like to say that 90% of the time it is straight bass. The equipment I listed are pieces that are essential to a good studio set-up, anything else can be added to that.

    And, yes there are some pedals which rival some rack mount devices, even surpass them. But really, these are few among the gazillion pedals out there (but it sounds like you have a few of the good ones!). And the better ones, are priced on par with rack units too. If I were called to do some funky filterin', or wicked phasing on a track, the Big Briar/Moogerfoogers would be first in order. But it should also be noted that session guys "play the gig" and carting around every pedal and effect one owns is really not practical.
    In the studio, plugging a bass into anything changes the character of the tone. This can be both good and bad. And while I agree that most dynamic effects work best "in line", many offer too much of a tonal compromise to be useful IN MOST OR ALL SITUATIONS (and again there are always due to be exceptions).

    This is not to mention most quality studios have quite a collection of vintage and weird fx pedals to pull out. I recently did a session where the track was kinda kitschy but techno (imagine Beck meets the Chemical Bros.) to get a suitably mangled tone the engineer brought out an old EH Bass Microsynth. Not the cleanest signal, nor the highest fidelity effect, but it worked for the lo-tech vibe neccessary.
    On another session I was asked for a heavily processed sound...or sounds as the case was. And as good as I think my DL4 and Moogerfooger were, I recorded a dry signal as they were no match for the studios bank of Eventides which were added
    post tracking.
    And while I feel my custom prototype Fulltone Bass Driver (custom built for me by Mike Fuller) is a great OD for bass....on one session the engineer pulled out one of his own tricks for a OD'd bass sound (most good engineers have a bagfull of tricks they know works and are readily employed). He recorded two tracks of my bass; one dry and one thru the Fulltone. Then he sent the dry signal back thru a pair of headphones, loud to the point of distortion, mic'd with a good condenser,and printed that to yet another track. When he mixed
    he brought in varied amounts of the different distortions to the dry track. The result was a very powerful, live sound like a well-throttled SVT.

    The point here being, as a session player you need to be aware that for producers and engineers, the players, the gear, the tape (or HD) and the entire studio become their instrument, their canvas. Printing with effects limits what they are able to do with the tracks later. Sometimes this is neccessary, but usually not. I have a number of times been called in to replace bass tracks which were printed with too much effect (which sometimes was not very much....and was usually envelope filters, or chorus/delays) and did not sit well in the mix. My job, in those cases, was to double the already recorded line with a clean dry sound, and then let the producer/engineer do what they needed with it.
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    This is one of those threads where I think I'll just shut up and pay attention.
  8. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    I may be waaaay off here but any session I've ever done I usually brought my bass and a tuner....and nothing else, every studio I've ever worked in have had an effects rack in some shape or form so if an effect was required the engineer would normally just dial it up and off I'd go...having said that in my 15 years doing sessions I could count on one hand the amount of times 'effects'(I dont include compression or gating here)were required.

    The only piece of equipment that became a requirement over the years was a bass amp in some form or another (nothing beats the sound of a di and miked amp mixed)...this is the reason I bought a bass pod, my session gear now looks something like:

    2/3 basses (1 main bass + backups)
    bass pod (although I'm seeing these pop up more and more in studios lately)
    game boy

    and lots and lots of patience :D

    just my two cents.
  9. different people have different views on this subject. I heard Chuck Rainey speak recently, and he says bring ONE bass. Also, most engineers I have worked with like to print the bass dry. I spoke with another guy, bassist for Donna Summer, and he said you should have a nice rack ('sometimes engineers 'hear with their eyes'') but only suggested a good pre-amp. No one mentioned effects.
  10. JohnL


    Sep 20, 2000
    Grayson, GA
    Max, you're dead on with just about everything you've said. I wish I had this post pasted on my forehead when I first started recording! Every session is different, of course, but I've found that more and more, a good bass and a good DI will cover more than 90% of what is required in studio. I guess the caveat is what you've already mentioned: what does the artist require as opposed to trying to impose your "sound" on them, or worse, making everyone wait while you and the engineer try to find out where the hum is coming from! Now if it is YOUR band or solo project, by all means, go for the sound you hear and want. My .02 worth, I have gotten to the point where I show up with a good sounding, properly intoned bass and a couple of good DI's ( I will track with the Sansamp if the want a more gritty, "miked-up" sound), and let them effect the signal later on.
    (Dream voice "on")
    And one day, Johnny-boy, you to will be able to justify buying one of those "MoreMe" mixers...zzz
    (Dream voice "off")
  11. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    And Donna Summer does indeed have a 'nice rack':D
  12. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    Yer thats about all I need to record a jazz bass and Donna Summers rack :D . Maybe shes a bit old for me I'm going to get a britney rack next week it's digital you know (ie. lots of silicon).
  13. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
  14. shirojiro


    Jan 24, 2001
    San Francisco
    I'm not a big sessions guy or anything, but I do sit in on different projects, often at short notice. For me, recording bass often follows the "keep it simple, stupid" paradigm. I like to bring all my stuff in one bag. Control rooms, and recording rooms fill up fast. I use my double gig bag with a fretless and a fretted bass. I bring a tuner, 2 good cords, extra strings, and my Sansamp BDDI.

    I dress comfortably, and try not to wear long sleeves to avoid unintentional muting.

    I also pack extra water, cigarettes, and my laptop.

    I only bring effects if I know that the genre or specific tunes call for them. The ones I toss in the bag are an envelope filter and octaver. Most studios that I've been in have plenty of rack-mounted time-based effects for reverb, delay, or chorus.

  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Until you start doing sessions for Madonna and Cher all you need is a good bass and MAYBE a nice DI box or preamp.

    90% of session work is stuff like radio jingles, demos, etc. and those are low budget, fast and dirty. Nowadays many of these sessions are done on Pro Tools and all the effects you need can be done at mixdown via plug-ins.

    A lot of these elaborate racks you read about the Nashville guys using are designed so they can plug straight into the tape machine and bypass the mixing board. Then having a great pre, EQ, compressor, etc. makes some sense.