Guys, I can't record bass...

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Guys, I can't record bass...

Post by OlScrapIron » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:29 am

Actually, I don't even know if I can't record bass (guitar) or if I just can't mix bass right. This is kinda embarrassing to admit considering I've been recording music for about 17 years but it is always my biggest struggle. It seems like it's always the same problems: Either there is a gnarly buildup in the low-end somewhere about 200hz or the bass is honky and too mid heavy. Also, I ALWAYS get that one damn note that sticks out. Everything is going along fine and then that note hits and FFFBBBBBBBB...
Basically, the bass will never "sit in" the mix, it's either too boomy or inaudible. My current setup is: Music Man SUB, Ashdown MAG head with a 4X10 cab and horn, mic'ed with the audix D6 (although I have tried the D112 and even an SM57) mixed with direct out from the head. I try just direct or just micing and the problem persists. I currently have the bass rolled all the way off the guitar otherwise it's just low end rumble. Any advise?

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Post by kslight » Sun Jun 28, 2015 12:06 pm

I've never been a huge fan of miking cabinets with a horn, is there a way to use the 4x10 without the crossover and such?

Also a bigger fan of the D112 on bass amp usually, the D6 is a really "eq-ed" sounding mic which I think works great for rock bass drum/floor tom but I'm not in love with it on amps. Not that D112 is really a "flat" mic either?but I think it works well in the context of a mix.

One sour note showing up can be a lot of things?such as how the bass is played (you don't say if its played with fingers or a pick), how well setup the bass is (maybe you can try playing that note on a different string?), or just how your room/monitoring is (maybe the note is fine it just happens to resonate funny in your room?). A clashing note could also be an intonation problem, either caused by poor setup or overly strong/light fingering/plucking?or maybe even the other instruments in the mix.

I don't have any experience with the head you are using, but I notice it has lots of different controls to play with, so you may try alternate settings (with/without the onboard compression, for example), bearing in mind that whatever works for "live" use may not be what's necessary for the studio bass sound. If you have a preferred setting live I'd jot that down and then start fresh, work on getting something "flat" (I'm not sure exactly where unity is on this amp's EQ), turn off the onboard compression/sub harmonics/other extra buttons and then after you've got it miked up or DI'd then start to work on what you're missing. Definitely try moving the mic around as well. If you are going to combine direct and mic signals you will want to make sure they are phase aligned?I personally would suggest trying to make one or the other sound "right" individually before trying to bring in the other track?you may not end up needing it. Likewise, I would also dial in your bass guitar "flat" without any EQ boosts or cuts for now.

Maybe you can post an example, within a mix, and solo'ed?

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Post by joninc » Sun Jun 28, 2015 9:29 pm

First off, don't be discouraged - low end is hard. I am always fighting getting a phat tone that is not muddy.

What about the age old "how is your monitoring situations and room treatments?"

Maybe your room has a resonant freq that is emphasizing that one note?

If you play the same note on a different string is it equally loud? Some instruments have dead and hot spots on the neck.

Do you have any other mic options? I like: sm7, 441, atm25, u87, kiwi ...

Try a frequency dependant compressor in the offensive note to reign it in a bit.

Try a different bass? Try a different cab? I actually really like a single 12" for bass.

There's endleas things to try - borrow some gear and take a night to try out a pile of different setups on a song and see which translates best. You may be surprised with what you find!
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Post by The Scum » Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:52 pm

Verifying the source and the room are both likely suspects.

If the room isn't treated, then it colors everything going on inside...and low frequencies will exhibit this more severely than high frequencies...and doubly so if you're tracking and mixing in the same room.

Can you remove the room from the equation, and listen on headphones?

How does it sound in the car?

Also, setup work on the bass can make notes jump out. A high fret can result in extra sustain. Having the pickups and polepieces adjusted to match the fretboard radius can help keep levels from string to string even.

Even so, combinations of fretted and open notes might not sit together terribly well. That mostly comes back to the player being able to adjust for the difference, and play the open strings differently.

I find that the onboard active EQ of the MusicMan basses can get ugly very quickly, especially when boosted, and would start with it flat, unless you need the effect. Keep in mind that MM basses are flat when the control is in the middle, not all the way up like a regular passive bass.

Finally, I'd try a more general purpose mic than a D6 or D112. Both of those have very flabbly low end - it's great for pepping up a dull kick drum, but can steer tonal instruments into "one note bass" territory.

Yesterday's session was a Jazz bass with passive pickups into a vintage B15, with a Md421 on the cab, and a Radial DI for safety. Pick & fingers both sounded great.
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Post by vvv » Mon Jun 29, 2015 3:57 am

I'd also consider a stand alone DI vs. the DI from the head.

Yesterday I used a Hohner headless into a Musicman HD130 thru a 2x12" Celestion open-back guitar cab into a MD421II into a PM1000 into a dbx166a, and DI'd thru a Brick and a slaved channel of the dbx166a.

Day before was a vintage Frankenstein'd P and I used a RE320 on the cab.
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Post by GooberNumber9 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:20 am

In my experience, the better the bass playing, the easier it is to mix. Plus the better the sound right from the bass and the better the amp settings, the easier the mix. If you can get it right even before it goes into an interface, your job gets a lot easier.

So far I've not had a lot of success mixing bass tones that start with a pickup closer to the neck. Given a choice, I always want to record the bridge pickup. Neck pickups have great round tones that sound good live, but when I try to mix them they seem hollow and don't have enough there to play around with.

Same thing with roundwounds and flatwounds. Flatwounds just don't out enough stuff for me to get a grip on it. Roundwounds might be too bright for gigs or the comfort of the bass player, but they put out a lot more highs and mids that make it a lot easier to cut what I don't want as opposed to boosting what's not there.

Going on with the theme, I like amp setup that is just slightly lower gain than starting to clearly break up. That gives it a little compression and also subtly adds a few higher harmonics that again give me more to cut away instead of wishing I could add it (although you can add harmonics at mix time, they just seem to sound better if they are from the source).

Most importantly from the player to me is evenness of level. If the player can play with a consistent intensity, it makes the mix a lot easier. Otherwise it's playing around with 1 to 3 compressors in series, trying to get things evened out.

I haven't had the luxury of working in very many large rooms, so I almost exclusively DI bass tracks. The risks of having resonant frequencies in the room that stomp all over the bass sound are too great for micing in smaller rooms. I really like to have a super-clean DI like a Countryman or J48 right off the instrument and then a DI off the head or something like a SansAmp. Most of the time, both DI tracks are in the final mix in some way.

In terms of mixing, I usually treat the bass like another guitar that has frequencies below the lowest guitar frequencies and above the highest guitar frequencies. So, in the guitar range (maybe 200 - 5000 Hz or so), I might find where the other guitars really want to live and carve a little out of the bass in that area. To be clear, when tracking I want to give myself a lot of frequencies on the bass tracks so that my EQ is 90% cutting and hardly any boosting. I might pick a frequency between 500 and 1500 on the bass to boost if I want it to stick out a little more in the nasal area. And/or I might give a little high shelf or a kick up around 5k - 10k if it's just fading too much in the background. The problem with both of those areas is I might need them for vocals.

I do cut the lows off with a high pass at least at 30 Hz or so but usually higher than that, maybe even up to 100 Hz depending on interplay with the kick drum. I like to have the ear fill in the lows based on information from higher frequencies rather than relying on the listener having subs or great huge headphones, so I hardly ever boost lows.

My normal philosophy is I want an interested, active listener to be able to clearly pick out every instrument, but some styles of music (metal, at least) and some denser mixes make that a bit of a fool's errand. When the mix starts to get really full, bass is usually the first instrument I stop caring about being totally clear. I at least try to get it to poke up here and there. What I always check on the dense mixes is what happens when I mute the bass. If the whole sound because thin and crappy when the bass is muted, but then comes back nice and full when I unmute the bass, then I feel like I've done all right. The thicker the mix, the more I cut from every instrument, so the guitars might be high passed up around 300 Hz or higher for solos or certain kinds of guitar parts.

Don't be afraid to restrict guitars and other instruments to where you really need them. The bass is there to hold down the low end, so give it its space. If the guitars sound bright and thin when they are soloed but the mix sounds good when the bass is back in, that's a good thing. All this being said, the same applies to the bass: Don't make the mistake of making the bass sound awesome but then have it stomp all over the rest of the mix. Go for the mix, even if it means making each instrument sound kinda bad on its own.

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Post by markjazzbassist » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:13 am

i'm primarily a bassist. the musicman sub is very midrange heavy and doesn't have a ton of super low end. to counter act this since you get a lot of midrange honk, put flatwound strings on the bass. you'll get more low end and it will tame some of that midrange. labella 760FL are a great place to start.

Turn the horn/tweeter off on the cab immediately. Do you mic on the dustcap or off center? I like halfway between the dustcap and outside edge of the speaker, less trebly clank and more low end and girth.

I wouldn't use the DI on the head, these are usually just thrown on to compliment the features list and aren't engineered well/don't sound great. Stand alone DI would be better and cleaner.

If none of that works, you might be better off selling the whole bass rig and bass and just buying a nice Radial JDI, a Fender Precision or Jazz, and a couple sets of strings for various tones (stainless steel roundwounds for grindy rock/punk, nickel round wounds for rock, flatwounds for pop/r&b/jazz). Passive basses have always sat in the mix better and recorded better for me.

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:45 am

the one-note thing is almost for sure a room mode.

play chromatic bass notes (keyboard bass is better, as close to a basic sine wave as possible) through your monitors, and listen for notes/ranges that jump out. if your room is well-treated, the peaks/dips will be very broad and mild. if it's not well-treated, you can have situations where an E is pummelling and an F# is non-existent.

that makes it very difficult to mix bass!

also i agree that the D6 is too scooped a mic to use for bass. i think the D112 is too, and from memory the eq on that thing is pretty mild compared to a D6, so i would really recommend you try a different mic.

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Post by mwerden » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:49 am

I think that the "I can't mix/record bass" problem has a lot to do with knowing what to listen for, when and how to listen for it, and being confident that you're getting it right. Even if you have a great room with high end monitors the low end changes as you move around, so it can be a moving target that's hard to hit. If you're not sure about your bass, the amp, or the budget monitors you have it can get very frustrating.

I'd recommend some focus. Start with just a DI, standalone for the reasons others have mentioned. Play and move around, find the place in your room where the low end is the biggest and where it is the most anemic. That will help you learn your room, and at the very least you can shoot to have the bass seem big in the big sounding spot and you won't worry as much if it's a little light in the spot that you know sounds bass-light anyway.

Another way to separate recording from monitoring issues is to patch in a compressor and check out how it's interacting with what you hear. I WISH someone told me that about ten years ago. Anyway, if you hear notes taking off then try to set the compressor to only compress those notes. If you can do that then you've successfully made your bass track a little easier to deal with, and you can try going further up the line by getting your bass set up to even it out before you ever hit the DI. If you hear notes that are loud but you can't get the compressor to react there is a decent chance you are dealing with a monitoring issue.

There are plenty of variations on that stuff of course, but that would at least be a starting point. Simplify your chain, listen to the essential parts interact, and do your best to separate reality from whatever else is going on. For me it's always worked better to try and even out the volume before messing with EQ, but I'm sure you wouldn't have to look very far to find someone who prefers the other way around.
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Post by The Scum » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:54 am

Also, regarding the one-note thing - this is one case where the waveform display in your DAW can be useful.

When you hit the notes that dominate or completely disappear, do the waveforms in the DAW reflect the amplitude change? If the waveforms are consistent from note-to-note, but you aren't hearing them, then it's much more likely to be a room issue.
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Jun 29, 2015 12:58 pm

Good points here.
I'll second who-ever suggested a cab with no cross-over. Bass cabs with horns may be fine for live but they're a pain in the ass for recording. I never want much in the way of highs on a bass but if there's a horn I start to wonder where the cross-over point is and what I'm losing if I'm only micing the speaker (not the horn). My personal favourite for bass is a single 15" speaker. I also like really simple controls on the amp - volume, bass and treble are usually all I need or want.

Beyond that, what kind of music are you doing? What kind of bass sound do you want?

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Post by JWL » Mon Jun 29, 2015 2:47 pm

Good advice here. My $0.02:

People are right about room modes. You have to get the low end situated right, which requires that you be able to hear the low end accurately.

Then once the low end is right, the bass can seem to disappear. Usually the solution is in the midrange, like 800-1.5kHz ish. Often times to increase these mids and highs I will add some distortion, often really harsh distortion with a low pass filter to take the edge off. I'll do this in parallel to the main bass track and blend it in underneath. That usually fills things out beautifully.

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Post by losthighway » Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:01 am

First I agree that bass is often one of the hardest things. It can ruin a mix and sometimes it takes some hunting to realize its causing problems, it can be hard to hear, it can be over-dominant, and it takes up a ton of your mix's RMS power. I think this is why in the 90's some engineers started putting the bass way below the guitars- it's cowardly as a blanket strategy, but I can see how it simplifies life.

Now to make life more complicated I disagree with the d112 talk. I think it's a great bass cab mic, but only in combination with another mic that's a lot flatter, or pokes out in a different set of frequencies. Fender bass, 1x15, d112 and an AT 4033 is rock music in my house.

That said, I can also see the perspective that when you're struggling it's good to minimize and focus. When you have too many options you might not have time to go through and realize you dislike all of them and you say "I'm sure one of these will be good when I mix." If you have only one channel, one mic, or just a DI going for bass you're forced to think critically from the beginning. You hear the initial bass tone along with the drums, guitars etc and you see if it's holding up. If it's not you move the mic, try a different mic etc. It does force you to get it right before you mix.

Yet.... that said.... I really like having two different mics, or a mic and a DI going for bass (phase aligned of course) with radically different eq's. One with a huge low/low mid cut, and another with the highs and high mids cut. It can give you some really useful tone shaping abilities with just a turn of the knob, or click of the mouse.

Also for eq comments. I agree that it's about cutting 90% of the time. Boosting can be very dangerous, unless you have something pretty anemic and then a wide q is good. I personally have found I don't usually need anything below 40 or 50 hz or above 2k when I mix bass. It can sound thick and bright without either of those extremes and it saves energy on the low, and space for cymbals and jangle on the top end.

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Post by cgarges » Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:09 am

I agree that low end is extremely difficult. And to top that off, I like a lot of it. Dammit!

The biggest improvements in the bottom end of my mixes have always come from monitoring improvements. Sure, I've gotten good DIs and good mics and good preamps over the years, but the bottom end of my mixes come out the best when the listening environment is good. Better rooms, better monitors-- every step like that makes a big difference every single time. Two years ago, we relocated Old House Studio and our new control room sounds freaking amazing. We really lucked out with the space, but we did the right treatments for the room, as well. Stuff was translating a lot better than before (especially low mids) but the one area that seemed hard to get happening was the subby stuff. I don't like mixing with a sub, but I was considering that as an option, as well as taking a look at a few other sets of speakers.

Fortunately last summer, I had a perfect storm of opportunities. Jeff Powell came and mixed a record at my place and had his ProAc Studio 100s shipped to my place. That was fortunate in that the ProAcs were top contenders for me. They seemed similar enough to my B&W 805s that I might like them, but a lot of really great mix guys I know were using them, too. I was also curious about Chris Pelonis' 4288s and it just so happened that right before Jeff arrived, I found a pair for sale close by at an extremely reasonable price. I took a gamble on the Pelonis speakers and after comparing them, my B&Ws, and Jeff's ProAcs, I decided to keep the Peloni and my B&Ws. They REALLY pair well with each other, I was surprised at just HOW similar the ProAcs were to my B&Ws. The ProAcs probably made it a little farther down into the bottom with a little more clarity, but the Pelonis speakers measure fairly flat down into the 25Hz range! The Pelonis speakers do what a sub would do, but without the hassle of dealing with a sub. Couple that with the right room treatments, and I'm hardly ever checking anything the car anymore. There just aren't really any surprises.

I'm not advertising for the Pelonis speakers here. I'm just saying that when I've done those kinds of upgrades that were the right thing for my ears and my situation, I've not regretted it and it's made a HUGE difference for me.

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Post by Drone » Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:16 pm

I'd be suspicious of the active preamp on the bass, some of those can be really honky.

If you can't bypass the preamp, try borrowing a passive bass, see if that helps.
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