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Recording Bass

Discussion in 'Bass' started by TheArchitect, Aug 23, 2006.

  1. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Active Member

    Mar 26, 2005
    I find that my recorded bass parts end up needing extensive EQ to just sound "OK". The issue is always boomy bass / mud combined with a lack of clarity. The instrument is a Carvin LB76 six string bass with essentially a Jazz bass pickup arrangement. It has an active preamp/EQ but I generally bypass it because its a little noisy. I am recording direct using a Brick for a DI.

    Is fairly extensive use of EQ on bass the norm or I am making some poor fundemental decisions here such as pickup choice and shooting myself in the foot? My room ain't Abbey Road by any stretch but I know I (and it) can do better. Any thoughts are appreciated
  2. natural

    natural Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Some basses just aren't cut out for going direct.
    The best sounding DI bass has been the Fender Jazz bass. I'm sure there's others, but that's the classic one.
    I've recorded a lot of basses, and yeah, sometimes you're just going to have to do some radical stuff to make it work.
    Obvioulsy try making as many adjustments to the bass as you can. adjust all tone controls, different type/gauge strings, sometimes a different or shorter cable, etc.
    THere have been several occasions where micing a bass cab, resulted in a better sound. Of course, taking both a DI and a mic, will give you more possibilities.
    Good luck
    Hope this helps.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    I'm not sure why you think the active pickup system is all that noisy? Was a new battery inserted before you tried recording? I can't tell you how many times guys have come into the studio with active pickups and dead batteries for a recording session. Go figure? A friend of mine had a Paul Reed Smith active bass but she too was using the passive outputs because she said the active didn't work. It's like never having checked her oil on her car! She didn't know that it had a battery and never knew how to change it until I showed her and then it sounded fabulous! Don't get me started. I actually prefer active outputs to passive outputs any day. I've never really had that much trouble recording bass. For the bass, I prefer to use an active FET DI but I have also used a transformer DI like a Whirlwind Director. I will sometimes mic a cabinet if it is exceptional sounding but won't if it's mediocre. I will frequently add a little high pass filter around 30 hertz, sometimes roll off the high end, sometimes adding a little bump in the midrange and add a little limiting but that's about it. If things get a little too muddy, I will sometimes pull a little bit of 250 hertz down but don't overdo that, it'll get too thin. You really shouldn't have to do anything to the extreme.

    Extremely pleased
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Electric bass is one of the best sounding instruments recorded direct and generally needs very little tweaking - Remy has described the standard tricks. I have not played with any of the Carvin basses, but my guess is that the pickups are designed to sound their best with the active electronics (especially on a 6 string). Put in a fresh battery and keep away from the computer and other sources of stray fields and see if things don't sound better.

    As far as the brick, I have played my bass (passive p-bass, flats) through my brick. Sounded fine - no mud. (I still usually use my Bass POD to record, but I have tweaked the settings for live use. I'm familiar with it.) My guess is that if your bass doesn't sound good through the brick with no tweaking of the eq, you are not going to be able to make it sound great with another DI, preamp and all the tweaking in the world. In general, I think that the Amp, preamp, DI usually is (and should be) a far smaller part of the tone equation with a bass than with a guitar. A good sounding bass sounds fine recorded raw and everything else is just gilding the lily. (Not that there is anything wrong with gilded lilies.)
  5. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Active Member

    Mar 26, 2005
    The batteries are fresh, the strings are in good shape. I've teched my own instruments for 15+ years. I can say with confidence it isn't a maintenance issue. The preamp just adds a hiss that I don't care for.

    Typically the corrective eq I end up with includes a big boost in 2-6k range for bite, a HP around 80-100hz and sometimes a few db cut in 200-400hz range.

    It is very likely the pups were designed to function as a unit with the preamp and therefore are a little off used in passive mode.

    After more experimenting I think that perhaps using a fairly even blend of the 2 pups is causing phase cancellation that is at least a contributing factor.
  6. Rosemary

    Rosemary Guest

  7. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    The boomy sound it probably due to over-compensation when you cut everything below 80-100hz. Try cutting it at 60, 50 or lower. I generally don't cut it all. The boomy-muddy-fat sound ususally comes from the ~150-300Hz range, so I'm not surprised with the few dbs you cut there. But, I'm willing to bet that when you cut it below 100Hz, you end up adding more low end in to compensate for the loss of "fullness", and since all that's left is 100-500 in your low range, those are what get juiced up. That would explain some of the mud.

    But, the 2-6K range is strange. I can't say I've ever seen a HUGE boost needed there. I tend to cut the 2k out a little, especially, because it can be a nasty freq. It sounds like maybe you need to get your pickups a little bit closer to the strings so the brightness can come through? Possibly?

    Another question for you... what kind of cords are you using? Ditch every "high end super monster cable" and replace them with standard ones. I like Whirlwind, but that's probably because I have friends there. Honestly, though, most high-end guitar cables that I've used with basses tend to pick up more nastiness. The generic-style cables actually shape the tone a little more as it was intended to be out of the bass.
    That's all opinion, but I know what works for me.

    Good luck!
  8. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Active Member

    Mar 26, 2005
    I think you are misunderstanding me. I record the track flat. The eq adjustments I spoke of are applied to the track in the mix to get the instrument to fit the track better.

    Most of my cables are Peavey branded but there is a Monster cable or two in the box. Not sure who makes the Peaveys but they have held up very well. Not so much as a crackle in close to 6 years now.

    The need for a big boost around 2-6k may be a byproduct of using the pickups in passive mode. As was discussed, they were likely voiced with the preamp in mind.

    Raising the pickups is an idea. I haven't touched the factory setup on the pups.
  9. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    Rosemary!!!! Are those color-coordinated cables to match the basses?!?!? How chic!!!
  10. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    Fair enough, you're right... I didn't realize it was all post processed EQ.

    I would try experimenting with the pickups first because it's easy as pie to try. Go to the extremes and try different angles (lower strings closer to the pickups is usually how I have it so they cut clearer).
    If that doesn't seem to fix it try going active again and see if you can get some more life out of it. It may be worth it, but I like passive most of the time myself.
    My suggestion of different cords probably isn't as noticable by others, I'm just a snob when it comes to cords sometimes. I notice a difference, and I hate monster cables. But I'm an ass anyway! :lol:

    I should add, I have a Carvin 6-string active bass, with no option for passive. I get some INSANELY good tone out of that bass. Other actives haven't given me the same tone, so I shy away from them... but that carvin sounds like a gem. I think on that bass I have the pickups pretty close to the strings to get more life out of them, too.
  11. Rosemary

    Rosemary Guest

  12. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2001
    Time for new pickups?

    Otherwise, do you have any noise filtering plugins? Digidesign's DINR.... Waves X-noise etc. Bass is one of the easiest instruments to filter out hiss.
  13. bassmutant

    bassmutant Guest

  14. Rosemary

    Rosemary Guest

  15. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    I forgot to mention that. I am mainly a guitarist, so I tend to play with a pick. I believe that my pickups are far enough away that I don't smack into them when I play with my fingers, though. But definitely a good point.
  16. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    I dunno...a lot of us are probably ugly buggers by comparison! :p

    But back on topic, some basses just aren't good recording basses, IME. They can sound killer live, but something just isn't there when trying to record it direct. Your EQing doesn't really seem that extreme to me, but I would focus on micing up an amp if you aren't getting the sound you want direct. If you can't get the desired brightness there, then maybe you just have a dud bass?

    EDIT: Actually, that first reply pretty much sums it up...so nevermind me!
  17. Rosemary

    Rosemary Guest

  18. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    Another idea would be to try a different DI, just to be sure that you're getting the right results out of the Brick. Try a SansAmp DI, they're about $200 new.


    I like them because they're cake to use, and they seem to work well from my limited experience with them...
  19. Shindog

    Shindog Active Member

    Aug 22, 2006
    You say your strings are "in good shape" if you are recording you should use new strings(give them 24hrs to stretch) bass strings go dead very quickly and will give you a $*^t, muddy, no definition sound.
    Have your bass checked by a reputable guitar tech, the active eq should be noise free.
    EQ should be reasonable flat with a little boost @ 125hz and cut at 30, 60,200,250hz.
    try some compression
  20. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Active Member

    Mar 26, 2005
    Always an option but there are a number of things to experiment with before I start throwing money at it.

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