Improving my bass sound

Discussion in 'Bass' started by theslinkycat, Apr 20, 2009.

  1. theslinkycat

    theslinkycat Guest

    Hey all.

    Been reading around a few forums now regarding getting a good bass sound, but I've realised I'll probably get the best answer by explaining what gear I currently use and my budget etc

    Currently I'm using an m-audio firewire solo, and plugging my old yamaha rbx 550 active bass straight in. I've been recording like that, experimenting with VSTs and other plug in effects.

    For a young student, how can I improve my bass sound, without breaking the budget too much? With a bit of research I read that some people also record by miking the bass amp as well, some people use a DI before plugging into the interface, or a preamp unit such as a sansamp etc.

    Any tips? Thanks for taking time to read this.

  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    The Sans-Amp Bass Driver pedal is a very good way to get quality bass sounds without a lot of dough. The Hartke Bass Attack pedal also works quite well and is cheaper.

    Bass sound is primarily in the bass players hands. Good quality gear from the bass through the entire signal chain helps, but the real sound is in the hands.
  3. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    That depends how good you want your bass to sound. If you're one of those people who thinks the bass needs to be right up front in the mix, then you probably won't be that happy with the direct sound no matter what you do. What you can do, though, is to put a nuclear low pass on the bass at about 4 KHz (or lower) and that will help get the unnecessary frequencies out of there and make your bass start to sound more like a bass. I never liked the sound of a mic'd bass amp, as it just never sat in my mixes right, but that doesn't mean you can't try it. But a good preamp is always smart, because overdriving a bass preamp can put a bass up front pretty easily, but you may or may not like the sound. And last but not least, put your bass in neutral, unless you know what frequencies you're cutting and boosting and know how to boost and cut properly.
  4. theslinkycat

    theslinkycat Guest

    At the moment I'm trying to get the best 'smooth' bass as I can. If you wanna check out my myspace - and listen to the first song on there (i think it automatically plays)

    The bass is about as smooth as I can get it, before it starts to completely take over the mix and begin vibrating certain areas of my room!

    Hope this helps, thanks to both of you for your input.
  5. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    That sounded much better than your initial post led me to believe. :lol: If you want smooth I can give you some general guidelines to follow.
    1. Take the extended highs completely out of the signal. If you don't know what a low pass is, then look it up on Wikipedia or something, because bass guitars and low passes are like peanut butter and jelly.
    2. Turn the treble down.
    3. I think you might want an upright bass sort of sound, which is actually very subby with very short decays. You can always do the palm mute simulation, which is only so great. What you might want is a fretless bass: gives you the best of fretted and upright basses. At least in my opinion. But a little palm muting still couldn't hurt. Try it, you might like it.
    4. Don't go too crazy with the subs and lows, but don't turn them down, either.
    Well, hopefully that will give you some ideas on what you can try that you haven't already. Forget the whole overdriving the preamp thing: not what you want. Good luck and God bless.
  6. theslinkycat

    theslinkycat Guest

    ok cool, thanks alot mate, i'll try those out.

    So you don't think there's any need to suddenly fork out some money for one of those boxes that @DaveDog mentioned?
  7. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    If you're trying to save money, then no. It would help, but I think there are other changes that will make more of a difference for what you want to achieve. After all, upright basses aren't plugged into amps, right? :lol: I really think the sound you are after is somewhere in between the realm of upright and fretted electric. One other thing you might try is a pickup swap, which doesn't have to be expensive so long as you have very basic soldering iron skills. Something like an alnico II pickup will help to warm things up and smooth out your tone. One other thing to try while we're on the subject of pickups is lowering your pickup(s). This will give you a darker, smoother sound which will probably work well for what you're after.
  8. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Nov 16, 2004
    I have had success with using sponges/folded-up cloths near the bridge to further simulate that upright sound, in addition to the aforementioned palm muting.

    You have several no- and low-cost things to try out, so am pretty sure you will hit your mark.
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    It seems to me the type of sound you are going for is a version of the James Jamerson, Carole Kaye, Duck Dunn R&B sound. While people have gotten versions of this with all kinds of equipment, the classic recipe is Stock Fender P-bass, flatwound strings, recorded direct through console preamps and studio compressor.

    I like the sound you are getting now. (IMHO it needs less work than the guitar or violin.) You really don't need to spend much money if you don't have it.

    The first thing I'd recommend would be more experimenting with eq. I agree with NCDan on the low pass filter. I'm not sure I agree on the lows and subs. You can get a lot of punch in this sound by boosting the low mids - usually also cutting the high mids - if this doesn't fight with the rest of the mix. At any rate, a lot of experimentation with eq between 20-1K Hz is in order.

    Next some compression or limiting. Try it light - (2:1, 3:1) fast attack, slow release, just a few dB of attenuation. Try to squash the heck out of it - 10:1, a lot of attenuation. Probably end up going with something pretty light, but try it all.

    As far as equipment, try the sponges and foam around the house - free. Tuck a small piece under the strings down by the bridge. The tail piece of the old Fender P-bass had foam mutes. You are trying to duplicate this sound. I've never been able to make this trick work right, but I like the sound of the guys who can. See if you can find someone who plays a bass with flats and try it out. I love Thomastic-Infield Jazz flats. LaBella Jamerson set is my second choice. If you like them, they are a good investment since they last for years. But it's pretty expensive just to buy a set and give them a try.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Since you hadnt posted your sample before I responded, I had only an answer to your initial question.

    Now that i have heard your stuff I have another answer entirely.

    Its only going to take a touch of compression as Bob alluded to.

    The foam (I use it for certain sounds) is going to damp the strings and cut off some of the sustain as well as some of the overtones. It will work on round-wounds but not as well as flats. Smoothness comes from technique. Yours is fine. I think you are getting the sound you want with that style you are playing. I like it a lot.

    Compress a touch. Work the EQ in the 500hz and below. If you want it to sound 'smoother' then play it 'smoother'. Otherwise enjoy the quirkyness of the sound youre getting now.

    Its really quite good.
  11. AudioGeezer

    AudioGeezer Active Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    used Avalon U5 about $350.
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Thumbs up on the Avalon U5 if you can find one at that price you'll love it.

    The HHB Fatman (either Radius 3 or Radius 5) Tube Compressors also make a really warm thick bass sound. eBaying at $200 or less.
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