Friday, January 6, 2017
Recording Bass Guitar Using a Direct Box or Microphone
Next time you're recording a song, try muting the bass. It will feel like the whole floor just got pulled out from under you. If everyone could experience this maybe they would soon start to realize just how important a good bass line is to a song.
The first step to recording a good bass track is getting a good performance from the musician. When recording a bass line, it is important the musician plays very consistently. The bass guitar is very sensitive to how hard they hit the strings and it is important that the notes are consistent in volume.
There are two main ways in which a bass guitar is typically recorded. The bass guitar can either be recorded directly, usually by using a direct box, or through an amp.
By far the simplest way to record the bass guitar is with a direct box. In this case, the bass guitar will be plugged directly into the direct box, and then into the audio interface. Some audio interfaces even offer an instrument input that avoids the need for a direct box all together. Recording bass direct is easy, but can offer limited control over the sound. At this point, your only controls over the tone before recording are the instrument itself and the tone knob. There are many different direct boxes available that are either active or passive, but we recommend you consider the BEHRINGER ULTRA-DI DI400P.
Bass guitar can also be recorded using an amp. This can allow for greater variation in tone than with a direct box, however it adds a new level of complexity to recording that instrument that can make things more difficult, or even cause problems if done incorrectly.
The first step in recording a bass amp would be to find the perfect tone you are trying to capture. Experiment with volume, tone and EQ settings, and even try a different instrument if it's not working for you. If you can’t get a good tone in the room, it’s unlikely any recording technique is going to produce a useable bass track. If you’re looking for an amp that’s good for both recording and practicing, consider the Fender Rumble 25 v3 Bass Combo Amplifier. This is a small 25 watt combo amp that is easily portable, has great features for practicing, and has enough power for smaller performances.
Next you have to choose a good microphone. This is not as straightforward as it would seem, since many microphones aren't designed to capture the low frequencies produced by the bass guitar. You might find that the same microphone used for recording electric guitars is absolutely useless on a bass amp. Instead, maybe try choosing a microphone used on kick drums, such as the Shure BETA 52A. Though they don't necessarily have a flat frequency response, they do tend to emphasize the bass frequencies, which may be exactly what you're looking for.
Of course there is always one more option. Some recording engineers may even decide they want to record both the bass amp as well as a direct signal. This gives more control when it comes down to mixing, especially if you're not completely sure what you want the bass to sound like early in the session. The direct recording of the bass will also save you if a problem occurs that makes the bass amp recording unusable.
Finally, after the bass guitar is recorded, it is important to check how well the bass track and drums complement each other. Since the bass guitar and drums make up the main rhythm component of a song, it is important that they lock together tightly. Any slight variation in timing between these two instruments will be immediately evident to the listener, and can potentially ruin the entire song.
When recording bass, always remember you are forming the rhythmic foundation of the song. Keep this in mind, and you will be able to produce quality songs with great sounding bass lines.