Recording bass directly is one of the most common techniques in the studio across many different genres. Producers love the clear, unaltered low end present in a great DI recording and the pliability that sound has in the mix. While a bass amp that’s been mic’d up is going to have its own color and vibe, a bass recorded direct is going to have all of the characteristics of that bass and the pickups used without the influence of the amp, cabinet, speakers, or room.
Once the bass has been recorded though, there’s no reason you can’t use some great in-the-box techniques to get the most out of your bass recording. With the full frequency spectrum captured in your recording, try a few of these mixing techniques to enhance that bass guitar even further – bringing life and presence to that performance.
Start from a Controlled Signal
One of the first things I’ll slap on my bass DI track is a compressor, or when the dynamics need it, a limiter. This goes at the front of the chain unless there are any glaring issues in the track that need to be taken care of first, and the reason for its placement is simple…
Compression and limiting both act to counteract inconsistencies in the dynamics of your bass track, giving you a smoother sound that honestly feels like it’s played better than the original performance. You’ll still retain many of the characteristics that make the performance unique – things like pick attack and resonance all become more present in the signal thanks to the levelling out of peaks. From there, your smooth bass tone can go in a lot of different directions.
Using a Bass Preamp
Okay, so you’ve already tracked your bass – why would you add a preamp to it after the fact? For the same reason we add saturation to vocals, of course!
A bass preamp adds harmonic saturation and warmth to your tone that you can’t get out of a bass amplifier alone. In-the-box options vary with everything from hardware emulation of classic studio preamps to bass-oriented preamps like the Vintage Tube Preamp found within Bassforge Rex Brown.
With these preamps, engineers and producers can take their favorite characteristics of a great bass preamp from the Drive amount to the Blend of the processed and unprocessed signal to make their bass sound as aggressive or transparent as they want. Adding a large amount of Drive with a lower Blend level will result in a parallel-processed sound that’s similar to having a heavily distorted second track but without the additional routing.
For bass, there’s nothing quite like tube saturation. A preamp can only be pushed so far, but one built on a tube platform has a distinct harmonic breakup that sounds like nothing else when it gets pushed to its limits.
Using Virtual Bass Rigs
If you just want to use the preamp section of Bassforge Rex Brown, a good tube overdrive is going to go a long way to toughen up your bass tone already. But if you’re looking for more to add to your tone stack, the amp itself is where it’s at. Because your bass’ signal has been captured with all of the details a DI box can offer, you’re able to more effectively manipulate it in a virtual rig than you might be with a live bass amp. Use the built-in IRs to get studio-quality sound from your cab, speaker & microphones or load your own impulse responses. Control your amp’s settings in-the-box in real-time – making adjustments that you’d just be stuck with when recording live. Check out a real world example in this In The Studio clip:
See how much more flexible your tonal options can be with a virtual rig?
Better Low End
As with every mix, your bass tone alone isn’t going to instantly solve a poor mix. You need to focus on your low end and how that interacts with the rest of your mix. Understanding how your kick drum, sub frequencies & bass all work together to round out the bottom of your mix is essential.
JST VIP members will be getting first access to our brand new Mixing From The Low End course! Sign up today so you don’t miss out!