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Bass Compression Thread - Let's do it again!!
Old 16th June 2009
Gear Head
vonhagen's Avatar

Share Your Best Bass compression/processing Techniques!

I find it hard to nail a bass guitar sound that has a solid, thick, smooth bottom but still has that well defined string sound. I need some tips and tricks to get that pro result!

Please share your most successful techniques!

I need some guidelines and all tips and tricks are appreciated!

I know there isn't a magic formula (I know it depends on the player, instrument, amp, room, preamp, mic etc...) but try to explain your technique detailed.

How does your processing chain look like?
Do you use fullband or multiband compression? Or both?
By which frequencies do you usually divide the signal and which part of the signal usually needs most compression?
How much gain reduction?
Attack/release/ratio settings?
Are you using a limiter?
If you have a dry DI signal, how do you process it, together with the amp/plugin or by itself?
How about EQ? Are there certain frequencies you almost always boost/cut?
Any favorite compressors/limiters (plugin or hardware) for bass?

Old 17th June 2009
Lives for gear
awakened's Avatar

full band compressor. my favorites for bass being either an 1176 style emu at 4:1 for general use or the Waves L1 for metal type stuff.

if using a DI signal, i use the Ampeg SVX plug to add some tone.

my most preferred method for recording bass is to use a DI track and mic the amp. D112 or SM7. blend to taste. compress 4:1.

EQ varies for each project.
Old 17th June 2009
Gear Maniac
Black Dirt's Avatar

i have found that with bass, the player's technique has a profound impact on how good the recording sounds. i find it is hard for me to "fix" feeble fingers or clicky picks... for a bad azz player, i just go di - have been digging my shadowhills and greatriver pres for this application... also, the better the player, the less compression needed... sometimes none!

i recently tracked some bass with the new ehx bass big muff pedal in the chain going di ... got some really cool sounds with the switch set to bass boost and the tone turned up and also with the switch set to dry and the tone at about 12 o'clock... really big sounding and at points very vocal sounding.

in pro tools, i like to send the bass to an aux and bring in a touch of massey's thd plug underneath the clean bass... adds a cool little buzz that works great in some situations.
Old 17th June 2009
Lives for gear
KRStudio's Avatar

I use amp only, no DI, 1176 into Retro Sta Level or vise versa.
Old 17th June 2009
Amp and DI to different channels. If the amp is one of those bi-amp rigs I use 2 mic channels. If he also uses a distortion amp I use 3. I don't always use all those channels in the mix, however.

EQ and compression depend entirely on the player and instrument. Strings make a huge difference, especially in DI tone - New Rotosounds and dead flatwounds sound and behave entirely differently (to mention the extremes).....
Old 18th June 2009
Gear Head
vonhagen's Avatar

Cool replies. Keep the inputs coming guys (and girls)!
Old 18th June 2009
Lives for gear
fakiekid's Avatar

well I start with a RE20 (which is a mic not so prone to proximity effect) right up to the grill on our SVT cab somewhere between the dust cover and the centre of the speaker depending on tone, which will usually go into our 1073 or ASP desk (but I'd do that mic technique with any preamp really) and track with no compression. I rarely take a DI and if I do it runs through my Ampeg SVX.

Mixing time, UAD VCA VU, Gorgeous gritty pick tone or UAD Mono Fairchild for something a little smoother, some EQ cuts around 300-500 hz and a hpf up to about 80hz then depending on song some upper mid boost for attack, sort of 3-5k, or something smoother or more vintage around 2k for some wood. Bus that into another compressor like a UAD1176ln for some further general levelling along with the nice sparkle and lower mid warmth it adds and another EQ for final adjustments. I make sure that my Bus is stereo as wierdly enough it can add some space to the bass (i know it rhymes!)

thats just generally speaking, it does change for player and for song at times.
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Old 18th June 2009
Gear Maniac
mildav's Avatar

most of times i like to rec bass just with bss d.i. into summit audio tb200 and i like waves rcomp for clean pop bass sound.......other times i like to rec into summit with a lot of inputgain and less output gain for a nice-fat-tube-distorting sound and i like to compress with mcdsp mc2000 for rock sound
Old 23rd June 2009
Gear Head

For me it's a combination of elements: I use an old Fender Mustang Bass strung with Rotosound TruBass nylon wrapped strings, with the tone control all the way off, played through an ART Tube PAC then direct into Pro Tools. The Tube PAC is set to a slightly pumping compression with a bit of distortion from the tube.

I should stress that the ART is a really terrible compressor, but I love it on bass & drums because it's edgy & lo-fi.

I should also say that I'm wanting a James Jamerson type sound like you hear on the isolated Motown tracks. I play with fingers, although with a pick & the tone turned up full it gets more like the Carol Kaye / God Only Knows or Paul McCartney / With A Little Help From My Friends sound.
Old 23rd June 2009
Lives for gear
dualflip's Avatar

Nothing new to what im going to say but worth noting:

- EQ: I mostly cut frequencies below 40-60hz sometimes ill go up to 70Hz, but not beyond that, i sometimes like to leave the low uncut, but i find out that my car's subwoofer doesnt like this very much when i dont cut the low-end. Other frequencies to pay attention are 100-150Hz, i might add a little dip there if its very resonant. 200-350 Hz i sometimes cut if its too muddy, and sometimes i add if i want the bass to cut through the mix a bit more, but be careful how much you add, you might easily end up muddying the mix in no time!

Boosting the mids might also benefit the track clarity, but i find this to be a very variable frequency, sometimes that maybe 800Hz, sometimes it maybe as high as 5k, it depends totally on the rest of the elements. I mostly try to avoid eq'ing in solo, but when boosting the mid-range is a must to do it with the rest of the elements (the song) being played at the same time, meaning: i dont solo when boosting, specially this frequency range.

- Regarding compression, the obvious 1176 is a great choice, but the other compressor i like a looot in bass (and dont flame me for this) is the digidesign's dynamics III compressor. If i had to compare that compressor to something else (and i know its a digital compressor so this doesnt apply) i would have to say its more like a VCA compressor, what i also like about it is that it has sidechain filters to cut/dip 2 assignable frequencies so it can be used as a QUASI multiband compressor for those problematic resonant frequencies. And also it has a knee parameter to smooth the compression.

Sometimes ill use both a 1176 and a digi compressor, first the 1176 to even things out, and then the digi compressor with a low pass filter on sidechain to tackle those problematic notes, if the bass track has a very huge problem with even-ness (meaning it goes from boomy to thin in each note) ill go the other way around digi then 1176 and between the digi and the 1176 i might add the low cut filter i was talking about earlier.

A very other important aspect about Bass eq/compression is style and instrumentation:

Instrumentation: for instance if a song doesnt have a drum kit (say a ballad) you might want the bass to fill the low frequencies, but if you have a drumkit plus some low-heavy guitars, you might want to cut a little bit more on the bass track so it gives some space to the other elements.

Style: Mostly im refering to the music style, although the playing style also has a lot to do like playing with your fingers or a pick. If you have a fast song with a lot of bass notes, you might want the compressor to have a slow attack and a faster release, but if the song is slow with looooong notes you may want a slower release so those notes are even. This also comes handy when eq'ing, i find out that when it comes to fast songs, the eq is more forgiving, while doing slow songs, a little bump in the low-end can start making things around the studio to shake and rattle.

When it comes to the attack settings on a compressor i mostly use a slow setting, the only times i might use a faster attack time is in this two possible scenarios: slap bass and a very agressive picky bass guitar. Also worth mentioning, different styles of music, have different bass sounds that are common in that genre or style, some of them might use a mid-range oriented bass sound, while others might use a only-lowend oriented sound, thats worth considering.

- Amp simulators (and real amps for that matter) used in conjunction with the DI signal is a great way to go, just be sure you have both signals alligned so no phase cancellations ocurr, this might also happen if you apply certain plug-ins to the DI track and other plug-ins to the amp track, if you dont do some kind of delay compensation then you might end up with this problems. I must say that when it comes to a real amp and DI sometimes those phase cancellations are actually positive, i mean sometimes i dont allign both tracks, it all comes down to experimentation.

- Regarding my signal chain: I try to get a very clean bass signal, free of noise, and with good detail, also i want it to sound as near as the final sound, so i spend a lot of time trying different bass settings in the bass guitar, different DI's like switching between a pasive, and maybe an active tube DI. My pre-amps of choice are mostly: the unknown Neve 1073, Telefunken V72, Siemens V272 and V276, once in a blue moon i use the UA 8110, i also like the API stuff and the Great River stuff, basically there are a lot of good preamps for bass out there, but i try to keep away from Focusrite (the cheap stuff), Behringer and ART. Some ppl are huge fans of Avalon when it comes to bass guitar, im just not one of them...

Im also not scared to add a compressor or eq in the tracking process if i think its necessary.

Sometimes i think that the DI must run through a very transparent pre, this way i get a very clean signal to be processed later, and the cab mic pre i like it to be more colorful.

I hope thats properly structured and detailed
Old 23rd June 2009
Lives for gear
Using an amp seems to help long as the amp sounds good. I've heard some pretty bad bass amps. Tube heads are great but can be somewhat of a luxury. You can get decent sounds with a good solid state head.....but if this part doesn't sound good then why mic it? Just use a nice Radial DI or something instead and maybe reamp it when you get a nice bass rig in the studio. Otherwise, I usually stick a PR-30 and my Berliner U77 into 1272's and into the Thermionic Culture Phoenix. I usually don't EQ the compressed tracks for fear of F'ing it up and having to use corrective EQ trying to find the missing elements. Done that before. I also run a DI into an API or Neve EQ without any compression. The DI sometimes sounds a little boxy but blends well with the mics to give it a little meat in the 500hz area. A nice Radial will alleviate that boxiness though. Honestly, a nice DI is pretty essential with the variety of crappy bass rigs people will try to record. Rarely will you see someone bring in an Alembic with a 200 watt Hiwatt and 8x10's. When you hear one of those you'll crap yourself from the amp vibrating your bowels. That rig will give you a nice sound with a single mic.
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