Here are some ways to make the electric bass well defined and easy to hear in a mix.

Put on new strings if the old ones sound dull. Adjust the pickup screws (if any) for equal output from each string. Also adjust the intonation and tuning.

Usually, you record the electric bass direct for the cleanest possible sound. A direct pickup gives deeper lows than a miked amp, but the amp gives more midrange punch. Use a condenser or dynamic mic with a good low-frequency response, close to the speaker cone.

You might want to mix the direct and miked sound. Try reversing the polarity of the direct signal or the mic signal. The polarity that gives the most bass is correct.

If any notes are louder than the rest, set a parametric equalizer to soften these notes or use a compressor.

The bass guitar should be fairly constant in level (a dynamic range of about 6dB) to be audible throughout the song. To do that, insert a compressor plug-in in the bass track. Try a ratio of 4:1; attack time 8 to 20msec to preserve the attack transient; and release time about 500 msec. If the release time is too fast, you get harmonic distortion.

EQ can make the bass guitar clearer. Try cutting around 60 to 80Hz, or at 400Hz. A boost at 2 to 2.5kHz adds edge or slap, and a boost at 700 to 900Hz adds “growl” and harmonic clarity.

Some ways to make the bass sound clean and well defined:

  • Record the bass direct.
  • Use no reverb or echo on the bass.
  • Have the bass player turn down the bass amp in the studio, just loud enough to play adequately. This reduces muddy-sounding bass leakage into other mics.
  • Better yet, don’t use the amp. Instead, have the musicians monitor the bass (and each other) with headphones.
  • Try a different bass. Some are better for recording than others. Use roundwound strings for a bright tone or flatwounds for a rounder tone.
  • Use the treble pickup near the bridge.
  • Record the bass with enough edge or harmonics so the bass will be audible on small, cheap speakers.
  • Try a bass-guitar signal processor such as the Line 6 Bass Floor Pod, Zoom B1, or DigiTech BP series.

If the bass part is full and sustained, go for a mellow sound without much pluck. Let the kick drum define the rhythmic pattern. But if both the bass and kick are rhythmic and work independently, then you should hear the plucks. Listen to the song first, then get a bass sound appropriate for the music. A sharp, twangy timbre is seldom right for a ballad; a full, round tone will get lost in a fusion piece.


Originally posted 2010-09-13 12:30:50.