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I'm getting myself into recording (bought several equipment already) and I'm really having fun!

I've only tried the drums yet and it goes well so far. I want to move on to the bass guitar next.

What is the usual setup for recording bass guitars, and what things do I need to keep in mind? Bass to amp, and then the mic is put into the amp.

Any common first-time recording problems specifically with the bass guitar?

I have a sE X1 cardioid condenser microphone FYI.

  • What are you recording on to? – Tim Nov 6 '14 at 11:39
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With bass guitar, you can often have a lot of success skipping the amp altogether and running the bass through a DI box directly into the mixing board. Or you can take a hybrid approach, where you record the direct signal from the DI box and the signal from a mic'd amp into separate tracks, and then mix the two together.

The general idea here is that the DI signal has greater clarity, while the amp/mic signal has greater warmth, and recording them both into separate tracks allows you the flexibility to experiment with finding the right tone during mixing, when you can go back and try different things while still preserving the original performance.

Even if you record just the DI signal, if you want the amp/mic sound you can always run the recorded DI signal through an amp and mic later and capture that amp'd signal, too. In fact, this allows you to experiment with different amp and mic options, still while preserving the original performance.

4

I've always gotten the best results from the hybrid approach that Alex Basson mentions. I'll usually even set up two microphones, one close up (Audix D6) and one further back to capture the sound of the room (your sE X1 should work well for this purpose). It looks like this:

bass -> di box ---------------> mixer (channel 1)
           |
           v
          amp -> mic (close) -> mixer (channel 2)
           |
           |
           L---> mic (room) --> mixer (channel 3)

I like a lot of space/realism in my bass sound, however, and I tend to make the bass very dominant in the mix... if you prefer a closer, more compressed sound, you can do without the room mic. This setup gives you a lot of flexibility during mixdown, though.

Regarding first-time problems: early on I made the mistake of using microphones that were not geared toward capturing the low-end. I'd use an SM57 and wonder why my bass sounded so lame. Once I got the D6, the light bulb went off in my head and it was easy to get a sound I liked.

2

It depends a lot on what equipment you're using for playing and recording. The recorded sound will be different using a mic and amp to play through, rather than D.I., but a good sound is easy to achieve going straight into the desk, if that's what you use. It always works for me, simple, fewer links to worry about, less stuff to set up, etc...

  • I'm sorry, but what's a DI? – Mark Gabriel Nov 6 '14 at 11:33
  • Direct injection (input), where the instrument is plugged directly into the recorder input rather than being in a chain of gtr-amp-mic-recorder.It also cuts out the propensity for the mic to pick up extraneous noises, though, in some cases, that's exactly what the engineer wants, i.e. room ambience. – Tim Nov 6 '14 at 11:37
  • 1
    DI is short for Direct Injection, and it's an inexpensive (~$25-$40) box that performs the necessary electrical impedance matching to allow you to plug your bass or guitar directly into the mic input of a mixing or recording console. – Alex Basson Nov 6 '14 at 11:38
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    Both of my recorders (Boss BR 1200 and Yamaha) have the facility to plug mic or gtr (or bass or any other instrument with a jack or XLR) straight into them. Don't need a DI box. – Tim Nov 6 '14 at 11:42
  • I have an audio interface with an XLR input for guitars, would that work or do I need the separate DI Box? – Mark Gabriel Nov 6 '14 at 11:44
0

One thing to consider is the way the bass player you are recording plays. DI does indeed have greater clarity, if we are defining clarity as being a more accurate representation of what comes out of the instrument. However, most players are used to hearing what comes out of the amp rather than the instrument, so "clarity" can be a problem with players who play with more of an aggressive percussive attack with their plucking hand.

If they just politely pluck (or pick) the strings, DI mixed with a miked amp sound would probably be my first choice. However, if they bash away while snapping and popping, for example, it can sound musical through the amp, but a lot of clicking, crashing and bashing noises will probably come through the DI channel.

It is most often better to be flexible and allow the player to play the way they play, rather than forcing them to change their technique for the sake of the recording. With a more aggressive player, I would probably still record a DI track, but would be prepared to turn it way down in the mix, or even to discard it altogether. I would probably also not listen to it much while recording once levels were set. But, if you do not record the DI track you can't wish it into existence if you later decide you should have done so. And it costs nothing to record it while the tracks are being laid, so there is really no reason not to do it, unless you just don't have an extra track available.

I think it is best not to say "This is how I record and mix bass," but rather to say "This is how I am going to record and mix your bass" once you have determined what sort of a player you have on your hands. Basically, I it comes down to "Record both, but use whatever sounds best for the final mix."

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