Basics Of Recording: Bass Guitar
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
Bass is a surprisingly simple instrument to record, however with a little careful thought, the tone can go from 'good' to 'professional'. Here's some simple ideas on how to record a bass guitar:
The Bass Itself
As I discussed last week, if you bass is not setup properly with new strings, you're not going anywhere! Same rules apply with setting up a guitar, but arguably with the extra tension in a bass it's little more challenging.
Here is a guide to setting up your bass guitar (same link as last time)
The traditional method in home studios of recording guitar is to plug in direct. Using a DI box (or the input on an audio interface) you get the direct raw tone of the bass. If you have some extra money try using a tube or transformer based DI to warm up the signal. The A-Designs Reddi is often mentioned and certainly worth checking out.
Amp It Up
Here's the more advanced stuff. If you have a bass amp then use it! Plug the 'through' of the DI into the amp and mic it up!
As with guitar there are many good choices for mic. Any good large-diaphragm condenser will get a solid tone with all the low end. An alternative is to use something like an SM57. It will not capture the low end, but if you're using it with a DI sound that will give all the low end you need. In terms of mic placement the same rules apply as guitar amps with speaker tones, but you may find pulling the mic back a foot or two gives a nicer tone. Experimentation is the order of the day!
The trick here is to blend the direct clean tone with more of a characterful amp tone in your recording software. That should give
you the low end any mix needs
alongside the character that should
be in any rock or metal bass.
If you don't have a good bass amp then a guitar amp (on low gain!) will do a great job of bringing life to a bass track.
If you don't have a good amp then bass preamp pedals can do a great service.
There's many to chose from from companies such as Darkglass and Tech 21. These have an obvious advantage that you can get all the tone of an amp without making lots of noise!
If you have the time to experiment then try recording 3(!) tracks of bass. A Clean DI, a slightly gritty amp and an over-the-top distorted pedal bass tone. Take the low end off the distorted tone and turn it down a long way. Use it to blend bass and guitar tones for a more unified sound.
Recording bass can be a very simple process. Don't be dissapointed if you only have the resources to record a DI. You can get great amp tones using plugins on the PC! If you decide to work with me then I have plenty of ways to make a badass bass tone out of a DI! Next time I'll focus on something that at first glance is simple, vocal tracks!
What are your thoughts? What else is essential for recording a beefy low end? Comment below to let me know!