Strategies for recording and mixing two basses

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believe_in_steve
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Strategies for recording and mixing two basses

Post by believe_in_steve » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:04 pm

Hello! first time poster here. I play in and am soon to record a band in which there are two bass players -- sometimes two electrics, and sometimes 1 electric and 1 upright. It would be great to get some ideas and tricks if anyone has any they'd be willing to share.

A few groups that come to mind for me that use(d) two basses are Tortoise, Dianogah, and Volta Do Mar, all of whose recordings I've listened to see if I can pinpoint anything that keeps the 2 basses well-defined and complimentary. Nothing too obvious, aside from basic panning, has really stood out to me as the thing that makes it gel nicely.

I could probably use the most advice on mixing -- our parts are written in different registers much of the time and we have fairly different tones (one is a littler bassier and rolled-off, the other is a bit more mid-rangey and a little hairy), so I'm not too concerned with things getting crowded in the compositional sense -- rather, in the spatial presentation in the mix. There's piano/synth as well, so I will be working with a hair more low frequency content than a typical recording might have.

My rough plan going into it is to try to keep the basses' low freq centered, to avoid getting a leaning and/or phasey effect from having different sources of low frequencies panned too far from center. Then, I was thinking to pan the higher frequencies for each bass to their respective sides to separate them and improve definition. What kind of EQ or other processing would you try?

I've never recorded an upright before, so I don't really know what to expect in terms of how nicely that will play with the electric. How would you go about making the two compliment one another?


...I know there are a lot of questions that I boiled in there, but any advice or ideas for creative solutions would be awesome just to get the gears turning. Thanks in advance for your help!

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Post by vvv » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:32 pm

I play bass, and often double parts when I record.

They are usually electric parts, in the same register, more or less doubling each other.

I sometimes put a chorus on one, and usually pan 'em 10:30 and 1:30.

For examples, my links below have various choons, like here and here, what do that.
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Post by JWL » Fri Jun 20, 2014 7:15 pm

I think having the arrangements in different registers will help you a lot. Just look in EQ for the fundamentals of both instruments, and the first overtones. By manipulating those you can get the low end cool, then tweak the high end so they complement each other and leave space for one another.

Also, another thing, you could pan them as wide as you wish, then send them both to a mono buss with a lopass filter on it, to sort of mono-ize the low end. You could then even high pass the panned tracks a bit if you wish. Maybe everything under 200Hz gets mono-ized in this way, then the panned tracks take over from 200 on up. If you get the blend right this could be very effective....

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:41 pm

JWL wrote:
Also, another thing, you could pan them as wide as you wish, then send them both to a mono buss with a lopass filter on it, to sort of mono-ize the low end. You could then even high pass the panned tracks a bit if you wish. Maybe everything under 200Hz gets mono-ized in this way, then the panned tracks take over from 200 on up. If you get the blend right this could be very effective....
^^^^^^^^This is a very cool idea.
I'd also suggest rolling a shit ton of lows out which-ever bass is playing higher. I often do this with baritone gtr tracks that double the bass line (sometimes in the same range). It sounds totally gross when solo'd but beautiful in the mix. If I was going to be totally extreme about it I'd have the bass-y bass set-up with flat wounds playing through an amp with a big speaker (15 or bigger) played with fingers and make the higher bass a short scale (like maybe a Music Master or Mustang) with round wounds playing through a guitar amp (maybe a twin?) played with a pick.

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Post by believe_in_steve » Sat Jun 21, 2014 8:47 am

Thanks to everyone for these suggestions!

The mono low-frequency bus is a great idea and I will most certainly try it. I would imagine that could provide great flexibility.


I've also been looking at two Voxengo plug ins, but the budget currently only allows for one at the moment:

http://www.voxengo.com/product/glisseq/
http://www.voxengo.com/product/soniformer/

I can see either being very useful for this particular project, but posterity is a factor as well. Anyone have any opinions between these two?

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Post by drumsound » Sat Jun 21, 2014 7:17 pm

Welcome to the TOMB!

I think that having your arrangements and tones figured out in advance is key. That was smart of you both. Think about mic choices a bit. I'd possibly use a couple of really different sounding mics to help the delineation between the two parts.

Upright bass in a "rock" type settin has to bridge the gap of acoustic and electric. I've found (in limited setting of acoustic bass) that is often needs more compression that one "wants" the nice big warm instrument to have. YMMV.

Please report back and let us know how this goes. I"m really curious how JWL's idea works.

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Post by Andrew Schneider » Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:28 am

Hey there,

I played in a band with two basses for a long time. It can be tricky. As everyone has said, you are right to consider this in the compositions.

Also, you could try to separate your process at every stage. Different electric basses with different personality (ie. Fender Jazz bass and a rickenbacker), different string type and gauge, definitely different amps, maybe one tube and one solid state and send one through 10" speakers and one through 15" speakers. different Mics, Different pre's, even different picks.

Also, why not pan low end? I think centering the low of two performances can make things really muddled. It is similar to recording two drum kits. If you pan both kits to either side but put both kicks in the center it can get really flammy and messy. If I am recording a three piece and want it to remain a live experience I will often pan the bass off to one side a bit. If it is for vinyl I would suggest not hard panning the low end though.

Good luck.

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Post by frans_13 » Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:24 am

For vinyl the lowend wants to be mono up to 300 Hz. There are a few plugs that can dial in mono below. As for the instruments, see how you can contrast them. If the electric is played with fingers or pick and the upright slapped like in rockabilly you will already have two flavours, because the sustain is so different. The electric can carry long notes and the other percussive sounds. If recording the upright with piezo pickups it will give you tons of obese lowend...which is a good recipe for getting in the way of each other and the kick. But if you record it with a mic and concentrate on the woody mids and then add sustain+lowend from the electric, that might work. Think like a director: what role should go to each?

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Post by ott0bot » Sun Jul 06, 2014 12:13 am

great suggestions! one thing I like doing is adding a fair amount of overdrive to one of the bass parts. it'll sound really fuzzy solo'd, but in the mix the OD just adds a little something extra to set it apart.

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Post by jgimbel » Sun Jul 06, 2014 9:33 pm

ott0bot wrote:great suggestions! one thing I like doing is adding a fair amount of overdrive to one of the bass parts. it'll sound really fuzzy solo'd, but in the mix the OD just adds a little something extra to set it apart.
Another great suggestion. I'm often surprised how much overdrive you can add to a bass without it sounding overdriven in the context of the mix. The only down side I ever come up against with it is that sometimes it can strengthen the mids but you lose some power in the low end, so it really seems like it'd be great for this situation. Loving this thread.
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Post by trodden » Sun Jul 20, 2014 12:34 pm

I played in a two bass band for years. No "guitars" just two bass guitars, keyboards, drums, percussion, and a bunch of hollering and yelling. Both basses were very distorted and also unique in their voicing. I often had them both panned pretty far apart and just let mastering engineer deal with "mono-ing" the low end point where it needed. Every release was on vinyl as well as digital with no problems. Granted, we were trying to make very ugly music.. so? the uglier, the better?

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:15 pm

I keep wondering if parallel, mono, compression and/or distortion could come in handy here. But I've been digging the parallel, mono, distorted compression thing on everything lately. In fact, I was loving it so much I tried a cleaner, stereo compressor for parallel comping and I don't like it nearly as much.
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Post by believe_in_steve » Mon Jul 21, 2014 11:15 am

Update:

Two songs have been tracked, and I've been able to try some of these mixing techniques. We tracked both basses DI, and then I re-amped each one using two different mics on a 2x15 cabinet.

Trying to keep the low end completely mono made it difficult to achieve the right definition, so for each bass I used one of the mics as a low signal (~250 Hz and below) and gently panned those around 25%. Then, I panned the higher signals around 60% and eq'd them to get some mid-range growl. The DI signals came in handy to gently boost some of the treble frequencies without running into amp noise, and are panned to match the higher mics. Thus bringing the total bass tracks to 6... a little overkill, but it seems to be working pretty well.

All of the bass tracks are run through a bus with a multiband compressor engaged only on the low bands to prevent it from getting too boomy/muddy.


I'd be happy to share a bounce if anyone's interested in hearing how it has progressed so far.

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Post by vvv » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:12 pm

I'd like to hear it.

Did you consider re-amping 'em simultaneously?

OTOH, I'd probably wanna use different amps or at least cabs. Mebbe a 15" and a 12" ...
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:40 pm

The real question I want to ask is:

Will it put Big Bottom to shame???
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