It’s not hard to record a bass guitar, but there are many ways to do this.
The more you read about well-known producers and engineers, the sooner you find out that there is no absolute truth.
…We can enjoy and have fun with experimenting.
…We provide you with a number of tips which can be useful when recording bass guitars.
Here are some tips in a step by step order to get you going.
Step 1. The right way to start
Be prepared for the situation, prepare yourself, your arrangement as well as the bass itself.
Have enough energy!
And pay attention to your gear.
Are the snares in an okay state?
Is the battery of your DI depleted?
Tune your bass in the studio!
So you can crosscheck the tuning with other instruments and programs.
Have a set of good manufactured cables and a good preamp without background noise!
Everything needs to be right!!
Are you going to play the same notes as the guitar player, or does the bass part have its own arrangement?
Does the arrangement need a tight type of playing style or does the song ask for an offbeat type of style?
You need to make sure these things are predetermined, so make sure you and the drummer are on the same page.
Should you play it with a plectrum or with the fingers?
Playing with the fingers will give it a more ’round’ type of sound, while playing with a plectrum will result in a more direct sound.
Don’t go to the recording studio if you still need to practice, all of these things you can figure out before coming in for recording.
Make sure your bass guitar is tuned correctly, but that shouldn’t be of question.
Step 2. The Gear
So your bass is finely tuned, that’s very important!
But which bass guitar and which preamplifier do you take along?
With a clear Fender guitar part you might want to add a warmer bass sound.
If a bass player doesn’t take a preamp along with him, send him back from where he came from!
…You both have decided to only record the DI signal and use plugins to emulate a preamp.
You can record your bass by dividing the signal between a bass-preamp and a guitar-preamp.
This will result in a nice ‘high’ and ‘low’ signal.
If there’s a small tube guitar-preamp in the studio, try putting it next to your 15″ bass combo and let it astonish you.
There is a British company called Ashdown which sales a 15W- and 30W- tube-preamps (especially made for recordings).
Step 3. Choose the best moment
Many engineers have a strict method when it comes down to the order of recording.
You can decide for yourself which part you want to record first.
But keep in mind…
…The order of the whole track can be of influence.
Do what feels right.
People like Paul McCartney played the bass part after he recorded the drums and their guitar.
Because he then could fill in those gaps that left room for some bass innovation.
He would add some melody and rhythm to function as glue for the track.
Some people feel the drummer and bass player should both be recorded at the same time.
The reason for this is…
…That the vibe is enhanced.
AC/DC is said to do the same.
Tony Platt had a different view on the subject: He says you shouldn’t follow the drummer while recording.
Instead you should play along with the drummer while both are recorded.
You’ll get a more natural sound.
Another might feel the whole band should play together and be recorded, because of the synergy of the players.
Whatever method you choose, choose the one that fits your needs.
Step 4. Microphones or a DI
You can use different preamps and different basses, but theres more to it.
You can also switch up between microphones and DI’s.
A DI signal is a clean wide signal, it’s easy to edit and can be ‘re-amped’.
(re-amping: amping an already recorder signal with a preamplifier)
You can also use the DI signal to send to one of your favorite plugins.
This way you are not hindered by the choices of preamps and microphones.
Native Instruments has a plugin called ‘Guitar Rig’ which you can also use for your Bass.
But there are other options like: Amplitube/IKMultimedia and Ampeg SVX-software.
Besides clean sounding DI’s there are also DI’s that give color to the signal (for example a SansAmp from Tech 2).
Again, this can be a good or bad thing for your track.
Investing in a DI which ads color can be an expensive investment, but gives a nice and direct bass sound.
(Try using the ‘DI output’ of your preamp)
Try Using This technique
The most used technique by engineers is: Recording the lows with a DI and recording the character with a microphone.
The microphone will record the signal coming from the bass cabinet, this will result in a recorder bass signal and the character of the room.
When you’re playing through effects, it’s nice to record the acoustic signal through your speakers.
A lot is possible.
You can use all types of microphones when it comes down to recording the bass.
You can use a “bass drum-microphone” like the ‘AKG D112’ to capture very loud signals and a SM57 if it’s very dynamic (most of the time these two are combined).
Be aware of phasing, which can result in losing low frequencies
Another mic that’s used often is the Neumann U47.
If you place the mic closely and little next to the cones, you’ll get a nice balanced sound.
If you have a too much ‘bassy’ sound, you can place the microphone further away from the speakers.
Try to use enough gain when recording, better yet: Use the amount of gain your room can handle.
Microphone placement remains an experiment, and it all depends on taste, mic and speaker.
Step 5. Equalizing and Compressing
A bass sound can take up a lot of room in the mix and cause problems with other instruments.
A rule of thumb: It doesn’t hurt to cut the frequencies below 100Hz to avoid conflict with the bass drum.
You can also cut the frequencies above 10kHz, these frequencies are usually just added noise.
It’s a good thing to know what type of character you want to incorporate into your song.
A bass sound tends to need a lot of room within the mix, so using some kind of compression on the track will make it rounder, tighter and sound warmer.
This type of compression is to handle/maintain and give an instrument, it’s spot within the mix.
But it has nothing to do with a master bus compressor, these two techniques and gear are used for two different things.
Step 6. Experiment
After these six steps we can conclude these are the most important, but they are only guidelines. Finding the right sound and using the right microphone all depends on your creativity.
You could get a nice result with just a RODE NT1.
But that’s just one microphone!
What’s your preference when recording the bass?
After the drums or even as last instrument?
Experiment with (virtual) preamps or a combination of different bass- guitar DI’s.
Even using your audio interface instrument input and then sending the signal thru a VST amplifier can even do the trick.
Get creative and experiment, find your sound! Enjoy Folks!
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