DI Bass - Tones and Plugins?

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DI Bass - Tones and Plugins?

Post by lankypainter » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:51 pm

I relatively recently acquired a Peavy bass, and I have no idea how to make it sound good. I record everything from alt-country to hip-hop, and I really needed a bass for my tracks, and, while I've quite enjoyed playing, I can't seem to get a decent sound when recording. I'm 17 and quite broke, so when I bought the bass, though it was used and pretty cheap, I had no money left over for an amp.

So my question is this: Is there a way to get a nice tight bass sound without using an amp? I run Logic Pro on a iMac and have a Tascam US-1641 interface. I have no experience whatsoever recording bass...I don't know if there are EQ tricks I can use to tighten the sound? The main issue I seem to be having is that the bass just pools across the bottom of my songs. In all the records I listen to - Smashing Pumpkin's Gish, Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, The Chili Pepper's Blood Sex Sugar Magik, etc - the bass sounds, for lack of a better word, tight. I'm not hoping to achieve sounds that good, well, actually, I am, but I don't know if it's possible with my setup, but I would like to stop my bass around from just melting across the bottom of my tracks.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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Post by farview » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:30 pm

The first thing you need to do is put new strings on it. That will give you the brightness. The rest of that tone will come from your fingers and a good deal of compression.

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Post by jgimbel » Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:51 pm

I'm often going for bass sounds like what you're talking about with my own music (you're listing some favorites of mine), and I very often find myself taking out quite a bit of low end, whether for my own music or clients recording here. I don't see people talking about taking low end out of bass that often, but it's pretty rare that I'm not doing it, honestly. You can also record bass really, really bright without it sounding that bright in a dense mix, it seems to get eaten up pretty easily, while having a lot of low end just sinks back and gets muddy. I'm not a very big fan of using solely a DI, but I just got a couple new bass amps that let bass have good low end while still being defined (which tends to be something with the midrange), but often I'll also record a bass amp and DI, and high pass the DI, using the DI just for clarity in the top end on top of the mids/lows of a bass amp. Usually having these two sources allows getting a nice tight sound that fits with the music. Sometimes I'll also compress the high end a lot (the DI in this case) so the high end will stay somewhat loud and clear throughout, while the low end comes up and down more naturally. This way whether the part is higher or lower on the neck, or being played louder or quieter, that clarity will still be there as much as needed.
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Post by dfuruta » Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:53 am

Try playing with the tone control on the bass. I suspect you'll be best off using a brighter sound than you think you need.

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Post by vvv » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:53 am

Consider high-passing the bass at something like 40Hz.

Consider adding a cuppla dB at mebbe 800 or 900Hz.

Consider using something between the bass and the interface, even a distortion pedal with minimal distortion or a chorus barely chorusing might help.

Even tho' Flea usually doesn't, consider using a pick - a harder pick should give more "treble"/attack. Conversely, a soft, thin Delrin pick can sound like fingers ...

Finally, there are tons of free plug-ins available for compression, EQ, distortion, amp simulation, etc. I'm onna PC, so I don't know any to suggest, but google for 'em.
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Post by eh91311 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:58 pm

First of all, tone comes from the instrument and the player. Bright roundwound strings work better for a bright, toppy tone than flatwounds. Having the instrument set up with the strings you're using is a must. Using a DI box helps greatly with impedance mismatches between the instrument and the mic preamp/interface. Since funds are limited, patching in a pedal effect that you already own with a buffered output, like a stage tuner or chorus/distortion box set to bypass could help. EQ and compression in mixing will get you closer.

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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:55 pm

Everybody's got good points, especially about most of the sound being in your hands, and that DI'd basses often have too much low end information and need a quick trim.

Don't be afraid to compress. Guitar and bass amplifiers compress the hell out of the signal, that's why DIs always seem to sound plinky-er. You can make up for it in post.

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:41 pm

For recording purposes, playing it fairly quietly through a guitar amp would be worth trying. You won't (probably) blow it up unless you're supremely careless and you'll get a little of that amp magic happening without springing for a new rig. Although you didn't say whether you had a guitar amp or not. Or did you?

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Post by lankypainter » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:40 am

Thank you all. I'm excited to try out everything mentioned here, especially just playing, as it seems that the general consensus is that the sound comes from your fingers.

And Snarl 12/8, I do have a guitar amp, though currently it needs work. After I get it fixed, I'll try that out.

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Post by sessionsatstudiom » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:13 pm

High pass filters as mentioned before work wonders with basses and just about everything else except the kick.

Also the EQ goes to 15 for a reason. Sometimes you need it. It is always best to be the player you want and to have the ultimate instrument. But make do with what you have. Strings are fairly cheap compared to a new instrument. Try that and deal with the tone knob of the bass.

Then use the EQ a ton if you have to. Recording has very few rules. As long as you are not going into digital distortion then go with it.

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Post by jgimbel » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:28 pm

If it hasn't been recently, try having the bass set up. I've had the bass I use now for a number of years, and since most bass players that come through here bring their own basses it isn't used constantly, so it's been forever since I've had it set up or put new strings on it. I've been really wanting a particular bass, but on the fence about if I want to keep the one I have too or sell it, and figure I'd need to have it set up whether I was keeping it or trying to sell it. Just got it back today from the great guy who set it up (Pete at South Jersey Guitar Repair - this guy knows his stuff and is very reasonably priced). Not so anxious to get a new bass now. I'm blown away how much high end was missing, and all of a sudden I can actually get the bass sound that I've been trying to EQ for quite a while. New strings and a good setup can really do wonders for both playability and sound.
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Post by markjazzbassist » Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:40 am

i'm primarily a bassist.

for the best recorded bass tones go buy a set of flat wound bass strings, you now have a nice tight bass sound. 75% of recorded bass is with flats unless its punk/metal/hard rock.


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Post by dicko » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:57 pm

The guitar amp tip is gold. I actually prefer combining an overdriven guitar amp with a clean DI to micing a bass amp.

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Post by Arthur Stone » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:34 am

As a bass newbie myself I've found two things have helped: strengthening the fingers through practice; and, having a masterful 'attitude' towards the strings (that enables control of tone and dynamics).
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Post by Matt C. » Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:34 pm

also, maybe you're already doing this, but I've found it helps to just practice playing through the DI and monitoring in real time (as opposed to just playing "blind" then listening to playback). After spending some time doing that I got a much better sense of the sort of playing that was required to get a decent DI sound.

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