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Recording Bass

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

Comments

TheArchitect Fri, 08/25/2006 - 07:37
Markd102 wrote: [quote=TheArchitect]The preamp just adds a hiss that I don't care for.
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.
Always an option but there are a number of things to experiment with before I start throwing money at it.

TheArchitect Fri, 08/25/2006 - 07:45
bassmutant wrote: [quote=TheArchitect][quote=corrupted]

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

Be careful you don't raise them too far, I like super low action on my basses and nothing kills a sweet vibe on a track like string hitting the pickup. What I think you should try is to actually lower the front pickup a hair, since that's where most of your low mud frequencies come from, from my experience. Moving your front pickup too close to the strings will introduce distortion actually, and too far away will sound thin. The carvins have passive pickups and active electronics, so your just boosting whatever signal you get if your running with the active eq on. Before you start adjusting the pickup height though, does rolling the front/rear pickup knob more to the rear alleviate the problem? Try recording the track with just the rear pup solo'd, it may sound trebly through your monitoring setup, but who knows. Anyways, good luck man. I love bass, I hope you find the sound your looking for. I always feel like if I don't get a good sound recorded, especially with doublebass, no amount of processing is going to make it great.

Also, if you plan on replacing those pups,
http://www.bestbassgear.com has some bartolini pups that will drop in, based on the dimensions of those carvin jazz pups. Dimensions are 3.72" long x .72" wide x .80 high. These should fit fine, Bartolini 59 J1 L1/LN1 (59 Long/Long .
The ones with the Cb are supposed to have a more classic tone, but I can't comment, I only have the First ones I mentioned in my Fretless Five string and they sound really clear and sweet. I've bought numerous times from them and they have fast shipping and are reputable.
I am a guitarist primarily but have played bass from time to time. The difference now is I am recording the instrument for final tracks and not just demo's for the first time with my current instrument/studio. I think I just need to learn what a great bass sound is. Like I said, the part sounds fine solo but doesn't lay in the track at all. Once that is sorted out I think it will be all good.


I have no issues with changing pickups but I want to test what can be done with what I have.

BobRogers Fri, 08/25/2006 - 13:40
Reggie wrote: [quote=Rosemary]
I love colors and I love pictures. I wish more of you guys would post pictures.
:D Rosemary
I dunno...a lot of us are probably ugly buggers by comparison! :P
Reggie - The master of understatement.
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...
Here's my very idiosyncratic (arrogant, biased) opinion on that...If a bass doesn't sound good recorded direct (say through a countyman) it doesn't sound good live. (You can't make chicken soup out of chickens**t.) Now it (and the amp) may FEEL killer. But it doesn't SOUND good. "Not that there's anything wrong with that." There are a lot of forms of music out there today where the bass is far more responsible for "feel" than "sound." I've heard a lot of bassists whose first job it to smack everyone in the chest with vibrations around 40Hz. Gets a lot of booties on the dance floor. Doesn't usually translate directly to recorded music.

BobRogers Fri, 08/25/2006 - 13:45
Shindog wrote: 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 shit, muddy, no definition sound....
I believe that James Jamerson's funk machine had the same set of LaBella flats on it for about 15 years. I would give a few minor body parts to achieve his "shit, muddy, no definition sound."

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 08/25/2006 - 13:55
BobRogers wrote: [quote=Shindog]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 shit, muddy, no definition sound....
I believe that James Jamerson's funk machine had the same set of LaBella flats on it for about 15 years. I would give a few minor body parts to achieve his "shit, muddy, no definition sound."And I'll bet if I picked up that bass it would sound like shit. It's amazing what some people's talent and style can do to an instrument that would sound like crap if others were to attempt it! :lol:

One thing to keep in mind...
I think bass guitar tone is such a wonderful thing because you can buy 10 albums that have IDENTICAL stock guitar tones... and they all have completely different bass tone. Sure, maybe it's mixed so it's in the same sonic range... but there are so many more "acceptable" tones from bass that all add their own flavor without ruining the feel of the song. An experienced bassist or engineer/producer can come up with something you'd never expect that adds tons of depth to a song. And then, 5 minutes later, come up with something else completely different but just as good.

On that same note, it can be tough because it IS so diverse.

TheArchitect Fri, 08/25/2006 - 15:03
BobRogers wrote:
Here's my very idiosyncratic (arrogant, biased) opinion on that...If a bass doesn't sound good recorded direct (say through a countyman) it doesn't sound good live. (You can't make chicken soup out of chickens**t.) Now it (and the amp) may FEEL killer. But it doesn't SOUND good. "Not that there's anything wrong with that." There are a lot of forms of music out there today where the bass is far more responsible for "feel" than "sound." I've heard a lot of bassists whose first job it to smack everyone in the chest with vibrations around 40Hz. Gets a lot of booties on the dance floor. Doesn't usually translate directly to recorded music.

While certain instruments are definitely better than others and some are in fact dogs, the lack of seat time with this gear pretty much rules that out as the first conclusion. Even the instrument that sounds good direct can be hosed with the turn of a knob or a change of strings and that doesn't even begin to address playing technique.

BobRogers Fri, 08/25/2006 - 16:48
corrupted wrote: [quote=BobRogers][quote=Shindog]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 shit, muddy, no definition sound....
I believe that James Jamerson's funk machine had the same set of LaBella flats on it for about 15 years. I would give a few minor body parts to achieve his "shit, muddy, no definition sound."And I'll bet if I picked up that bass it would sound like shit. It's amazing what some people's talent and style can do to an instrument that would sound like crap if others were to attempt it! :lol:
My tounge was planted pretty firmly in my cheek on that one. Jamerson's bass had a wide rep for being unplayable. OTOH I play (TI) flats and rarely change strings.

One thing to keep in mind...
I think bass guitar tone is such a wonderful thing because you can buy 10 albums that have IDENTICAL stock guitar tones... and they all have completely different bass tone. Sure, maybe it's mixed so it's in the same sonic range... but there are so many more "acceptable" tones from bass that all add their own flavor without ruining the feel of the song. An experienced bassist or engineer/producer can come up with something you'd never expect that adds tons of depth to a song. And then, 5 minutes later, come up with something else completely different but just as good.

On that same note, it can be tough because it IS so diverse.
I might be in agreement. (Not sure.) To me the "center" of a bass tone is in the low mids - around the 200-400 octave. (mostly as first harmonic overtones.) If that's there and pushing the groove, you can add other stuff at will and I'm good. Other people focus on true-low chest thump or high-mid guitar snap. But like me, as long as the bass does the job they want they will forgive other forms of heresy. (While a guitar fiend will reject any diviation from the tone of )..

BobRogers Fri, 08/25/2006 - 16:53
TheArchitect wrote: [quote=BobRogers]
Here's my very idiosyncratic (arrogant, biased) opinion on that...If a bass doesn't sound good recorded direct (say through a countyman) it doesn't sound good live. (You can't make chicken soup out of chickens**t.) Now it (and the amp) may FEEL killer. But it doesn't SOUND good. "Not that there's anything wrong with that." There are a lot of forms of music out there today where the bass is far more responsible for "feel" than "sound." I've heard a lot of bassists whose first job it to smack everyone in the chest with vibrations around 40Hz. Gets a lot of booties on the dance floor. Doesn't usually translate directly to recorded music.

While certain instruments are definitely better than others and some are in fact dogs, the lack of seat time with this gear pretty much rules that out as the first conclusion. Even the instrument that sounds good direct can be hosed with the turn of a knob or a change of strings and that doesn't even begin to address playing technique. Yuo need to sign up for my math course. You are saying that you can make chicken S**t out of chicken soup (I agree). Doesn't spoil my point.

TheArchitect Fri, 08/25/2006 - 17:35
BobRogers wrote: [quote=TheArchitect][quote=BobRogers]
Here's my very idiosyncratic (arrogant, biased) opinion on that...If a bass doesn't sound good recorded direct (say through a countyman) it doesn't sound good live. (You can't make chicken soup out of chickens**t.) Now it (and the amp) may FEEL killer. But it doesn't SOUND good. "Not that there's anything wrong with that." There are a lot of forms of music out there today where the bass is far more responsible for "feel" than "sound." I've heard a lot of bassists whose first job it to smack everyone in the chest with vibrations around 40Hz. Gets a lot of booties on the dance floor. Doesn't usually translate directly to recorded music.

While certain instruments are definitely better than others and some are in fact dogs, the lack of seat time with this gear pretty much rules that out as the first conclusion. Even the instrument that sounds good direct can be hosed with the turn of a knob or a change of strings and that doesn't even begin to address playing technique. Yuo need to sign up for my math course. You are saying that you can make chicken S**t out of chicken soup (I agree). Doesn't spoil my point.
I'm very good at math and you seem to have missed a variable or two. By no means has the instrument been dialed in yet and you have jumped to the conclusion that because it wasn't killer on the first pass it will never sound good. If a turn of a knob can make a great sounding instrument sound bad, then a turn of knob can make make a bad sounding instrument sound great. In essence, turning your chicken shit into chicken salad.

Davedog Fri, 08/25/2006 - 18:04
I've been playing bass for 40 years or so.....I've owned and played a LOT of basses. My question to you, Mr TheArchitect, is what setting are you using on an ACTIVE bass that causes a 'hiss'? This sounds like something in the preamp section of the instrument or perhaps an overzealous setting on the axe when playing it.

In my experience, what sounds good live can actually suck largely in the studio. This is not a truism, just something that you run into on occasion.

Since you're into wrenching yer rigs, I would look into the preamp section of the bass and see if theres a problem. If I remember that bass correctly, it has avery elaborate set of controls for the tone section Y/N?

Check here for your problems.

Also, at mix, perhaps you're not moving enough of the other instruments out of the basses' way for it to develope the sound youre looking for. A bunch of similar pitches with radically different tones usually equals muddy disaster.

TheArchitect Sat, 08/26/2006 - 05:04
Davedog wrote: I've been playing bass for 40 years or so.....I've owned and played a LOT of basses. My question to you, Mr TheArchitect, is what setting are you using on an ACTIVE bass that causes a 'hiss'? This sounds like something in the preamp section of the instrument or perhaps an overzealous setting on the axe when playing it.

In my experience, what sounds good live can actually suck largely in the studio. This is not a truism, just something that you run into on occasion.

Since you're into wrenching yer rigs, I would look into the preamp section of the bass and see if theres a problem. If I remember that bass correctly, it has avery elaborate set of controls for the tone section Y/N?

Check here for your problems.

Also, at mix, perhaps you're not moving enough of the other instruments out of the basses' way for it to develope the sound youre looking for. A bunch of similar pitches with radically different tones usually equals muddy disaster.

Even flat there is a bit of hiss. Its audible in a quiet recording room but probably would be moot in a mix. When I boost the highs for any reason the hiss is boosted a few db naturally I just thought why add noise if it wasn't necessary and went passive.

The bass does have Hi/Mid/low controlls on the pre and a trim pot in the cavity for the output level of the pre which I haven't touched. Any of the tone knobs get ugly if taken to extreme setting. The trick is learning their subtleties which apparantly I haven't done yet. :)

As for the mix, that is certainly a possibility. In the current examples, they were demos with just a drum machine and an acoustic guitar but other mixes in the past were certainly larger.

In terms of making room, is it necessary to high pass the tracks or will a few db's be enough? Where would you typically make reductions?

natural Sat, 08/26/2006 - 07:49
Whoa, wait, let's back up there just a bit.
Something important has slipped by.
Yes, you can make chickenshit out of chicken soup,
but the converse is not necessarily true.
That would come under the heading of Alchemy.

Yes, you can carve a little or a lot out of other tracks to make room for the bass. It's more like negotiation. You raise a little here, you lower a little there. You meet half way. While there's no magic freq, I seem to find that octaves below 1K seem to be good starting points. 1K, 500, 250, 125, etc

I'm hungry for KFC all of a sudden.

natural Wed, 08/23/2006 - 19:36
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.

RemyRAD Wed, 08/23/2006 - 19:48
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

BobRogers Thu, 08/24/2006 - 06:58
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.)

TheArchitect Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:24
RemyRAD wrote: 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

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.

Pro Audio Guest Thu, 08/24/2006 - 12:15
TheArchitect wrote: 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.
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!
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