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Recording Bass Direct: Any tips?

Discussion in 'Bass' started by mhutch, Oct 24, 2009.

  1. mhutch

    mhutch Guest

    Hi there,

    I'm recording (and playing) electric bass for an album I'm working on. I'm a guitar player and have never recorded electric bass before. I've had good success miking an acoustic bass but this is all new to me.

    I've asked around and the general consensus is that recording direct is the way to go with my set-up (not having a bass amp and living in a townhouse). :)

    Problem is, I can't seem to get a good sound. I'm playing a newish Ibanez Soundgear bass, going through a ART TubeMP (maybe that's the problem), and then into the MOTU Traveler into Logic.

    It sounds a bit muddy, but to be honest I'm not sure what a good bass sound is when listening to it solo. The only reference I have is the music I listen to, which is already mixed of course.

    Any advise on what to listen for would be much appreciated. Or if there's something I could be doing better, I'm all ears.


  2. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    a good guitar
    choose strings to suite the style of music and sound ... this just takes time to work out

    trim string height for even sound and levels
    adjust play technique wit the above

    a gentle compressor like the LA2 ... or any of the optos
    LA3 gives a transistor sound
    LA2 gives the eveness but is a chip so a bit more bland

    a Tube Pre or Mic with DI can help
    perhaps some sub sonic filtering
    top end roll off ... but can be done later in the editor

    a BIG chunk of the GOOD is going to come from your fingers
    learn to play to the sound
  3. RonanChrisMurphy

    RonanChrisMurphy Active Member

    Apr 21, 2009
    It depends on the sound you are going for, but as with everything getting it right at the sources is #1. Make sure there is at least a bit of life in the strings and if its an active bass, the battery is new.

    I good DI can really help, the ones made by Radial are low cost and quite good. Also another choice for a lower cost is a SansAmp Bass driver which go for about $125 on the used market in the US.

    For many modern styles of music its good to have a little more top end on the bass than you might expect. It helps it compete with the guitars for clarity.
  4. KingSix

    KingSix Active Member

    Dec 19, 2005
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    Here's the main problem, get a Musicman or Fender...
  5. Link555

    Link555 Distinguished Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver
    I have a Ibanez Sound gear bass, and it can sound fantastic. Many clients choose it over a fender jazz or Musicman.... Its tone cuts through a dense rock mix. but its all a matter of taste in the end.
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    "Tis a poor carpenter who blames his tools"... 90%+ of a good bass sound is in the hands of the player. The touch, the attack, the feel, how the player synchs to the drummer. This takes practice and this doesn't come overnight. Keep working at it, man. Bass isn't as easy as some people think, and you have to LISTEN to the other players and work within that format. You get into that groove, you're good to go. I've heard guys that took a set of friggin' flatwounds and made them sound like Chris Squire...LOL!!!
  7. natural

    natural Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    you can also add an amp simulator into the equation for more variables.
    Either in line or parallel.
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    If it has a neck that has the frets in the proper place for the scale length, and if it has a decent pickup thats sends an even signal out, and if it stays in tune, then I'm good to go with whatever is laying around for bass.

    Very very little has to do with brand......

    Very very much has to do with hands and technique as well as having an inherant feel for groove.

    As for DI, if you like that modern sound (and that bass will give you that very easily) the Hartke Bass Attack pedal is the best 79 bucks you can spend.
  9. mhutch

    mhutch Guest

    Thanks so much for all the help! I've been playing around with it and have to say, it's OK, but not great. It is a cheap bass, and I bought it used for next to nothing.

    A friend has offered to loan me his Rickenbacker for a couple weeks, so I'm going to give that a shot. The Ibanez is already back up on the classified ads from whence it came.

    I've heard really good things about that Sansamp, so I might pick one of those up as well. I'll post some samples once I get a few solid things down. Until then, thanks again everyone.

  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    I'm definitely with Dave here. Just about any bass that is in good shape can produce a good sound. Note that bassists play a much wider variety of instrument brands than guitarists who are tied tightly to the Fender/Gibson tones with a few other brands thrown in for space.

    The key question is whether it feels good enough for you so that you can play it well. Since you are primarily a guitar player you might want to go shopping for a bass that fits your playing style - a Fender or a Musicman (though they are what I would prefer) might be going in the wrong direction for you.
  11. Make sure you get some external compression into the signal chain as you record. I find the bass guitar is just too dynamic to recording dry without it.
  12. mhutch

    mhutch Guest

    So I ended up borrowing a Fender P-bass with flatwounds. It sounds awesome. I just have it going through my Boss ME-50 and then straight into Logic. It's exactly the sound I was looking for. Thanks again for the tips!
  13. jaunmanuek

    jaunmanuek Active Member

    Nov 6, 2009
    I've been recording DI basses a lot lately (digi003).

    I'd suggest you make a double analisys to your situation.

    First, half of the problematic is the bass you are using and how you are playing it. Bass tone is based mostly on how the bass is played, how your fingers are used.
    After your fingers, bass type, wood, mics... etc !

    Second, the other half is technology. Mics or direct.
    Using mics on and amp can give you 1000 different tonal possibilities. Then you amp gives the sound and the mic hears it. How many amps ? How many mics you can try ! All diferent tones.

    However, DI recording is a very very good alternative in today recording facilities with so much software solutions to shape tone. In this case I suggest:

    Try the ampeg bass amp simulator (by amplitube I believe) You will have a ton of mics and amps to shape the sound in a very useful way. After that, follow the regular mixing procedures.

    You have an ART tube mp ? Use it !!! I use a ART MPA GOLD with MULLARD tubes on it (I changed them, great improve!).

    Drive the sound on the input and control it with the output. It will change the whole value of the bass mics. You can even try the HI position on the tubes if you need some more extreme sound.

    Hope it helps !

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