Getting a "tight/punchy" bass recording

Discussion in 'Bass' started by hxckid88, Nov 5, 2005.

  1. hxckid88

    hxckid88 Active Member

    A friend of our guitarist recorded our band awhile ago. He gave us a mastered version, and I didnt like at all what he did with my bass.

    I have an Avatar 2x12 runnin with a SVT2-PRO and a Schecter Stiletto Elite 4 string. I have a very tight and punchy, yet bassy sound. On the recording, all you hear is pure bass its just like MMMMM someone humming really loud and it muddy. It sounds muffled in with the actual bass drum (which I t hink he mastered the drums not so great...)

    I'm just curious, what is the BEST way to get a punchy bass tone? If you want an example, listen to Mudvayne, if anything, probably their new CD Lost and Found. The bass seems to sit on top rather than in the back of the guitars. ANd I want that kind of sound.

    I'm a really complex bassist and I always seem to have trouble getting the right sound because I play all the way from open to fret 24 on all 4 strings. So I like nice phat mids but clean fretty highs but not too klanky sounding.

    Wow, what vocab. Haha, but anyway, I'm either going to re-record the bass, or we're gonna leave it as it is and try to "master" it better.

    What would YOU do? thanks in advanced
  2. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    First of all, someone signed off on the mixdown and it sounded "right" at that time, otherwise, you would have opted for either a remix or a reperformance.

    Tell the mastering engineer to back off on the compression. Bass takes the biggest toll when 2-bus or "mastering" compression is used. If you want BIG TONE and LOUD MASTERING, it can be done but what it takes is a mastering engineer that has the right tools to get the levels up there without destroying the bottom end and the punctuation of the fingerwork of the electric bass. It can be done and done well. It is painfully obvious that your mastering engineer failed you at this junction.

    Please tell me the mix was not right to begin with? If it was, I take back what I say about the mastering work.

    This is very common. I bet I "fix" more mastering mistakes than I do first generation projects.

    Compression can work well but it has to be done with a set of ears in mind. I betcha the problem was between the chair and the speakers.
  3. hxckid88

    hxckid88 Active Member

    This guy just does recording on the side because he used to work for some music company and got all kinds of expensive equipment (I dont even think he knew how to use half the stuff). He did everything quick and threw it together, I dont think he spent time mastering it.

    He thinks because he uses $10000000000000000000 equipment, everything will sound good and fall into place, which is untrue.

    I think he lacked the time and dedication into making it sound good. He just kinda threw it together. I actually have the clip if anyone wants to see what it sounds like, so you can understand what I mean.

    When he origionally recorded my bass sounded okay through his monitors, but on my average Lansing computer speakers (it has a sub too) it sounds horrible. I already know what was coming out of the speakers was fine, it mustve either been how it was picked up ( I forgot what kind of mics he was using) or how he mastered it.

    So generally you want to back off on the compression on just the bass if you want a tight sound? What if you want a natural sound? What is hte best way to acheive that sound? I want to know so I dont make these mistakes when I record.
  4. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Compression (used wisely) on the bass channel is a good thing. Compressing the entire mix, that is where a lot of the trouble occurs.

    If the bass was not captured properly to begin with, someone has their work cut out for them to try to resurrect it. Soloed along with the kick, the two "instuments" should balance well as if they are "locked in" Firstly, the kick drum/electric bass relationship is critical to a well balanced mix. This is the absolute foundation.

    Do you have the tracking (all the indivigual channels) available as it was laid, without and post production work? If so, I would like to listen to some of that and see how the capture is. Like I say, this is the first step. EQ of the bass VS the kick drum is artwork. It would be futile for me to hear the mix (obviously, you don't like it) and make some comments (they would be the same as yours).

    lets get to the root of the problem and see if the bass and the kick drum were captured correctly to begin with. If EQ was being used to print (during recording) then...all hope of Big Tone may be lost. It is almost as difficult to undo poor EQ (due to all the phase anomilies) as it is to undo reverb!

    Baby steps at this point.

    Man...what was going on? Why the huge rush to "throw it together?" I know it is not financially feasable to do like "the big boys do" and camp out in the studio and work until it is absolute perfection but then again, one would think that ANY engineer worth their salt would want to be involved in a production and be damned proud of the results. Hell if I am not happy as can be, how can anyone else be? So it looks like we have a structure and planning problem from the get go and the mastering or final should be done by ANYONE ELSE but the mixer. Very few at all can successfully master their own mixdowns. It took me 20 years before I would even consider it and even now, I do like to get some "ideas and conversation" going between the artist and myself if I am going to do it. It will always be done in a different room at a different location. My mix loudspeakers and my mastering loudspeakers work on wholly different principals and completely different rooms.

    Well, sorry so long but this is what I gather from your dissatisfaction.
  5. mark_van_j

    mark_van_j Active Member

    Maribor, Slovenia
    Lemme just jumnp in here for a moment. First of all, I feel your pain. I know to many engineers who spend more money than time on their equipment. Luckily I knew this before I gave them cash... well almost.

    Secondly I would like to ask for a bit of details. Lately my mixes sound fine, except for the bass. I can't get the bass guitar and kick seperate and if my life depended on it. I record live sessions at a radio station, so I don't have time for repositioning, overdubbing or any of the luxury usually associated with recording. I have to set up and record the band, usually withing the hour. So what I get, is what I'm stuck with.

    I tried everything from Lord-Alge compression, to cutting 70hz from the bass and boosting 70hz on the kick. I had to cut/boost about 12dB each way! That can't be normal?

    Then I listen to a SIMPLE cd recording, and the bass and kick soun MILES away. What am I missing here?
  6. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Mark, have you ever tried reversing the phase on either the kick OR the bass?

    Your problem sounds like cancellation. Phase issues.

    Guys, it is not that hard to get the "kick ass" Kick and bass sound. Mic the kick drum from outside of the resonant head and stay away from the batter head. If you are going to mic from inside the kick, only go 1/3 the depth in. As for bass, Get the cab to sound exactly like you love it and then throw an SM57 in front of it about 6 inches from the grill, toward the surround of the driver at about a 15 degree angle but not at the dustcap and never close to the port. If it is a folded horn bass cab, use the mic at at least 1 meter distance. Record them FLAT with no compression and if recording digitally, always in 24 bit and do not allow your peaks to ride above -6dBfs. 48K or 44.1 is fine but if you go to higher samp. fq's, it will not hurt anything. I tend to record at 24/88.2 mainly.

    In blending, (mixing) run some 3:1 compression, quick attack, moderate to slower decay. 0.5 seconds on the decay is fine. This is for the electric bass. Stay away from recording with compression or EQ. (repeating myself on purpose)

    Dial in a shade of eq, (still speaking of the bass guitar) at 90hz and some at around 2.5K to get some "action" just dont overdo it. +4 on each should be plenty. Apply EQ AFTER the compression.

    Kick, See if it sounds great perfectly flat. If not, bump up 3 K a shade and listen to the impact. Try reversing phase on one of them when mixing, one way WILL be better. No need to compress the kick drum for now.

    If this does not get you guys in the ballpark, I will eat my RO hat.


    PS, Chris, I still have the hat as well!
  7. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    hxckid88, your problem is to do with how compression is being applied. Not that compression is being used, it's how it's being used. The time it takes doesn't really matter if what they are doing isn't what you want. In this case, if they would have spent more time, it probably would have been more wrong.

    I think it's time to rethink your approach to kicks and bass's. Every engineer goes through several phases of "this isn't working for me" and they have to take a new approach. first, don't be afraid to try something different. Second, don't look at values on the knobs. Just turn them until you like it.
  8. hxckid88

    hxckid88 Active Member

    Thanks for the responses guys. This is another discussion I will save for future references =D

    Listening to the recording on headphones... It starts off with acoustic, which sounds amazing, then when the electric guitar (with distortion comes in) it sounds really clean and the drums come in at the same time, and wow how horrible the bass and kick drum are mixed together.

    I just honestly dont think he knew what he was doing. He was bragging about how amazing it sounds (compared to our old demo which was difficult to record with the equipment we had...)

    Unfortunately, I'm ordering a Firebox with Cubase, and hes using Pro Tools... Other wise I would just take his files and do it myself haha.

    Again, thanks for the replies and helping me get a better idea.
  9. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Very cool hxckid88!

    it is unfortunant but we simply cannot look at the equipment list as any measure of an engineers ability to use such equipment.

    A true tonmeister will use the ears. Sound and vibe is the name of the game.
  10. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Home Page:
    If he has DigiTranslator, he can send it out of ProTools as an OMF file, and you'll be able to open it in Cubase.

    If he doesn't have DigiTranslator, he can set the cursor to the beginning of the first wave file, and the end of the last wave file, selecting ALL of the wave files, hit "consolidate selection" (export them as .WAV files if he's using SDII or AIFF), burn a DVD of the "consolidated" files, and you can either mix them yourself or take/send them someone who will mix them for you.
  11. hxckid88

    hxckid88 Active Member

    Sweet! I didn't know that. Haha. That's pretty cool. Can I do this vice versa? Cubase to Pro Tools? thanks
  12. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Home Page:
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