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Tracking Bass!...Can't get that warm, fat even sound!
Old 9th August 2009
  #1
Tracking Bass!...Help me get that huge, detailed, even, wide Pop Hit Radio bass!

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I'm trying to get a more focused and consistent live, direct bass sound.

I'm posting this in High End. Because I'm looking for High End SOUNDING solutions! I know many of you have your own pro and project studios at home - and maybe you have some easy solutions for tracking at home with prosumer gear.

In my project studio, I've almost always used synths for bass - because it's been more difficult for me to get a consistent, warm sustained bass sound - when tracking live direct bass.

I'm mostly concerned with live bass for pop music and ballads - think Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Max Martin, etc.

Questions:

For reliable, consistent, warm, fat live direct 5-string bass sounds:

1. Are there specific basses you like to track regularly - P-Bass, Music Man Stingray, Steinberger, etc.?

2. Are there pickups you generally prefer - which track more evenly across the frequency spectrum? Do some of you guys tend to use custom hand-wound pickups, etc.?

3. Which pres, compression and EQ do you generally use - that help you with focused, even, nicely sustained, and warm sounds?


Please don't slam me - I have a lot of recording experience. But unfortunately, I have almost never been happy with live direct bass tracking in my own project studio. My solution up until now has been to track synth bass, instead.

I recently solved my guitar tracking issues, by swapping out my strat pickups! My guitar tech replaced my standard Fender strat pickups with a Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro (neck), a Duncan JB stacked humbucker (middle), and a Rio Grande Stelly (bridge). This made all the difference in the world - as now I'm able to get that clear chimey high end sound I hear in many pop mixes!

So I'm wondering if my bass issue could be similar.

I have a vintage Hagstrom H II B 4-String with teflon strings - which is great for effects, picollo bass parts, etc., and a Hohner 5-String with a Steinberger tuning system. The sound is very even in the room, but when I track it, the sound gets thin and a bit tubby on the low B. So I currently don't have any "normal" basses in the studio heh

I've tried many different basses and pres over the years, and haven't found the magic solution yet - am I missing something stupid and obvious? Like fender P-Bass 5/ API 512? Fender Jazz Bass 5/ Neve 1073?, Music Man Stingray 5 / Telefunken / 1176, etc. Or something more complex? I wonder how Max Martin's (and the rest of the Cheiron guys') bass recordings were done....hmmmmm.

I know a lot of the answers are in the part-writing and playing itself.


...Thanks in advance for any advice you guys have!...

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Old 9th August 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 
jono_3's Avatar
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Old 9th August 2009 | Show parent
  #3
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
If you don't have a great bass player you'll not have **** with the best of gear [but I'm sure you already knew that].

In my world, P-bass... most of the time with flatwound strings [and a great player]... to a DI [usually a V-71 or something passive with a Jensen transformer into a Great River pre... or an Great River ME-1NV out in the room and shoot the signal back line level].

From there to a Purple Audio MC-77... and/or I'll split the signal [sometimes before, sometimes after the MC-77... dictated by the whim of the moment]. Send one part of the split DI signal to one track, and the other to a Littlelabs "IBP"... the "re-amp" output going to a Littlelabs "STD" which goes to the player's amp [usually my SVT].

The amp is mic'ed [most often with an RCA BK-5], then comes back to the control room through either a Chandler TG-2 pre-amp or another channel of Great River [or if it's an overdub a Thermionic Culture "Earlybird"... if it's not an overdub that will be on the overheads so it will be "unavailable" for bass duties].

The amp signal then gets tweezed with the IBP that is feeding the amp until I get the bass "vowel" I'm looking for that sets in well with the guitars. Sometimes this "re-amp" thing is redone in mixing... most times it stays].

I hope this is of some assistance.

Peace.
Old 9th August 2009 | Show parent
  #4
It's definitely all in the player. Bass can sound so amatuer 'jumpy'/'clanky' without the right fingers or pick. Any Fender or Music Man will sound great, the higher end models or pickups just give you icing on the cake...but put a great player on a stock $200 Mexi Fender through a quality DI and you are 99% of the way there.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
It's definitely all in the player. Bass can sound so amatuer 'jumpy'/'clanky' without the right fingers or pick. Any Fender or Music Man will sound great, the higher end models or pickups just give you icing on the cake...but put a great player on a stock $200 Mexi Fender through a quality DI and you are 99% of the way there.
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Thanks, Nathan - which "quality DI's" do you use, personally?

Joseph

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Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
If you don't have a great bass player you'll not have **** with the best of gear [but I'm sure you already knew that].

In my world, P-bass... most of the time with flatwound strings [and a great player]... to a DI [usually a V-71 or something passive with a Jensen transformer into a Great River pre... or an Great River ME-1NV out in the room and shoot the signal back line level].

From there to a Purple Audio MC-77... and/or I'll split the signal [sometimes before, sometimes after the MC-77... dictated by the whim of the moment]. Send one part of the split DI signal to one track, and the other to a Littlelabs "IBP"... the "re-amp" output going to a Littlelabs "STD" which goes to the player's amp [usually my SVT].

The amp is mic'ed [most often with an RCA BK-5], then comes back to the control room through either a Chandler TG-2 pre-amp or another channel of Great River [or if it's an overdub a Thermionic Culture "Earlybird"... if it's not an overdub that will be on the overheads so it will be "unavailable" for bass duties].

The amp signal then gets tweezed with the IBP that is feeding the amp until I get the bass "vowel" I'm looking for that sets in well with the guitars. Sometimes this "re-amp" thing is redone in mixing... most times it stays].

I hope this is of some assistance.

Peace.
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Very cool, Fletch - thanks for the details!

Yeah, typical Fender Jazz bass seems a bit harder to manage tracking - a bit flabby for me -
and twice as difficult, as I'm predominently a guitar player (don't kill me heh).

However, your tracking set-up sounds more like a rock bass tracking treatment, no?....Am I wrong? Or do you use these same treatments for pop, and pop country ballads, as well? Think Taylor Swift, Max Martin, etc. Given your personality, you probably hate this kind of music heh

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Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by jono_3 View Post
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hilarious...lol.

...I thought there would almost definitely be an instructional video along with this...

you guys rock!

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Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
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Thanks, Nathan - which "quality DI's" do you use, personally?

Joseph

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There are a ton of great ones. For actual on board DI (on preamps) I'll go to either Great River NV, Juggernaut Twin, or Millennia Media Origin or TD-1 (same thing, specifically in tube mode). I'm very picky and those are the ones I've liked the best. If you have a quality preamp already but it doesn't have an onboard preamp (or the DI is noisey), a radial JDI with Jenson will do a great job and keep the preamp clean and impedance matched for DI purposes when plugging it into the mic preamp input.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
There are a ton of great ones. For actual on board DI (on preamps) I'll go to either Great River NV, Juggernaut Twin, or Millennia Media Origin or TD-1 (same thing, specifically in tube mode). I'm very picky and those are the ones I've liked the best. If you have a quality preamp already but it doesn't have an onboard preamp (or the DI is noisey), a radial JDI with Jenson will do a great job and keep the preamp clean and impedance matched for DI purposes when plugging it into the mic preamp input.
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Thanks, Nathan. Much obliged for the elaboration.

Again - just checking - you doing pop records, too? Or mostly rock?

Cheers.

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Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
.

Thanks, Nathan. Much obliged for the elaboration.

Again - just checking - you doing pop records, too? Or mostly rock?

Cheers.

.

These days mostly just working on my own stuff which is alt rock (radiohead/verve/beck kind of thing). But until just recently I was doing whatever came through the door which could be Blues, gospel, folk rock, classic rock, alt rock or metal. If the appropriate player was on the track with the right bass, then it was a breeze to record and mix. Maybe just hire a great player on your next important session. He'll have a quality bass (or two or three) to pick from and will nail it with musical precision. That will get you further than anything IME, for the production and for your own experience.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
These days mostly just working on my own stuff which is alt rock (radiohead/verve/beck kind of thing). But until just recently I was doing whatever came through the door which could be Blues, gospel, folk rock, classic rock, alt rock or metal. If the appropriate player was on the track with the right bass, then it was a breeze to record and mix. Maybe just hire a great player on your next important session. He'll have a quality bass (or two or three) to pick from and will nail it with musical precision. That will get you further than anything IME, for the production and for your own experience.
.

Yes, Nathan. Thanks.

Hiring, playing and recording with great players has all been part of my process - for years. I've tracked some killer session guys in many styles of music, etc.

...And I agree - the playing is the most important part. This is my biggest personal obstacle now. However, if I have a good signal chain - then I at least have a chance to get the sound right. When my playing doen't cut the mustard - I definitely hire people! No problem with that!

So, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience!


I am currently seeking a very specific Max Martin, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson - big fat pop, country pop ballad, super pop "big hit radio vibe" bass sound.

...This sounds like it's different from what you do (this is not to say your methods won't work for pop, as well!)

I'm looking for warm and round clarity in the lower mids, and a big fat clear sustain in the bottom.

I guess I've got to go work with Max Martin...heh

...I'm on the mission, man!...

Thanks, again! There's a good bit of potentially helpful data in the responses from you and Fletch!

.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 

With bass, the player is the key, IMHO.

One thing that can help tremendously with bass is a Tubetech (CL2A/CL1B)
Phase-aligning the DI and amp-tracks is mandatory.

Sqye, nice to meet you in the tech forums!
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
With bass, the player is the key, IMHO.

One thing that can help tremendously with bass is a Tubetech (CL2A/CL1B)
Phase-aligning the DI and amp-tracks is mandatory.

Sqye, nice to meet you in the tech forums!
.

Thanks, Kosmo. Nice to meet you here as well - it's been too long....I guess I'm getting tired of all the crap down in the sewer...heh...I know there's a lot of good stuff down there - and I really do love Zach's Market and Economics thread.

Anyway, back OT - do you do a lot of pop tracking, as well?

And yes - I love the CL1B on vox - never used it on bass.

Thanks, again, man!

.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Deuce 225's Avatar
 

Tracking Live Bass

We just finished recording a band doing Wilco/Byrds kinda stuff (don't know how relevant this is for your stuff). Two basses were used for all tracks -- either a Rick 4001 with flatwounds or a Fender Jazz Bass (roundwounds) with Lindy Fralin pickups.

The signal chain was Bass ==> Ampeg B15 w/JBL 140E speaker ==> Heil PR 40 ==>API 3124. Mixdown was a Helio 69 Reissue into a Drawmer 1968ME w/Fat switch in. The Heil PR40 was used after our EV RE20 gave up the ghost, but I was pleasantly surprised how "woody" and solid the bass tracks turned out.

The record is being mixed by Alan Weatherhead from Sound of Music here in Richmond. I might be able to send you some samples in a day or two if you're interested.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #15


Maybe change the title of your thread to

"big fat pop, country pop ballad, super pop "big hit radio vibe" bass sound" since it's very specific. I bet the guys over at Lynn Fustons forum would have a lot of experience with this kind of thing since he knows a lot of Nashville cats.

Is this genre that you are working on new to you, if not what have players in the past that you've been in the room with done that was unique to them (gear or playing)? I wouldn't be surprised if those guys were using active pickups (at least as part of the equation).
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deuce 225 View Post
We just finished recording a band doing Wilco/Byrds kinda stuff (don't know how relevant this is for your stuff). Two basses were used for all tracks -- either a Rick 4001 with flatwounds or a Fender Jazz Bass (roundwounds) with Lindy Fralin pickups.

The signal chain was Bass ==> Ampeg B15 w/JBL 140E speaker ==> Heil PR 40 ==>API 3124. Mixdown was a Helio 69 Reissue into a Drawmer 1968ME w/Fat switch in. The Heil PR40 was used after our EV RE20 gave up the ghost, but I was pleasantly surprised how "woody" and solid the bass tracks turned out.

The record is being mixed by Alan Weatherhead from Sound of Music here in Richmond. I might be able to send you some samples in a day or two if you're interested.
.

Thanks so much, man! You're very kind!

And I would LOVE to take you up on your offer!

Cheers!



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Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post


Maybe change the title of your thread to

"big fat pop, country pop ballad, super pop "big hit radio vibe" bass sound" since it's very specific. I bet the guys over at Lynn Fustons forum would have a lot of experience with this kind of thing since he knows a lot of Nashville cats.

Is this genre that you are working on new to you, if not what have players in the past that you've been in the room with done that was unique to them (gear or playing)? I wouldn't be surprised if those guys were using active pickups (at least as part of the equation).
.

Thanks, Nathan - I have bad experience with active pickups - but I have a feeling the devil has at least partly been in my signal chains. I can certainly imagine that active pickups would be great for all the detail and sustain!

And while the genre is not really new to me - as far as my experience goes - it is my first time
attempting to track live direct bass in my own project studio - for this genre.

Contacting Lynn is a great idea - maybe I'll send him a PM. I think he's busy growing tomatoes
at the moment, though! heh

Oh, and you are correct - I changed the title - Thanks, man!

.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #18
I've tried a ton of DI's and the only one I use nowadays is the A Designs REDDI. The thing just sounds huge and fat. You'll need a good pre (I use a 1073) for make up gain and I also mic the 4x10 cab I have with an AKG D12e. When mixing, take out a tiny bit at 400hz and add in some 1k-2k for definition.

I compress the bass pretty hard and then also parallel compress it so it's all nice and even and a main part of the mix.

As long as you have good sounds and good player for the tracking stage you'll be fine when it comes to mix time.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Head
 

I may have to disagree with "it's all the player"...yes great players make things easier to record and mix however uneven bass tones are a problem that everyone has to (should deal with). I would say that saturating a pre, compression and limiting are key...a fender jazz with flat wounds...also something that seems to help out the most (in pop and rock at least) is playing the whole part on the E string...don't underestimate this technique. It really can work...a good eq on the way in before the limiter also helps. Cheers.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #20
I've used the Solo/610, Great River, P-1, and the SCA DI through their Neve pre-amp. They all worked pretty nicely. But I just got a Sansamp RPM. To me, that's way more like having many of the benefits of an amp plus all the benefits of a DI. Maybe I wouldn't use it every time, but I can't imagine when that would be now that I've played with it. It also has an effects loop like an amp so you can patch in effects there instead of in front of it.

* I mean as apposed to something like one of the above DI type scenarios of course. I'm sure if I had a killer room and a great collection of amps I'd use them.

The REDDI seems like it would be somewhare more in that vein, though targeting a specific (very nice) sound, which peopel often say is kind of Ampeg SVT in nature, though I've never tried one myself.

But check out the RPM. It's quite nice and can add grunge and drive if you want, in addition to 3 band EQ (with a widely sweepable mid freq.) Between my three band EQ on the Jazz, and pickup selection, and the EQ on the RPM, I think I could often get away with no subsequent EQ. Run it through either the LA-2A or 1176 according to the kind o' music, and perty cool.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
.

Thanks, Kosmo. Nice to meet you here as well - it's been too long....I guess I'm getting tired of all the crap down in the sewer...heh...I know there's a lot of good stuff down there - and I really do love Zach's Market and Economics thread.

Anyway, back OT - do you do a lot of pop tracking, as well?

And yes - I love the CL1B on vox - never used it on bass.

Thanks, again, man!

.
Yup, do pop tracking as well.
Though I'm more mixing (&mastering) these days.. Need some?
Bass chain is often: DAW->Tubetech->MassivePassive->SSL
Actually I'm getting tired of the 'which pre is the best'-thing..
Back to the sewer again! CU there.
heh
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
Yup, do pop tracking as well.
Though I'm more mixing (&mastering) these days.. Need some?
Bass chain is often: DAW->Tubetech->MassivePassive->SSL
Actually I'm getting tired of the 'which pre is the best'-thing..
Back to the sewer again! CU there.
heh
.

lol....I know, right - I guess it's good to have some forum choices here, right?

...And thanks for posting your signal chain. Very cool of you.


And yes, thank you Dean, Meliss and Kittonian for your responses, so far!

...I can see I'm going to have to try some of your solutions. This is all very helpful, indeed!

I really am trying to find a good DIRECT solution, and avoid micing bass cabs, etc.

...since I'm often working by myself, among other things.

But hey, whatever works best!



.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
.

lol....I know, right - I guess it's good to have some forum choices here, right?

...And thanks for posting your signal chain. Very cool of you.


And yes, thank you Dean, Meliss and Kittonian for your responses, so far!

...I can see I'm going to have to try some of your solutions. This is all very helpful, indeed!



.
I also like the stock Digidesign compressor a lot..
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
I also like the stock Digidesign compressor a lot..
.

shame on you...heh....what kind of high end analog audiofile are you, anyway?

.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
Mafiso's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melissa View Post
I may have to disagree with "it's all the player"...yes great players make things easier to record and mix however uneven bass tones are a problem that everyone has to (should deal with). I would say that saturating a pre, compression and limiting are key...a fender jazz with flat wounds...also something that seems to help out the most (in pop and rock at least) is playing the whole part on the E string...don't underestimate this technique. It really can work...a good eq on the way in before the limiter also helps. Cheers.

honestly though...it really is very much the player. Uneaven tone is directly related to the way the player handles the strings. Give a mediocre player, and a great player the same setup (which I have witnessed) and you get completely different results.

That being said, with a good bass player there are certain signal chains which will help the tone become even more awesome. I personally like the Aguilar DI boxes into a 6176 channel strip. The tube pre adds a little bit of pleasant "warmth" and the 1176 style compressor, does a great job of evening dynamics, and adding some funk to the tone...also the two band eq can be handy for broad tonal shaping...just an all around flexible setup. Not necessarily great for active pickups though.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #26
.

Hey, thanks Mafiso!

JOOC, what kind of music do you do, in general?

Cheers.


.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mafiso View Post
honestly though...it really is very much the player. Uneaven tone is directly related to the way the player handles the strings. Give a mediocre player, and a great player the same setup (which I have witnessed) and you get completely different results.

That being said, with a good bass player there are certain signal chains which will help the tone become even more awesome. I personally like the Aguilar DI boxes into a 6176 channel strip. The tube pre adds a little bit of pleasant "warmth" and the 1176 style compressor, does a great job of evening dynamics, and adding some funk to the tone...also the two band eq can be handy for broad tonal shaping...just an all around flexible setup. Not necessarily great for active pickups though.

honestly though...I've worked with a lot of great bass players and it's NOT all about the playing...especially bass guitar going down digitally...getting a great bass sound requires some engineering skills..everyone knows that great playing makes it easier...if it were as easy as recording a great player, anyone could do it....and that simply is not true...frankly, you describing a 6176 to high enders (that's not me really) is kinda funny.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
robot gigante's Avatar
First and foremost the player really does have to get it right first, although engineering skills are also needed of course! Also the arrangement needs to be such that it will sound right. If you're trying to get that pop sound their formulas are pretty easy.

My personal fav is P-bass, flatwounds, amp or REDDI. I'll usually get some distortion from the pre and/or a compressor after. REDDI into a slightly overdriven Neve is pretty darn cool!

When mixing ITB a track that someone else recorded, I will sometimes add a tiny bit of distortion from the old digi lofi plugin. The horror!
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melissa View Post
honestly though...I've worked with a lot of great bass players and it's NOT all about the playing...especially bass guitar going down digitally...getting a great bass sound requires some engineering skills..everyone knows that great playing makes it easier...if it were as easy as recording a great player, anyone could do it....and that simply is not true...frankly, you describing a 6176 to high enders (that's not me really) is kinda funny.
.

Hi Melissa - and thanks again!

Can you tell me a bit about what gear you find yourself going to - for that nice big fat sustained pop bass recording?

I very much appreciate your feedback here! And I feel compelled to agree with you - at least on some strong levels - given the HUGE amount of difference simply swapping out my strat pickups has made in order to acquire the chimey sparkly higher frequency tele sound in my current recordings.

Despite the fact that I'm a seasoned studio guitarist, I have quite a bit of boutique gear, and I've got some wonderful techs at my disposal - the pickup swap to the Rio Grande Stelly was night and day - it really takes that twang to the next level for recordings.

So, it completely makes sense to me that the proper bass recording chain would give me a way better chance at the tone I'm seeking now!

Thanks again for any additional gear recommendations!

...On a side note, it seems like most of you guys are recommending flat-wound strings, so far.
...JOOC, why is this?

Oh, and why would the 6172 on passive pickups be such a bad idea?



.
Old 10th August 2009 | Show parent
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
First and foremost the player really does have to get it right first, although engineering skills are also needed of course! Also the arrangement needs to be such that it will sound right. If you're trying to get that pop sound their formulas are pretty easy.

My personal fav is P-bass, flatwounds, amp or REDDI. I'll usually get some distortion from the pre and/or a compressor after. REDDI into a sightly overdriven Neve is pretty darn cool!

When mixing ITB a track that someone else recorded, I will sometimes add a tiny bit of distortion from the old digi lofi plugin. The horror!
.

Thanks, RG! Very cool!

Lotta P-Bass w/flatwounds, as well as REDDI fans here!...Coincidence?...I'm sure not ...

I'm getting a lot of great ideas...at least I hope they're great..heh

...Do you do a lot of pop stuff, RG?

Thanks, man!

.
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