Recording Bass??


Hi guys,

I bought a bass second hand to just use for recording (up til now I’ve been using either midi or my guoitar pitch shifted down an octave)

I don’t really know much about basses but it’s a Yamaha RBX760AII. So if anyone has any experience of this bass (good or bad) I’d appreciate it.

Anyway, so I’ve never recorded a bass before so was wondering the best way.

These are the options I have:

1. Straight into Hi-z input on my soundcard (edirol DA2496)

2. Straight into pre-amp input on my soundcard (pretty clean, neutral pre)

3. Into ART DPS pre-amp and then into line in input of soundcard

4. Into Behringer Ultra-G DI box and then into one of the 3 above inputs or line input of soundcard

5. I also have a behringer autocom compressot that I usually stick between the ART pre and the line in when recording vocals and acoustic guitar so can put that somewhere in the chain too…

I was thinking that BASS>ART>Compressor>Line-in would be the way to go but that’s just cause that’s how I DI my acoustic guitar and may not be the best way to record the bass.


Unpopular answer : Depends on what kind of bass sound each song requires.
I’m no expert on bass sounds but what works for me is plugging my active Ibanez straight into the Mackie mixer and then to soundcard. I experimented with a DI box (friend built it at home using expensive innards) but it was too clean for me and it took away some oomph. I tried my Bluetube to add some dirt and was OK but no more than OK. (guitar) Pod 2.0 using the tube pre setting gave a similar result. The Mackie was the easiest way to get the full sound from the bass into the DAW so these days I use it every time and do whatever tweaks needed inside the computer. Literally plug 'n play :)

I’ve posted this before but it’s time again -



I spent more time in the early part of my engineering career trying to get a great bass sound than anything else. I tried going through a direct box. I tried miking the amp. I tried different amps. I tried different mics. I tried everything!

No matter how hard I tried, I always fell short of the mark. I went in search of the Holy Grail for bass sounds but never found it. I realized with time that the answer wasn’t a singular prescription for success, but a collection of techniques that could be used as each situation dictated.

The first step in getting a good bass sound is of course, having a good sounding bass. “Good” being a subjective word, of course. With that in mind, let me simply say that the bass should have a nice balance between a rich bottom end and an articulate top end, great intonation, nice sustain, and no rattles or buzzes.

A few basic things to know about recording basses; First, and maybe foremost, the player has a great deal to do with the sound. As with many instruments, it’s mostly in the fingers.

Second, the natural sound of the instrument is important. If the tonality isn’t there to begin with, it’s difficult at best to fake it. All the tube preamps and eq in the world can’t hide a bass sound that’s dull and lifeless.

Third, the strings. Round from flatwound, brass verses nickel. They all have a sound. The sound you like will be a personal choice. But, let me add that the song you’re recording can and should dictate the type of sound you are going for. In other words, the bottom shouldn’t sound alike for every type of song.

Fourth, recording a bass guitar with a direct box sounds differently than recording the bass by miking the amp.

Fifth, the tone you get on the bass itself will play a major role in getting your sound. Don’t set and forget the onboard tone controls. Experiment.

Let’s start with a direct box. There are many different brands. Some sound better than others. Do your homework. Ask your friends or engineers you know which they prefer. Try to find the brand and model which gives you the most bottom end, while also giving you the most definition or attack on the mid range frequencies. My personal favorite at the moment is made by Sans Amp.

It’s usually best to use a compressor/limiter in line to keep your bass’s signal from slamming into the red on the VU meter. A 3:1 ratio with a fast attack and slow release usually does the trick. A little higher ratio will give you more “punch” - too much compression will make the bass sound squashed. As always, experimentation is the key. And yes, tubes do make a difference. They’ll arm up the sound, but they won’t perform miracles.

I find that with most basses, I need to add about 4 db @ 80 HZ to fatten up the bottom end coming out of a direct box, and moderate compression gives me the “thump” I’m looking for. The more you can do with a bass’s tone controls, the less work you’ll have to do with equalizers.

I’ve also noticed that many direct boxes don’t have a very fast slew rate. In plain English, that means the signal’s rise and fall time is sluggish. What that means to the sound is the attack of the top end is often diminished, not due to the tone of the instrument, but the inadequacies of the box. Keep your ears open, and try several models. You’ll be surprised at the wide range of sounds.

For miking the bass through an amp, I’ll use a Fender Precision Bass as my imaginary example, and an old Bassman amp. A classic combination. I like to mic the cabinet with two microphones. A Senheiser 421 facing directly into one of the speakers at point blank range, and an AKG 414 (or any other good condensor mic) about four feet back from the cabinet. The close mic will give a more direct sound with an accentuated attack, and the distant mic will give you more of the low end (it takes several feet of “air” for a bass wave to develop).

By using various combinations of the two mics, I’m able to get a great sound that often just can’t come out of one mic. While two mics can often spell trouble because of phase anomalies, this is a case where those same problems can work to your advantage. By balancing the signals different ways, you are effecting the phase relationship between the two mics and altering the eq curve, hopefully for the better. The amount you vary the signal is of course controlled by the faders on the respective channels of the console. The amount you move the faders to change the sound can often be measured by hair widths. A little dab will do ya!

Just for kicks, you can try adding a direct box to the aforementioned scenario, and send all three signals to the same track. The direct box often adds clarity to the whole sound that is nothing short of wonderful. Lesson learned: As always, experimentation pays. Be patient, be persistent, and most importantly, don’t print it to tape unless you love it . . . or your client is getting ticked-off that you’re taking way too long to get the sound!

Cool article, Mike.

I’ll have to (as always) add my appreciation for the SansAmp Bass DI.

Thanks all.

Some good tips to think about there

Going into the ART and then into the compressor and then the line in seems to work pretty good.
Compressor really helps tame the signal to prevent clipping and also give it a bit more of a fuller sound.

One thing I realised though is that I can’t play bass for sh#t :)
On bass more so than guitar it seems you really need to fret the note prepoerly or get a lot of fret buzz…
It becomes really noticeable when you record :)


I can’t say I’ve ever noticed that Rich. I’m a guitarist but have been known to play bass on occasion.

Is your set-up ok?

I’ve never done one myself, just tuned it once a year, and changed the strings every 5 years. :D

But there seems to be lots of info online about it, here’s one of them:
Bass setup

I think it’s just that I’m not used to the larger space between frets so if I’m trying to move between notes i end up not fretting properly.

I’f I’m just playing slow parts and not moving around moch I can get it to sound alright.

I think it’s called practice :)

Ach well, I’ve got big hands, so a bass does actually fit better.

And of course finger strength matters.

Carry a tennis ball in your pocket and squeeze it often.

It may not help your fretting, but if nothing else, it gives you something else to play with when your hands are in your trouser pockets! :D

Fretting cleanly is one thing but guitar players - check your timing !
Boy oh boy, nothing to brag about in my case at least ???

Personally I think the ART is a lousy for bass. Better off with the DI, perhaps?

Rich, and chaps,

If I my add a few points based on my experience…

I’m a guitarist. Have been for many many years. Ten years ago, however, there was a slot in our worship team at church for a bass player, so I picked up bass. I ended up in that role for 5 years. Rich, it took me a while to figure this out… the bass isn’t some kind of poor-man’s guitar, or a lesser guitar because it has few strings. Once I’d figured out that it’s an instrument in it’s own right I had great fun playing bass.

To play bass you need to think more about the rhythm of the song than when you are a guitar player. You need to work with the drums (kick especially), and you almost need to think about playing bass fills with the drums.

I had to learn all about passing notes, bass notes like D/F# and all that. A lot of feel of the song comes from the bass, as does some of the build of a song through it’s duration. Bass is a very creative instrument.

Oh, yeah, and another lesson I learned… try to keep out of the range of the guitars note-wise, especially when recording. There’s a great temptation with us guitar players to head off up the neck, but IMO that’s reserved for a few bass players who have managed to make that work (hey you might be the next one!).

Now I’m back on guitar duties and my only bass playing is for recording. Here’s a few thoughts on that…

Try plugging the bass into anything and everything… mixers, DI boxes, preamps, effects pedals (with the effect turned off), etc. Some will work, some won’t. My favourite at the moment is the amp sim in my drum machine, and my Peavey keyboard amp (I take a line out into my mixer). Plugging into my mixer gives a dreadful sound.

I don’t compress on the way in (no hardware compressor), but compress quite hard in the mix.

My temptation is to always play with a pick, but I get much better results playing with my fingers. Sometimes I have to compromise speed of playing for feel and tone. I only use the pick for songs that really need bass attack. This can leave the fingers quite sore but it’s worth it.

Playing bass seems to need a different set of muscles in the hands from guitar playing, so stick with it, and get a tennis ball or a stress ball as mentioned above.

I hope some of this helps to speed your journed to a good bass experience.


Yeah I like the sound of playing with fingers but I can play more in time and without getting sore fingers with a pick.

I need to start listenin to the bass lines in songs now :)


Here is a bass player’s site that is well worth visitng. There was a very good interview with her in a recent Tape Op, in which she describes her pick technique. Take a look at her discography.

here is the partial discography:

Hey folks,

I have done quite a bit of bass recording using N-Track. As a bass player I am usually disappointed with the overall tone that I record. I listen to pro tracks on CDs and the bass always sounds better than what I can do. However, recently, I have discovered a few tricks that help me out a lot!

1. Plug Bass into my mixer - flat eq

2. Set the tone (bass/treble) on the bass to reflect the mood of the music

3. Run the signal to my outbord compressor (Behringer MultiCom) I usually use 2.5:1 compression with a hard limiter

4. Here’s the kicker - after the compressor my signal hits a BBE Sonic Maximizer (these things rock!). I have found that by tweaking the LO Contour and Process, I can get the FAT sound that I’ve always been looking for.

5. Finally, I run the signal into my Echo Layla which contains the A/D and then into N-Track.

As a natural bass player, my tendency is to stay low and groovy so I don’t usually step on the guitar. I have found that the same signal chain used for the bass also works great for the guitar (i.e. the Sonic Maximizer is a jewel!)

Let me know if anybody has additional tips.

Rock on!


One quick tip from my experience (another long time guitar player, with a low end BC Rich bass for recording), I haven’t seen many basses with humbuckers, so you will probably need to get back away from you monitor when tracking (and/or at right angle) to help eliminate noise. Also, listen for noise added by your preamp/effects, it may not interfere with your bass sound but it will clutter up other frequency ranges.

Something I’ve been meaning to try but haven’t got around to yet is running the bass track through an amp sim to get a dirtier rock sound. Has anyone tried this with any success? I also noticed that Beheringer sells a little bass sim DI (BDI21), anyone tried this or one of it’s more expensive peers?

for the grungy bass sound, i find it works well to apply a distortion or effect only to the high end frequencies (the fretting/plucking range)… try cloning the bass track, then use your EQ to remove all the highs out of one track and all the lows out of the other. now apply your distortion or effect to the track that you removed the lows from. now play the two back together. i personally like this method because it keeps the low end nice and clean.

Quote (Earache @ July 11 2005,12:23)
I also noticed that Beheringer sells a little bass sim DI (BDI21), anyone tried this or one of it's more expensive peers?


I've got a the bass version of the POD, and a SansAmp Bass DI.
The POD has some interesting sounds and tones, but I prefer the SansAmp for 90% of my bass tracks.

Go here for some samples from my last CD. -- all done with the SansAmp plugged straight into an M-Audio 2496 card.


Sansamp is my favorite for bass as well. In fact I put the sansamp in front of any bass amp i play through live, it always makes it sound richer, especially small combos. But it records well direct into the sound card also.

I have also gotten nice bass sounds out of a regular guitar pod. The clean fender amp sounds are very nice for certain types of bass sound. But then a bass through a regular fender twin amp is actually a very usable sound, so i guess its no surprise.

I always leave compression until mixing. Remember that cheap outboard gear can mess with your signal, especially if you have a sequence of devices before the signal hits the soundcard.

Quote (kymarcus @ July 11 2005,16:48)
…I have also gotten nice bass sounds out of a regular guitar pod. The clean fender amp sounds are very nice for certain types of bass sound. But then a bass through a regular fender twin amp is actually a very usable sound, so i guess its no surprise.

I always leave compression until mixing. Remember that cheap outboard gear can mess with your signal, especially if you have a sequence of devices before the signal hits the soundcard.

A couple questions…

1. Is the standard n-Track compressor good? I do see the Mutli-band Compressor on the list, but that one’s a little intimidating for a beginner like myself.

2. I once recorded bass through my guitar rig, it didn’t sound bad (although not particularly good either :D ) but I’m not sure if this is a very good idea.