Recording, Mixing Bass

Recording, Mixing Bass
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#1

I’d love to hear peoples’ general thoughts on recording and mixing a bass guitar track. I know, I know, that’s very broad, and it certainly depends on genre, etc.

But I’d be interested in building a toolbox of “how to’s” on how you approach this.

I was searching the forums on this; didn’t find a lot specifically on this. I found this post in a 20 questions for CLA thread:

Also, Jonathan posted me a link to this thread which discussed tripling the bass track and processing each track differently, then blending. Very cool. That’s the kind of stuff that stretches me. Would love other tips.

What are your thoughts on getting the bass into the DAW? Is DI adequate? Is it sufficient to just record the raw signal and add the processing with FX or amp sim plugs? Or do you double a DI with a mic’d bass amp (or Sans Amp DI) and blend the two in the DAW?

I’d also be interested in what your favorite plugs are specifically for bass?


Salem UK - Betrayed
#2

I’ve been fairly satisfied with just the D.I. over the last few years. I use an Avalon U5. Sometimes when available I use the direct out on a WT800, a TC RH750, or a Mark Bass, but this is more for workflow, so I don’t have to guess on what the guy wants later. I can get a very similar sound using a plugin.

Do you have a good bass amp available?


#3

On the other end of the spectrum from @Jonathan, I’m a hobbyist and no longer have a bass rig, so I only go DI.

There are endless tutorials an whatnot on mixing bass. Here’s one from Waves:


#4

Good topic!


#5

I would have access to one, thru our church. I can’t recall which amp it is, however. I’m thinking it might be a peavey. Can’t recall.

I’ve been using a plain Grooves Tube direct box. Another option would be a Sans Amp DI or something similar. I’m actually seeing very consistently positive reviews on a cheap little Sans Amp clone made by Behringer, which is their Bass BDI21. It’s VERY cheap, but people compare it to the $200+ Sans Amp (see Sweetwater reviews and Audiofanzine reviews).

IDK. Maybe adding something like that to double record bass wouldn’t hurt, but maybe isn’t necessary. I’m thinking a pure signal is a pure signal. Maybe straight DI with plugs is the way to go.

I have the following plugs:

  • TSE BOD2
  • bx_subfilter
  • SHB-1 Bass Amp (Ignite amps)
  • MaxxBass (just got this, haven’t used it yet)
  • RenBass (just got this, haven’t used it yet)

#6

I usually do 2 tracks of bass or sometimes 3 by using several guitar amps. Back in the day I did one DI, Sansamp Bass DI preferably, then that same track either split live into something like a Marshall JTM45 or Bluesbreaker with a heavy bass cut and distorting slightly to mild crunch, those two mixed to taste and on the same bus with some tube eq/compression and limiter afterward. I let the comp slam it and gel everything. Now I do it mostly with plugins.

I’ve been known to mic bass amps as well, one track DI, one track bass amp miked (usually 2 mics - one bit bottle condenser like AT4040 on the tweeter part and a kick mic for the lows, at least on rigs that had these separate like Trace Eliott, the big fridge size Ampeq, etc.), then again one track of the bass signal distorted thru something, either tube pre, tube comp, some kind of guitar amp. Mixed to taste.

On this one scrollkeeper.bandcamp.com I did 1 track of DI (Radial passive DI) into:
1 Ampire British crunch (vox)
1 Amplitube Ampeq plugin
1 straight DI with heavy compression

running a bus with tube tape saturation

Kinda mixed to taste. I wanted to have a little hair, get definition and still keep it warm and wooly. I think it worked out fine.


#7

My favorite for tracking bass at home is my UA LA610. I’m always happy with that critter :slight_smile:


#8

Everybody has their own way of recording, but FYI, at least nine out of every ten of my clients DI straight into the board. In fact I can only ever remember an amp being used once.

The golden rule is to level it out afterwards, that’s the key to consistency in the mix. You can add compression, distortion or whatever your preference is, but the impact will be minimal if you haven’t levelled it out beforehand. I use Drum Leveller these days. Before that I used a combination of manual automation and smashing the crap out of it with a limiter.

Heavy editing makes a big difference too. Wherever possible, I edit every note (that needs it) for timing, including adding silences.

Edit:
In terms of effects, I almost always add stereo chorus - basically becausee it almost always sounds better with than without.


#9

Very nice.


#10

I wouldn’t have thought of that. I don’t think of chorus for bass. Do you have a song you did this with that you could post?

Thanks for the tip about leveling the bass. Helpful also.


#11

Sure, I’ll put one in BTR later and post the link here.


#12

Most of 80s New Wave is bass thru chorus. IMO it is a bit dated trick but I still do it occasionally on ballads and more open songs where I need to fill more place.


#13

Usually the guts of my bass sound comes from an Ampeg 1x15 cab miked with either a condenser for clarity or an EV RE20 for thicker, rockier sounds. There’s something nice about that, when the speaker’s turned up a bit it adds weight and growl to the transients that mean I need to worry less about how it sits in the mix later - though I still obviously need varying degrees of EQ and compression.

That either gets played through directly or I DI and re-amp if I can’t use a loud bass amp while tracking for whatever reason (recording at home, worrying about spill etc).

Either way I also track the DI signal, and distort that in whatever way I think will be cool and add midrange character to the sound. I’ve used the bass amp, guitar amps, VST plugins, distortion pedals, sansamps etc at various times - just whatever sounds cool.

Thing is, when you process signals differently it becomes basically impossible to get them in phase with each other because filters shift phase across the frequency spectrum. So when it comes to mix time, I just play around and listen for what sounds best - from simply testing polarity inversion to using gentle HP filters to try to get the low end shifted back into phase if the mids and highs are where I want them to be.

I like @AJ113 's stereo chorus trick - it depends on the genre, but in the past I’ve sent some bass, usually the top end, through Soundtoy’s Microshift. It can add some lovely zing if there’s space for it.

edit… just another thought. Beside EQ & Comp in the mix, I almost always heavily compress the kick and bass together on a send and bring just a little of that signal in to the mix. And usually there’ll be some annoying frequencies somewhere between 100-200hz that are “lumpy” or boomy sounding, I use TDR Nova dynamic EQ to tame them without just pulling them out.


#14

Here it is:


#15

I’m enjoying reading that so many use chorus on bass. I did a tune here a few years ago where I had a chorus effect on my bass and got criticized about it… so I feel a little vindicated. :wink:


#16

Some people criticize just for the sake of being mean. Keyboard cowboys can jump off a cliff.


#17

Chorus on bass is definitely a huge throwback to the 80s new wave movement, just as big verb and all these things.

I usually avoid it today but depends on what the song asks for.

I prefer to fatten the bass by adding several layers as running it thru different compression, amp rigs, etc. and then bus the whole thing together.