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Recording Bass

Discussion in 'Recording' started by One Flight Up, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. One Flight Up

    One Flight Up Flying. Active Member

    Hey everyone,

    I recently did an interview with one of Australia's top Bass players, Michael Vidale, and his production partner Dave Dempsey. Michael is known for his 'slap bass' playing with some of Australia's top musicians. I wanted to know how they get a great bass sound recorded. Check it out:

    Recording Bass

    What do you guys think? How do you record bass? Any tips or tricks to add?

    Cheers,

    Nick

    -------------
    One Flight Up | Music Studios Sydney
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think that this is an intriguing way to record "slap" bass... I don't find fault with any of what they talked about, although I think one needs to be careful when using a slap bass in a recording these days, as it has the possibility to "date" the sound a bit; it's not something we hear a whole lot of anymore, but, that has nothing to do with the methods that they are using. Don't get me wrong, I love the sounds of players like Larry Graham, Louis Johnson, Tony Levin... and those styles can sound really cool in a retro way... but I also think that if you're not careful, it can also date the sound of a song as well. ( IMHO on this).

    Starting with a great player, who is playing a great-sounding instrument is, for me, mission critical. If you don't have those two things, then no method in the world will ever make the bass track sound good.

    If you are recording an amp as well as a DI, then the sound of the room comes into play, too. You have to be careful of things vibrating, as well as both sympathetic and null areas, so if I was going to record a bass amp, I'd be placing the mic in pretty tight, to insure that the speaker was what was being recorded, and trying to attenuate as much of the room as possible. I wouldn't use an LDC as my go-to for this though. I would instead reach for something like an RE20 or an SM7.

    For the reasons mentioned above, I might also consider trying a bass amp sim instead of an actual cabinet.

    Most of the time, I don't bother with a bass amp, and pretty much stick to the DI method.

    For upright bass, depending on the natural sound of the bass and the way it reacts to the player, I'll use a 414, or sometimes, even a ribbon mic. The inherent bandwidth and character in most ribbons is perfect for instruments like upright bass ( and guitar amps, too, although in that case I generally also use a dynamic as well).
    Sometimes I'll use a transformer-based pre for the DI, other times, perhaps a tube pre, and yet other times, I'm wanting to capture the sound in a way that is as transparent and uncolored as possible.
    It's also very rare that I will process the bass in stereo. For me, mono is king for bass guitar. There are some rare exceptions, but 98% of the time, the bass is mono.

    For compression, I usually don't use any on the way in. These days, with higher bit resolutions - that don't rely on amplitude to achieve that bit resolution - we can record things at lower levels, keeping enough room for those transients to happen but to not peak/clip; and if it does peak, it's still within the range where it's not an actual digital over/clip, and those can then always be tamed through the use of compression ( or volume envelope editing) in the mix phase.

    I will say that within the last year, I've been using parallel gain reduction via auxiliary send, more than I do by actually inserting it directly into a track or bus. This gives me control over how much gain reduction is being used ( and heard).
    Many newer gain reduction plugs now also offer a "mix" function, that allow you to adjust the amount of the compression in the mix - no differently than the wet/dry ratios that we commonly see on reverbs and delays.

    For bass GR, I like the 1176, as well as the LA2 ( sometimes individually and sometimes used together). Sometimes I want a compression that doesn't "sound" as if it has been compressed, so instead I will reach for a processor like Fabfilter's compressor; another one I like for this is Waves R-Channel compression. Both are very clean and unobtrusive, and result in a compression that isn't as audible as thse others.

    And, if I'm occasionaly hearing a heavy amount of random low-end frequency in the 80hz - 200hz range that is more note-specific, sometimes, using a Fairchild 670 will attenuate that range a bit, just enough to make it sit nicely in the mix.
    That's not to say that I use it as a substitute for EQ, but sometimes it works if there's just a shade too much "whoompiness" on certain notes here and there.
    This is just one of those little trick-bag things that all engineers have and use, based on personal experience; those little things that they've learned over the years, their own way of doing something that others may not know about.

    All of the above is what is known as "context" recording, in that it all depends on what the song calls for, and that determines the way in which I record... and not just for bass, either... that same philosophy applies to any instrument that I'm tracking.

    It is totally subjective to what I'm working on at the time, and within the context of the style and sound I am after, at that time.

    All IMHO of course.

    -d.
     
  3. One Flight Up

    One Flight Up Flying. Active Member

    Hey Donny,

    Thanks for checking out the interview.

    Great post! I totally agree about the "context" recording.... Everything should be context recording as far as I'm concerned!

    Happy New Year!
    Best for 2016,

    Nick

    --------------
    One Flight Up | Music Studios Sydney
     
  4. BusterMudd

    BusterMudd Active Member

    I managed to go for ~20 years as a recording engineer before I found a reason to alter that approach. Electro-Voice RE20, Sennheiser MD421, or RCA 44BX were my go-to mics for mic'ing a bass amp, and I too stayed away from LDCs for that application

    Then in 1996 I was doing a session where the assistant had (presumably out of habit) put up a Neuman TLM-170i on the bass rig. Cardioid pattern, 1" off the grill of an Eden 2x10" cabinet, pointing straight in (i.e., not skewed to match the angle of the speaker cone) midway between the dustcap and the surround.

    Best. Bass sound. Ever.

    Didn't even use a DI on that session, and the TLM-170i has now become my go-to mic for all bass amps. Unless I'm doing an aggressive rock track where I want to use the amp for "grind" and need to emphasize that slightly crunchy midrange (where the E-V or Sennheiser dynamics excel), the 170i gives me an incredibly hyper-realistic representation of exactly what's coming out of the speaker.
     
    kmetal likes this.
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Ik multimedia used to offer a fantastic ampeg svt sim as a freebie pluggin. Not sure if it's still around but it was really really useful for that type of sound. Just fwiw
     
  6. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Ik Mulitmedia do one now called Ampeg SVX, its a little pricey but you can download a fully functioning trial for evaluation purposes
     
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Eh they cheaped out, they used to give you a limited version free. It only had one amp instead however many in the full one. Lol I bet the free one w the Marshall jcm 800 is a thing of the past too. Ahhhh the memories.
     

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