Friday, November 6, 2015

Getting ready to record bass guitar

Bass guitar is the foundation of your songs and should be treated with the utmost of respect. If the bass player is going all over the place with an out of tune instrument, it will be impossible to get your mix sounding heavy and "important". I'll give you a few pointers on how to get your bass tracks and thus your band to sound crushing.

A nameless bass player (picture unrelated) has been sitting on the control room couch for several days now. He has been sipping his coffee and an occasional beer now and then. He seems anxious to get to work but is forced to endure thru the guitar recordings. I'm quite sure he has always recorded his parts before the guitarists but in this case I have given him enough reasons to let the guitarism happen first. He seems to have read (for once) the "getting ready for the studio" pdf I sent the band because he starts to change the strings as we are finishing up with the rhythm guitars. Then the typical question from the adjacent room: "Is it really that important to change the strings three times during the recordings." I switch to robot mode "It depends. It depends on your sweat, how long it will take to record your parts and what are your expectations for the sound. But it is good to come prepared". The bassists gives two nods with his lips tightly together. "That makes sense." and continues with the string change.

Much of the work for bassists is done prior to recording. Here you have a list of things to consider.
  • Get your instrument set up by a professional. Good intonation is extremely important
  • Mute the strings you are not playing. This is really important. A bass track with hum and ringing extra notes will not sound punchy and articulate
  • Play so that the notes are in tune. Don't press too much or bend unknowingly the strings. If the foundation is out of tune, the whole band is out of tune
  • TUNE TUNE TUNE TUNE! Tune so much that it hurts
  • Record guitars first. It will be easier to listen for the tuning
  • The sound comes from the bass and begins with your hands. I can't stress this enough. Get a good and sound-wise suitable instrument. and know that if you play softly with your fingers the results will be completely different than playing super hard with a pick. One is not better than the other but know and articulate to your engineer what you are after
  • Simplicity is often your best friend. Knowing when there is room for the bass solo is much more important than the solo. Playing fast legato stuff during the power-chorus is likely not a good idea. The part most probably needs the firm foundation. This is what for you are in the band
  • Distortion will give you more definition. Your midrange will "stiffen" and the notes you are playing will cut thru the wall of guitars better
  • Try out a thin pick. This will act as kind of a compressor for the loudest notes
  • Play everything as evenly volume-wise as possible. Practice this separately
  • Try out D'addario Pro Steels for that piano like top end, if you are into that kind of thing
There you go. Have fun and play in tune. Your band will love you for it =)

Do you have a favourite set of strings or do you disagree with something? Drop a line. It would be great to broaden my spectrum.

-Juho Räihä-

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