Getting Pro Bass Sounds
In many recording sessions, the bass guitar sound can be commonly overlooked. It's usually not until the mix that engineers may find themselves struggling to get the bass sit properly. Sure, it's got plenty of low end—but does it serve its rightful place in the overall mix? More often than not, the bass plays two significant roles: Musically, it's a foundational element of the rhythm section and sets the groove. Sonically, it may carry most of the low end content in your mix. Below, the pros at Sonic Circus offer a few helpful tips for getting solid, useable bass tracks.
Start at the source.
Is the player capable of playing the part correctly, with good phrasing and conviction? Is the bass set up correctly, buzz-free with good intonation? Cool. Once you've cleared those initial hurdles, things become pretty straightforward.
Here's our foolproof "chain is only as strong as its weakest link" method: using good cables no longer than they need to be, plug the bass into a quality D.I. box (we dig Radial
). Then go from the D.I. to the bass amp. No need for the amp to be huge; for recording purposes, it's the amp tone—not volume—you're after. The venerable Ampeg B-15 (pictured left), with its classic "Motown-and-beyond" tone is considered the archetypical studio bass amp.
Mic up the amp
... with a large diaphragm dynamic or condenser. If you have the facilities, consider miking it with a ribbon mic
- just don't place it too close
. Record the D.I. and amp signals through reliable outboard mic pres, and consider using just a touch of compression when going to "tape."
Many engineers insist on tracking bass with no compression, but we find that a tiny bit on the way in can allow you to use smaller amounts (with fewer artifacts) when mixing. That said, we don’t recommend EQ-ing while tracking, but keep in mind that it’s generally easier to add low-end to a tinny bass track than it is to add highs or mids, so make sure the tone of the bass and amp are delivering enough mids and high mids to cut through a mix.
Finally, check the phase relationship between these two tracks. Often times, the polarity of one track will need to be reversed to avoid the dreaded 'all lows, no mids' effect. Sometimes a device such as the Little Labs IBP
can save the day if both bass tracks refuse to combine in a graceful way.
Have any in-depth questions about your
recording setup? Need further advice on the best gear to get for your recording needs? Feel free to give us a call at 1-888-SC4-GEAR.
For recording bass and beyond, Sonic Circus has a comprehensive selection of pro audio gear for any recording application. Use these quicklinks below to browse our online store.
• Condenser Microphones
• Dynamic Microphones
• Ribbon Microphones
• Direct Boxes