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Thread: Favorite Bass recording approach & gear?

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    Favorite Bass recording approach & gear?

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    give me some ideas...

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    I'm guessing you are talking electric bass guitar.

    I really like the sound of my jaguar on its own, so I usually record it directly into my interface (Focusrite Scarlett). I might use a virtual amp inside my DAW, but most often I just eq and compress it just a bit. I keep bass right in the middle with the kick, and the main vocal line. Guitars and other instruments get panned.

    You can go direct like that, or you could mic your amp, or mix them both (like Sting did on a lot of those Police records).
    I'm only competing with the person I was yesterday.

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    DI is my go to for bass. Adding an amp and/or a compressor to the chain is a luxury.
    Check out my band Primate House: http://primatehouse.bandcamp.com/

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    I've always recorded direct & dry, except when I used my '65 Hofner - I added a Boss Compressor Sustainer pedal.

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    Anyone heard a big difference in DI boxes? Active or passive? Interface Instrument inputs are DI arent they?

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    There are several very important parts to recording bass guitar. I hear a lot of recordings that do not pay attention to some of these aspects and to me, the performance and the impact of the music suffers.

    First. Make sure you can hear the fundamental. It doesn't do the music any good if the difference between F and F# isn't apparent.

    This is accomplished by choosing the right instrument with the right strings and pick-ups suited to the music. An example would be : Having a bass that sounds like Geddy Lee and using it on a Jazz, Country, or Blues influenced track. It may sound GREAT on it's own but it doesn't "fit" the style.

    Notice I didn't say anything about the player....Geddy Lee can play the phone book so it's not the playing I'm talking about , it's the sound of the instrument being captured.

    Second. The arrangement of the bass instrument in the music.

    It does nothing to promote impact, movement, or chordal development if the bass is playing over all the other parts. LESS is always MORE. Except when the bass is the feature and then all rules are out the window.

    Third. The capture should be as 'clear' as possible.

    Notice I didn't refer to it as "clean" . Bass instruments can (at times) have a bit of distortion or drive to them. Todays Pop music seems to have a lot of over-driven bass tones an as long as they fit into the arrangement it will work. But capturing clearly is the key. If you find your instrument has dead spots on the neck, or dead spots on the strings where a fundamental completely disappears during a musical run or a passage, you need to suss that out. It cannot be fixed unless you are taking a midi track with your recording. Some people actually do that BTW.

    I've been a bass player for 50 years ...yeah out of the womb! And I have a decent collection of instruments to track with. It makes a difference! 4 strings, 5 strings....flat wounds, round wounds, half rounds.....active, passive....all combinations of instruments and NONE with dead spots on the necks.

    My go-to recording devices are several mic pres with DI's, floor DI's....some active, some passive, some with transformers. For an older sounding track I use an Ampeg Flip-top amp. 1967 that's been recapped and has a modern speaker in it. It still has that nice thump and since it's basically new, it's reliable and very very quiet. I have a 62 P-Bass I like to use with this rig. It has the old style La Bella flat wounds on it and is "instant Motown" sound. I'll close mic it with an SM7, put a U87 out about 3 feet for some size and also take a DI. The three channels ALWAYS gives me anything I want and the DI can be routed through any number of VST sound libraries.

    For a more 'modern' bass sound right from the capture, I have a very small single 12" German built Warwick bass amp. If the track is all about slapping or getting that growl, this delivers. It has a modern NEO JBL in it and a GREAT DI!

    In my preamps rack I have an ADK pre that has one side as a dedicated bass DI. The Op-amp is designed like a Neve and the transformer is a Sowter. It' very warm and accurate and will fit most styles dependent on the instrument.

    There's a reason for all of this and it's importance has been impressed on my workflow over the years. Bad bass captures will ruin a song. Bad instrument choices will ruin a song. And in this I am talking about the instrument set-up: sound, playing, arrangement.

    It really gets down to the player at the end and the arrangement of the instrument in the song. An old trick when you are capturing an instrument that has way too much sustain and growl for the song and you don't have the luxury of another instrument choice is the old foam under the strings at the bridge. Don't over do it. Just a bit of pressure from a softer piece of open-cell foam and you're good to go.
    Chord with this, Teddy......

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    I usually split my signal into a DI (which carries a lot of low end but very little definition) and a cheap crate with an 8" speaker (which is all definition and no body). Then I blend those signals to my liking with some EQ.

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    Start with a good bass player. Seriously. They'll usually hear in their monitor what needs to be done and fix it themselves on the bass or amp, and if they can't get it right, will tell you, and you'll figure it out from there.

    A mic'd cabinet is useful for some players, but I usually go direct. If I'm micing, then I use a DI before the amp and track both. Live almost all modern amps have a useful DI that's sufficient for anything I've done. You can add amp/cab sim on top of that and blend if necessary.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    The difference in DI boxes usually comes down to phase response. If you have an amp or preamp or something with a decent DI output (the key being "decent" - not all of them are) things should be good. The A-Designs Reddi and Ampeg Portaflex tube heads were designed for DI bass recording. A less expensive option is the Radial JDI. It's one of the best passive DI boxes.

    As a general rule of thumb, passive DI boxes should work great with active signals. Active DI for passive signals.

    Looking at some specs for the Radial JDI passive and J48 active,

    J48:
    Input impedance 220 K-Ohms
    Output impedance 600 Ohms

    JDI:
    Input impedance 140 K-Ohms
    Output impedance 150 Ohms

    The idea with impedance matching is that low feeds high, for maximum signal transfer and minimum frequency corruption. 10:1 is about the minimum ratio you would want. Bad things happen below that. Consider a pickup with a relatively high output of say 15 K-Ohms (maybe a Gibson humbucker or something) connected to an amp with an input of 1 M-Ohms. This gives you a lot more than 10:1, and it's not a problem. The same pickup going into the passive JDI might start to give you some unwanted artifacts, whereas the J48 still maintains the 10:1 minimum. Also note that many passive pickups have less output impedance than 15K, so if it's around 7 or 8K, the passive JDI could still work and sound great.

    A passive pickup will require greater input impedance of the device than say a keyboard or active signal with a lower output impedance. A poor mans workaround might be to use a Boss pedal or something in bypass in the chain as a buffer to drop the impedance. True bypass pedals won't work. You can check by seeing if the pedal will pass audio without power connected to it. If it needs a battery even in bypass, it should be buffered.

    Having said that, I'm a fan of using a decent mic in front of a decent amp for recording bass. A SansAmp or amp modeling on a DI signal can help if it's not practical to mic an amp. A quality DI that gives you the full, clean signal is a big help if that's your preferred route.

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    I have an Eleven Rack that has a good Ampeg model in it that I often use. The bass player in my band plays a Mark Bass amp with a direct out on the back, so we use that to record him.

    I recently recorded a band and the bass player wanted to use his amp instead of my Eleven Rack, and he wanted me to mic his amp although he had a direct out on the back of his amp. So I just recorded both. Probably 75-80% of the bass in the final mix was the direct out.

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