It’s one of the things we get asked a more than anything else when it comes to recording instruments, how do you get a great bass guitar sound?
If you are a veteran to recording then this list should come as no surprise, but if you are new then try these and see how much difference they can make to getting the right bass sound on your tracks.
They say that a bad workman blames his tools, that’s partly true, give a great bass player even a cheap instrument and they will do amazing things. However it’s not just about the playing but it’s also the sound of the instrument. Get a great bass guitar - bass is one of those instruments that shows when the money has been spent. That’s got a lot to do with the wood and the quality of the instrument - with bass you can hear it!
Try Different strings; they all have different sounds. A decent bass player will already know this, but if you are new to bass then take a trip to a decent music store and get some advice on the different types of strings and their different weights, you’ll be surprised by how much they can affect both sound and performance.
Experiment with the tone before you record, most basses have a huge variety of sound just built into the pickup pots and switches. Some tracks lend themselves to nice low non-descript brooding bass sounds, other tracks work better with a more punch mid tone. If you have a good amp then use it and use the tone built in; again there’s a vast amount of variety with a good bass amp. Spending some time before you hit record can make a heck of a difference.
Experiment with the playing style - some songs need hard finger style playing and other songs need a pick style - it can make all the difference. Try a few takes with a few different styles then listen back. A pro bass player will also use several different styles in one song to help differentiate between sections.
Try different mics on the bass cab; ask 10 engineers which mic to use and you’ll get 10 different answers, but some favourites are Sennheiser 421, EV RE20, Shure SM57, AKG D12 or 414. Experiment with mic positioning on the cab and distance too, both have a bearing on the final result.
Tracks DI And Amp
Try and get a track of both the amp and the DI sound by using a splitter before the bass hits the amp and then try them both in the mix afterwards. Often the final bass sound in a mix will be a combination of both DI and amp.
In The Mix
Once you have your bass tracked then try adding a boost at around 80-100Hz, be bold and then add a compression to keep it all under control. If you have a DI and a cab take then use one to accentuate the bottom end and the other to give some detail, for me that’s normally the mic take. Transient shapers are a great tool when mixing bass, they allow you to add punch, reduce it, extend sustain or even pull the bass forward or push it back.
Experiment With Augmentation
Try adding in a synth bass line with the original, this trick has been used a lot on some top tracks over the years. Another nice trick is to copy the bass part with an identical guitar part and mix them together. Or try adding in a kick drum sample to add and edgy punch to the bass line - you’d be surprised at the results.
These are some of our favourite tricks and tips, what are yours?