Pro Audio Files

How to Record Bass Guitar

Transcript
Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well today.

I would like to talk to you about recording the bass. Now, we’ve already done a simple DI recording of a bass, which frankly, is pretty useful in 90% of situations. You know, with the DI only these days, you can do a multitude of things with plugins to add extra bottom end, or distort it, and do all kinds of fun stuff.

What I’m going to do today is record a DI and an amp simultaneously. So we’ll talk about how to get the best out of those combinations — that combination of DI and bass amp.

Please subscribe. Go to producelikeapro.com, and if you sign up for the e-mail list, you can download files on recording piano, drums, as well as other exclusive videos. We’ll put this up as well so you’ll get to see just the bass. I can’t give you the track, because it’s unreleased, and it’s wonderful, but I’ll give you the bass and you can mess around with the phase alignment.

Anyway, so let’s get started. What I have here is a lovely Peavey T-40. I’d like to talk about this for a few seconds, because frankly, I think this is the best bass on the planet for the money. That’s a big statement, isn’t it? You can pick one of these up for about $300 or $400. I use it all the time. It’s American made, it weighs a ton. The pickups are incredible. It has so much bottom end.

If you’re on a budget and you want to get an incredible bass for the money, I don’t think there’s a better bass. I worked with Mute Math recently. Wonderful band, and their bass player of course plays Peavey T-40. A man of taste.

Anyway, so let’s get started. Now, I have a DI and an amp. Both the DI and the amp are being recorded by BAE 312s. I like these. These are — the 312 is a classic mic pre. It’s not real expensive, but it’s not inexpensive. It’s one of those things that if you’re going to build up a good arsenal of weapons, I strongly suggest getting maybe one of those lunch boxes, and you can slowly add different mic pres and compressors and stuff like that.

It really depends on your budget, but of course, on most DAWs, if you’ve got an Mbox, or a Presonus, or an Apogee, they’ll have at least two inputs, and you can plug into the front for your DI and then run a mic for your amp. Both of which I’ve done many, many times.

What I would suggest that you get though is like a DI box or hopefully, your amp will have some kind of splitter. You know, a lot of little baby bass amps these days have DI output that you can run in there independently. So you can run into the front of your amp and then take a DI out.

There’s a million different ways of doing it, but what I prefer to do is I have like a little Radial DI box. This — the right hand side is the bass input. Here I’ve got my bass guitar coming in here, and with the thru, you can see here, that’s going to my bass amp. So I’ve got an Ashdown amp here that I use. Been using this for awhile now. Sounds fantastic. Very straight forward amp. It’s not hugely loud. Just have it set for some nice, round bottom end.

The mic that I’m using is a Sontronics DM-1B. That’s a relatively inexpensive mic, but it sounds fantastic. We have it padded at 15dB, just so we don’t send a distorted signal. We keep it super clean, and it’s pretty much in the center. It’s slightly off from the very, very center of the cone where the dome is. So the dome is about here, it’s slightly over here, so it’s not super bright. It’s kind of getting a blend of the dome and the edge of the cone.

It sounds great. Use it all the time, and to be honest, this sort of stays setup 24 hours a day. No matter who the bass player is, this is how we record.

I don’t always compress on the way in. It really depends on the player. If you’re working with a rock band that plays pick, you know, maybe the player is sort of playing…

[bass, with pick]

Might be super dynamic, so a little bit of compression on the way in might control some of those really heavy transients.

If you’re doing — working with a fingerstyle player, you know, some — you’re not going to get quite the same dynamics, depending on how hard they —

[bass]

Slap it, but the reality is, with fingerstyle, it would be a little bit more even. You can do a number of different things. If you’ve got compression on the way in, you know, I would use it really just to grab those peaks. Those transients. You can also setup an auxiliary in Pro Tools, and run your DAW with a little bit of compression.

We can try that now, if you’d like. So we’ll create a new track. Shift+Command+N. It’s already set to mono. Make it go to auxiliary input. Create.

Now, as you can see, I’m coming in on 21 and 22 on my I/O, so my first auxiliary, let’s set the input of my DI to a buss. Buss 1. Let’s set my auxiliary input on my first one to 21, and my output to buss 1. So now, what I have is an auxiliary that this will be printing through.

[bass guitar]

Okay, so we can name this. It’s always good to name your tracks properly. We’ll call it, “Bass DI Compression.” We’ll just call it “Comp.” Let’s just pull up a nice, simple one that you’ll have I think. We have a lot, obviously, but what about the Bomb Factory? That’s pretty standard. It’s an 1176 simulation. I love it.

I would put the release all the way to the right so we’ve got some pretty fast release. Let’s just see where it defaults.

[bass with compression]

Not bad. Giving us about 2-3dB worth of compression. Making it pretty even. Nice even sound.

So what you would do here on your output is you would bring it up two or three dB to compensate so you’re still printing at a pretty decent level.

[bass]

We’ll put it about there. The ratio is set at about four to one, which is easily enough.

Okay, so we’ve setup our DI compression. Let’s setup the bass amp compression. Now, a simple way to do this, we literally start off by just duplicating this auxiliary. So you can see it’s already highlighted, but I’ll highlight again, Shift+Option+D on an Apple computer. I’m not sure what it is on a PC, but you can just go up to Track and hit Duplicate up here under this window. See, it says duplicate there.

So if you’re on a PC, just go up to track, hit duplicate.

Okay, so I hit “OK,” and now, I’ll set the input to 22, which is my bass input. Bass amp input. I’ll change the auxiliary output to buss 2, which is here, change my bass amp input to buss 2, like so, and go into record. Let’s change the name of this so we don’t get confused. “Bass Amp Compression” now.

And voila! Now we have compression for our bass amp.

[bass amp with compression]

It’s a little bit more aggressive. It’s like… It’s like three plus dB. So we’re going to bring down our input. An 1176 is a fixed threshold compressor, which means the threshold stays in one place, and the compression is increased or decreased depending on how much level comes in. So when the level goes above the fixed threshold point, that’s when the compression happens.

So it means that if we want to have less compression, we bring our input down. Okay, we’ll bring our output back up to match.

[bass amp]

Come down a little bit more. Bring the input down a bit more, the output up about here, and…

[bass amp]

Good level. There we go. So now we have a nice solid bass DI and bass amp tone.

[bass]

Now next thing, let’s create a group like so. Let’s call it, “Bass.”

Okay, so let’s solo safe our auxiliaries, which on a Mac is Command+Solo. You see it grays out. The reason for this is if I just go into solo here, let’s record some bass.

[recording bass]

Great. Now, there’s a little fishtailing going on here, which I don’t like. That’s this. I see that a lot on different recordists stuff, and what we’re going to do is we’re going to adjust our attack a little bit. So if we bring our attack over here a little bit, quite a lot, let’s see what happens.

[recording bass guitar]

Much better. Okay, now, the reason why I printed this you might ask is for this reason. Let’s look at our phase alignment. It’s pretty good.

Now, you can see, there’s a peak there, and there’s a trough there. They don’t quite line up. So, this is what I do. Let’s take our peak here, this one here, and let’s see where it ends here. Okay. So if we — that’s roughly about there, give or take a couple of samples. If we go into sample up here and click on it, it says 139.

Now, let us do this. Let’s go to our DI here and go to delays, and go to Time Adjuster — Short, and set this to 139. Now let’s print.

And you can do this after you’ve recorded bass, you don’t have to do it first, it’s just you’ll get a much better phase alignment, and with the polarity being good, you’ll get a lot more bottom end.

[bass]

Let’s see what we’ve got.

That’s pretty darn good. It’s actually probably a little — just maybe slightly a hair — let’s just tuck it back slightly. See here, maybe about 17. You’re always going to get a slight approximation.

So let’s go to 122. Look at me, a mathematical genius. Let’s see what we’ve got.

[bass guitar]

That’s pretty darn good. Okay. So that’s fairly accurate. Definitely a good place to start from. We’re getting a lot — the sound is tight, but there’s also a lot of good bottom end coming out, because our phase alignment is really good now.

Cool, so let’s record a little piece on the first chorus.

[chorus]

Cool. I missed one little [emulates bass sounds] the first time around when the kick came in.

[chorus]

So let’s cheat. Let’s go here, take the one where I did it properly, copy and paste. There you go. Look at that? [laughs] Then what I’ll do, I’ll stretch over this first down beat, because it was nice and strong, put it up to about there. With a fade in here. Some right here. A nice fade in here.

And now we have the second half of the chorus.

[mix]

Wonderful. I hope you enjoyed that little recording bass video. That’s the DI that I use. The amp that I use, the bass that I use, and that’s one of a few different methods that I use for recording bass.

I don’t do it the same way every time. Depending on what I want to do, if I want to get a much heavier distorted bass, I’m playing with a pick, or the bass player I’m working with is playing with a pick, I might record it in a different way.

So please hit me up with some comments, subscribe, and you know, go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the e-mail list, and I’ll send you the bass files here that you can mess with. Also, you know, there’s exclusive videos there on drum recording, on piano recording, and there’ll be many, many more things coming, as well as the ability to download drum takes that you can mix and edit.

Loads and loads of stuff that’s going to grow like crazy, so please sign up for the e-mail list, and leave me comments below. If there’s other tips and tricks that you want me to show you, if you want me to explain more, or give you different ideas of how to record bass, just ask. And record anything!

So thank you ever so much for watching, and have a marvelous time. Thank you!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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