These hip insights are excerpted from Bass Player’s Session Legends & Studio Gear supplement. For more recording tips, check it out on the newsstand, or go online at www.bassplayer.com.
“Most essential for me is my right hand and my left hand—it’s all in my hands. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I had a piece-of-crap bass for years, and I had to make it sound like what I wanted. I’m not a tech geek, so I think a compatible engineer is also essential. I do like the Aguilar DB 680 bass preamp, though.”
“It’s a good idea to have quality DIs and analog compressors handy. I love the Eclair Evil Twin tube direct box, and I also use some old Simon Systems DIs and the Avalon U5. There are so many great tube compressors. I like the dbx 160x for some tracks, and I’m really digging the compressors and mic preamps made by a company called Inward Connections— they’re really soft and warm sounding. And you can’t beat the Teletronix LA- 2A for some things. I definitely think it pays off to put the bass through analog gear on the way to Pro Tools. To me, none of the plug-in compressors come close at this point.”
“I’m a very hi-tech/lo-tech kind of guy. I need a bit of ghetto in my sound, because that’s what makes it work in so many different styles. I like the combination of a direct signal and the miked sound of a vintage Fender Bassman or Ampeg B-15. Plus, I’m never without my Demeter tube DI and Neve mic preamps and compressors.”
Steve Rodby (Pat Metheney Group)
“Generally, the only two pieces of gear I find essential are your bass and your fingers. But for amplifying or recording acoustic bass direct, the one essential that is so often overlooked is matching the output impedance of the upright’s transducer pickup with the input impedance of the first device it’s plugged into—be it an amp, a preamp, a DI, or an effect. If the device’s input impedance is too low, as it frequently is, you’ll lose the bottom. What I did was build a box that varies the input and allows the transducer to be loaded with the correct impedance for the sound you want. Now I have variable inputs built into all my gear, and you wouldn’t believe the tone difference. I’ve become known for playing my upright through an amp or through the board at loud volumes, and that’s my secret.”
“The two most essential pieces of gear are your ears. Beyond that, it’s a good instrument and good strings. The benefit I had, from being a studio musician back in New York, was spending eight hours a day listening to my bass through headphones, so I really got to know how to tweak my sound. These days, I like the Radial Bass Bone DI and the API Lunchbox, which I use as a mic pre. As for compressors, I still like the dbx 160 for subtle compression and the Empirical Labs EL8-X Distressor for more extreme compression.”
Mark Hoppus (Blink-182)
“An Ampeg SVT rig and a Fender bass—the best bass sound ever!
Strings As Tone Controls
Strings are the most basic form of EQ. New roundwounds have more highs, and old strings sound more dull (or mellow, depending on your taste) and may also have tuning inconsistencies. Flatwounds have less highs and produce fewer squeaks. Also, playing fingerstyle generally produces less highs than using a pick.
To make sure your new strings stay in tune while recording, after tuning a string to pitch (preferably with an electronic tuner), pull hard on it to take up any slack on the tuning machine. Retune, pull again, and repeat until the pitch stays constant.