You Ask, We Answer: July 2014 - EMusician

You Ask, We Answer: July 2014

Avoiding A "Squeezed" Bass Sound
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Above: There’s much more to recording bass than amp sims, but they can definitely help add character. Clockwise from upper left: Waves G|T|R, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and IK Multimedia AmpliTube.

I PLUG MY ELECTRIC BASS DIRECTLY INTO AN AUDIO INTERFACE’S HIGH-Z INPUT, BUT IT ALWAYS SOUNDS “CLINICAL” AND DOESN’T WORK WELL WITH MIXES. I WANT A REALLY STRONG LOW END, BUT WITH A GOOD HIGH END SO YOU CAN HEAR THE BASS WHEN MIXED IN WITH OTHER INSTRUMENTS. PEOPLE SAY DYNAMICS CONTROL IS IMPORTANT AND I’VE TRIED COMPRESSORS, BUT DON’T LIKE THAT “SQUEEZED” SOUND. ADVICE?

PAUL RODRIGUEZ
HOUST ON, TX
VIA E-MAIL

Bass is a tough instrument to record and play back, because its notes lie in a range that speakers and headphones have a hard time reproducing. Good sound starts with the instrument itself; note that tuning is critical. The frequencies are so low that any sympathetic resonances will create long, rolling beat frequencies that weaken the sound. Also check your pickup height. If you have a light touch and want to emphasize the percussive transients, move the pickups closer to the strings. If you play with a heavy pick and want to emphasize sustain, move them farther away. To check levels, play your bass while watching your DAW’s meters; angle the pickup if needed to balance levels between the higher and lower strings.

Dynamics control often helps—a more consistent signal will play back more consistently. However, many bass players prefer limiting over compression because the limiting process (which trims peaks instead of trying to serve as a “sustainer”) can emphasize your “touch” and make the bass sound more responsive. Also, a little high-frequency shelving boost on mixdown will help provide more definition.

Finally, there are some excellent bass amp sims (IK Multimedia, Native Instruments, Waves, MOTU, Line 6, Overloud, etc.) if you want some “growl” to complement the DI’s pristine sound. Compared to guitar amps, bass sims don’t need to deal with lots of distortion and high frequencies; this makes it easier to create realistic emulations. THE EDITORS

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