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Bass - My Weakest Link!
Old 18th May 2006
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 15 years
Bass - My Weakest Link!

I have to confess, bass guitar is area that I find myself less than satisfied. Drums, guitars, synths, electronic and sampled beats, vox etc, I feel happy about. But I dont think I have EVER got a bass sound that I was truely happy with.

Maybe it is the equipment Iv been using, maybes its my current lack of technique in this area... but probably its a mixture of both.

I wonder if it would be possible to get a few tips from the good fellas of this fine land?

Im talking generally:

- Useful EQ / compression settings

- Favorite gear for the job (individual pieces / signal chains)

- Amp / DI?

etc

Any assistence would be MOST appreciated. Cheers!

TB

Ps. I usually DI bass guitars, into a U5, sometimes compressing on the way in, sometimes not. My sounds tend to be very 'middley', lifeless and rarely sit well in the mix.
Old 18th May 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Kestral's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Most important is a damn good bass. What bass are you playing? I'd say this is the #1 thing to take care of. Great instruments make an engineer's job much easier.

Not an ok bass, not a good bass but a DAMN good bass. Makes all the difference. I like the 70's Music Man Stingray bass.

Then a great DI (especially something with a Jensen transformer like a Radial JDI).

Then a killer pre (ie. Neve 1073)

Warm tube compression imo is a must (LA2A is the only choice here)

Then into a great converter (ie. Apogee)
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #3
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
If you have a good bass (music man is good all around) and a decent DI it should be pretty easy. I like the avalon DI for deep subs and a distressor to keep the level in check (med, at, rel, ratio) rarely need to eq if it's a good player using his fingers.
-brian
Old 18th May 2006
  #4
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tee boy
I have to confess, bass guitar is area that I find myself less than satisfied. Drums, guitars, synths, electronic and sampled beats, vox etc, I feel happy about. But I dont think I have EVER got a bass sound that I was truely happy with.

Maybe it is the equipment Iv been using, maybes its my current lack of technique in this area... but probably its a mixture of both.

I wonder if it would be possible to get a few tips from the good fellas of this fine land?

Im talking generally:

- Useful EQ / compression settings

- Favorite gear for the job (individual pieces / signal chains)

- Amp / DI?

etc

Any assistence would be MOST appreciated. Cheers!

TB

Ps. I usually DI bass guitars, into a U5, sometimes compressing on the way in, sometimes not. My sounds tend to be very 'middley', lifeless and rarely sit well in the mix.
In my opinion one should focus on making the bass light (in weight) but very warm. The bass is a very important element which means there should be much focus on making it consume the sound field as efficiently as possible. There are of course many good approaches, but I think one way of dealing with the bass guitar is to dip enough (but not so the intimicy is lost) on each EQ band above something like 200 - 300kHz and apply a high pass filter somewhere around 70 - 90Hz. After that you probably get too much attack, then you can apply a multiband compressor and cut the band around 150Hz until it pulses more softly. Now you can apply additional warmth on it. If you have some analog compressors or digital compressors, try set them up in series like this:

Compressor 1
Threshold: -5dB
Ratio: 2:00

Compressor 2
Threshold: -10dB
Ratio: 3:00

Compressor 3
Threshold: -15dB
Ratio: 4:00

If you are not really happy, try apply tape saturation, for instance PSP Mix Saturator.

Finally you try to balance the ratio between all these things (including the track volume fader) until it sits right. Try to make it fit together with the kick drum.
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Most important is a damn good bass. What bass are you playing? I'd say this is the #1 thing to take care of. Great instruments make an engineer's job much easier.

Not an ok bass, not a good bass but a DAMN good bass. Makes all the difference. I like the 70's Music Man Stingray bass.

Then a great DI (especially something with a Jensen transformer like a Radial JDI).

Then a killer pre (ie. Neve 1073)

Warm tube compression imo is a must (LA2A is the only choice here)

Then into a great converter (ie. Apogee)
I agree that the bass guitar is the key here...
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
allencollins's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Usually I only compress bass if the bass player sucks or for effect
I maybe compress the low freqs but always limit the highs.
I find limiting bass give is much more presence. compression can make it sound cheap and muddy if not used with care.

If the bass player is pro his dynamics will be altered with compression.
If he sucks you will need to even out the dynamics with comp/limiter

I like my 1066 or or peq for bass these days. for compress i use a 166
but I have an old filthy 1980's ashley for limiting


If hes playing a cheap bass like a fender or a hondo you may have greater problems than compression and mic pre. Recommend that the bass player borrows a quality neck through bass for the session. You can't get a bad bass sound with an old 80's warwick or spectre. Also ric 4001 basses sound enourmous
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #7
Gear Addict
 
Jack Pettit's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
For easy bass recording I like a API 521c into a 525 set to limit just hitting the peaks.

Strings are a big deal
round wounds will be bright and clanky
flat wounds sound more traditional

Learn how to set the intonation.
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Nut
 
🎧 15 years
Some great advice, thanks.

I have a feeling that the instruments themselves might be playing a large role in my disatisfaction. And funny you should mention the Musicman basses, as Iv been a big fan of their gear for a good while. Right now Im using a mid level Yamaha, and to be honest, its not performing. I dont mind some Yamaha gear, indeed the brass and woodwind is very good, but the guitars are working for me.


RainbowStorm,

As you may have seen from my other thread, the 250-300Hz range is something I tend to hover around quite a bit. And you are indeed spot on when you say that its an important range with bass instruments. I tend to HP upto about 50-60Hz, but never past this point. Must admit, I do like a good bottom end on my tracks and this is where Im least satisfied.

Again though, this is probably leading back to the instrument. This Yamaha bass lacks any substatial bottom end. But then again, I have also found the Fender basses to quite strong in the mids and less so in the bottom. The Musicmans appear to have a much stronger bottom end, and all the more reason for me to go try a few!

TB
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Addict
 
BobbyPeru's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Bass is usually the weakest link because it is being pulled from one side of the chain from the drums and the other side of the chain from the guitars, keys, synths. Not to mention the vocals are tightrope walking the chain. Getting awesome bass tones aren't difficult, it's when you try to seat them in the mix that the **** hits the fan. Lately I've been doing bass after drums, after guitars. That way I know the hole I'm aiming for.

Players are key as always. But bass tends to attract the following:
-"I play bass because it only has 4 strings and I want something easy"
-"I play bass, but I must prove to the world that I'm a valid musician, so, I'm not going to play solid root notes....ever!"
-"I play bass, but I'm not a composer and therefore have no idea of the role the bass should play in most songs."
-"I play bass, but I'm really a guitar player, but the band already had a guitar player."
-"I play bass because I was going to all my friends' band's shows anyway and then their bass player quit and they were like 'dude you should play bass for us, you already go to all the shows anyway'"

Basic guidelines:
***Find the role of the bass in the song.
***Find a consistent solid picker or finger player. Not too hard not to soft. Automate the dynamics.
***When in doubt simplify.

I like USA Fender basses. Passive more than active. I like to DI and mic an amp. Riding faders and automation are also key. If you ignore the basic guidelines the bass will always sound like garbage, no matter what you pre amp, EQ or compress it with.


Bobby Peru
Milwaukee, WI
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
 
vernier's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Far too few recordings have good bass.
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Kestral's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
tee boy, go to your local music store and rent a Music Man Stringray (the reissues are actually quite decent) and a Fender P-Bass, that way you'll know for sure, and give you a chance to experiment with two of the better models out there imo.
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Addict
 
Jeff A. Roberts's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Ampeg

B15N

or

SVT

Aguilar DI
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
vernier's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
tee boy, go to your local music store and rent a Music Man Stringray (the reissues are actually quite decent) and a Fender P-Bass, that way you'll know for sure, and give you a chance to experiment with two of the better models out there imo.
You're gonna rile up allencollins with that one.
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #14
Lives for gear
 
max cooper's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Pettit
For easy bass recording I like a API 521c into a 525 set to limit just hitting the peaks.

Strings are a big deal
round wounds will be bright and clanky
flat wounds sound more traditional

Learn how to set the intonation.
Good points. I tend to use the 525 in parallel with a 'dry' track because if the signal starts hitting it hard, it can start to suck the life out of the bass. Also, try a DI before the 512. It's a different sound, and depending on the context, can work better sometimes.

Flatwounds are good to have. Thomastiks are what I like.
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Nut
 
johnnyvince's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyPeru
Players are key as always. But bass tends to attract the following:
-"I play bass because it only has 4 strings and I want something easy"
-"I play bass, but I must prove to the world that I'm a valid musician, so, I'm not going to play solid root notes....ever!"
-"I play bass, but I'm not a composer and therefore have no idea of the role the bass should play in most songs."
-"I play bass, but I'm really a guitar player, but the band already had a guitar player."
-"I play bass because I was going to all my friends' band's shows anyway and then their bass player quit and they were like 'dude you should play bass for us, you already go to all the shows anyway'"

heh heh heh

I'm also a huge fan of very old or very new USA Fender basses. I recently bought a new '62 P-Bass reissue that I'd sleep with, if my girlfriend would let me. Best-sounding rock bass ever! It's hard to play, with a verry wide neck, but absolutely worth the effort. Very toneful, with solid fundamentals and growly mids. '70's Stingrays fall into a similar category. I've also got an (active) '85 Stingray, which is great for hi-definition/slapping. Very different from the P-Bass. Oh, and don't forget to try the J!
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #16
Lives for gear
 
kurt's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Great suggestions.
- One thing I learned is that if you work in a room without controlled acoustics all the bass adjustments are just guessing.
Old 18th May 2006
  #17
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tee boy
bass guitar is area that I find myself less than satisfied
What especially is less than satisfying for you?

The bass sound itself? Then I'd probably have a look at the playing style, the instrument, amp or DI (actually I think an U5 is a pretty cool DI).

Or how the bass sits in the mix? Then I'd check the frequencies the bass has to share e.g. with the bassdrum, low organ notes, heavy guitars etc... for example if you boost 80Hz and cut 500Hz on the kick then eq the bass approximately contrariwise. If there are problems with the dynamic of the bass, a simple fader ride is often more effective than squashing the live out with a compressor.

good luck...
Old 18th May 2006 | Show parent
  #18
C/G
Lives for gear
 
C/G's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyPeru
-"I play bass, but I must prove to the world that I'm a valid musician, so, I'm not going to play solid root notes....ever!"

Bobby Peru
Milwaukee, WI

Sounds like my bass player. I just tell to come sit next to the drumkit so he can cry on my shoulder.

He uses a 70's Fender Jazz reissue and it sounds excellent.
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
max cooper's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyvince
Players are key as always. But bass tends to attract the following:
-"I play bass because it only has 4 strings and I want something easy"
-"I play bass, but I must prove to the world that I'm a valid musician, so, I'm not going to play solid root notes....ever!"
-"I play bass, but I'm not a composer and therefore have no idea of the role the bass should play in most songs."
-"I play bass, but I'm really a guitar player, but the band already had a guitar player."
-"I play bass because I was going to all my friends' band's shows anyway and then their bass player quit and they were like 'dude you should play bass for us, you already go to all the shows anyway'"
Each and every one of these should be on a T-shirt. Hilarious. Thanks for that.

I have problems not so much with the bass sound itself, but getting the bass energy in the song right.

You know what can help a lot if you record at home? Going out to track the bass somewhere you can really hear what you're doing.
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #20
Kush Audio
 
u b k's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
i'm with max, if you're at home the most likely culprit in your dissatisfaction is your room's inability to reproduce bass without huge nulls and modes.

if it's not the room, it is almost definitely in your fingers.

the bass is not an instrument to be treated lightly: the way you pull your fingers off those strings and the snap you give and the timing of your mutes will determine whether or not your part has definition and cuts thru the mix. the actual part you play will determine whether the bass energy is appropriate and so carries the song effortlessly or whether you have to fight with the mix to have it feel right.

if you've got a great part in a great arrangement, played well, on a halfway decent instrument, and your monitoring environment is reasonably tuned, you will need little to no compression and little to no eq other than to emphasize the right harmonics. it'll just plop right into place. if it doesn't, change one of the above variables in your setup and see if that gets you closer. one step at a time is how you crack these mysteries.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
I agree with Del Ubik, however I solved my bass problem when I started using a lot more compression on my Summit MPC-100 going in.

Also I've started using the Camel Phat Free-plug on the bass which makes it cut through better in the mix. Every bass is different, but I usually also high-pass at around 30hz, boost at around 70hz, cut quite a bit around 200-300 hz and then boost a bit further up.

I don't use plug-in comps anymore, I just make sure I kill all the dynamics with my Summit. Who needs dynamics in a bass anyway? heh
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Nut
 
johnnyvince's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Although I could use the money, please send all t-shirt royalties to BobbyPeru. I was just quoting him, but it looks like Max's quote of my quote falsely attributed them to me.
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
tee boy, don't forget to read this 6 pages long article that covers this subject very nicely:

http://www.moultonlabs.com/index.php...lationship/P0/

Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Addict
 
emeline-rec's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
tee boy, don't forget to read this 6 pages long article that covers this subject very nicely:

http://www.moultonlabs.com/index.php...lationship/P0/

that artical suggests using a ducker setup on the bass triggered via the kick.

do many of you guys use this technique on bass to help leave room for the kick?

Ian
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
espasonico's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
For me the bass sound comes also from the Bass Drum. They have to complement each other. It doesnΒ΄t make any sense to me isolate the problem. I like the Bass Drum to have the bottom end and when you put the bass guitar it sounds that the bottom end comes from the Bass guitar. Of course it depends on the style and on the song but many time this has worked for me.

ItΒ΄s also essential to have a good bass line with good timing played by a consistent player whoΒ΄s fingers make the compression to make all the notes to come out.
Old 19th May 2006 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Guru
 
Glenn Kuras's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyPeru
Bass is usually the weakest link because it is being pulled from one side of the chain from the drums and the other side of the chain from the guitars, keys, synths. Not to mention the vocals are tightrope walking the chain. Getting awesome bass tones aren't difficult, it's when you try to seat them in the mix that the **** hits the fan. Lately I've been doing bass after drums, after guitars. That way I know the hole I'm aiming for.

Players are key as always. But bass tends to attract the following:
-"I play bass because it only has 4 strings and I want something easy"
-"I play bass, but I must prove to the world that I'm a valid musician, so, I'm not going to play solid root notes....ever!"
-"I play bass, but I'm not a composer and therefore have no idea of the role the bass should play in most songs."
-"I play bass, but I'm really a guitar player, but the band already had a guitar player."
-"I play bass because I was going to all my friends' band's shows anyway and then their bass player quit and they were like 'dude you should play bass for us, you already go to all the shows anyway'"

Basic guidelines:
***Find the role of the bass in the song.
***Find a consistent solid picker or finger player. Not too hard not to soft. Automate the dynamics.
***When in doubt simplify.

I like USA Fender basses. Passive more than active. I like to DI and mic an amp. Riding faders and automation are also key. If you ignore the basic guidelines the bass will always sound like garbage, no matter what you pre amp, EQ or compress it with.


Bobby Peru
Milwaukee, WI
I must agree so much with this. It seems like 9 times out of 10 the weakest link in a band is the bass player. Very sad.

One other thing... I know I know I am an acoustic company, but if your room is not treated right you have no hope in really hearing what is going on with the bass. All the other things really do count, type of bass, compression and so on, but it really comes down to if you really can hear it right in the control room.
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