Recording bass can be a challenge especially when you’re just starting out; I remember it took me a while to get it right.
You have to understand that even though recording bass can be less challenging than recording drums, there are still some issues that you may face, therefore you need to know how to handle them.
Nowadays most bass is laid down with samples and synths by guitarists and keyboard players but it takes a real bass player to deliver that quality low end that you’re looking for.
Think of bass as the element that glues the entire song together, so you have to make sure you pick the right bass player and the right bassline.
There are so many questions that a newbie would have when recording bass, that is why I created this resource to help you and act as guide in your journey to recording bass.
Ways to record bass at home:
When recording bass at home you have a couple of options you can employ
- You can record your bass directly into your computer
- You can also use what is called a Direct Inject or Direct Induction Box (DI Box)
- The other option you have is recording your bass with an amplifier and microphone
- Another option is recording bass with your microphone and DI box.
1. Recording bass directly into your computer
Two of the most important things you’ll need to have when it comes to recording bass, in whichever method you choose to use to record this bass is:
- An audio interface
- DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
With the aid of an audio interface, you’ll well be on your way to plug in your bass guitar into your interface with a standard XLR cable and record directly into your digital audio workstation.
The audio interface will act as the bridge between your bass guitar and the computer and you’ll hook your bass guitar into it.
The audio interface acts as a medium that converts the bass you’re recording into something that your DAW can work with and interpret as audio.
I personally use the Audient id4 for instrument recording, it is really useful and delivers great sounding output and it is typically inexpensive. You can find one at less than $200.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
The DAW is basically music software that you use to record your music in.
Honestly there are a lot of choices out there and people tend to base their preferences on the ease of use of the particular DAW, and its ability to deliver their ultimate goal.
Depending on what your goal is, it will be in your best interest to do some research on what particular DAW you might need in this case.
I have an entire article on DAWs that you can use in home music recording; you can access that article here.
YouTube will also be of great help to you because it can provide you with the necessary answers to the questions that you might have on DAWs.
After you choose an audio interface and DAW, then you’re all set!
All you have to do now is to plug in your bass guitar and record it.
Recording bass directly can ensure that you avoid certain things like background noises and other interferences that you may encounter when you use an alternative way to record.
Also, recording directly is cost effective because you don’t need extra gear like bass amplifiers, you will also reserve some space in your home studio too.
Another benefit of recording directly to your computer is that you can record whilst using your headphones whenever need calls for it.
For example, in the case of a late night home studio session, you can record and have the output play in your headphones and not make too much noise that would upset your neighbors.
Tips when recording bass with an interface:
- One of the most fundamental points to remember is your gain, check your levels and make sure that you’re not clipping into the red.
- Sometimes when recording bass directly with an interface you may encounter a “thin bass” problem. When you’re not recording with an amplifier the bass might sound a little thin, hence you can use the plugins in your DAW to beef up the bass. Consider using plugins like Waves CLA Classic Compressors Collection and IK Amplitude 3.
- Also experiment with your compression and saturation plugins that come with your audio interface, you might notice a difference that may in turn make the bass sound better.
2. Using a DI Box to record bass
What is a DI Box?
A DI Box sometimes called a direct inject box, is an electronic device that is used in music recording studios to convert an unbalanced high-impedance signal to a balanced low-impedance signal.
Recording with a DI Box is one of my favourite for bass guitars because it comes with benefits:
- The right DI Box will improve the warmth, depth and colour to the tone of your bass.
- The right DI Box will provide players with the option of a ground lift and a pad to help improve their signal.
There are two types of DI Boxes;
Passive DI Boxes and Active DI Boxes
The main difference between these two DI boxes is that, passive DI boxes do not require a power source while active DI boxes require a power source like batteries, or phantom power through an XLR jack.
Another key difference is that passive DI boxes have a transformer in them that performs the impedance matching function while an active DI box includes a pre-amplifier that provides a stronger signal and higher input impedance.
Deciding whether you need an active or passive DI box depends on the other equipment that you have.
For example if you’re using passive bass with a single pickup that is being run through cables that are of long length, you may experience a weak signal by the time the it gets to your computer.
In such a situation you’re better off using an active DI box.
The decision to either use an active or passive DI box also depends on the bass sound you’re trying to get.
There are tonal differences between active and passive DI boxes, for example, active DI boxes will produce bright high frequency tones while passive DI boxes will produce tones that have a richer low end with a bassy rich tone.
3. Recording bass with an amp and microphone
If you find that the above methods of recording bass don’t suit your particular style or are outside your comfort zone, you have the choice of recording with a bass amplifier and a microphone.
Certain genres of music require the right human touch to the elements in the song, and this method of recording bass will help you achieve this.
So first things first, let’s talk about picking the right bass amplifier:
As with any equipment, it’s all a matter of choice.
picking the right amplifier all comes down to how much money you’re willing to put in. There are expensive options and inexpensive options.
The good thing is that you can now find small amps that are perfect for a home recording studio.
There are TWO types of amps, solid state amps and valve amps.
Go for valve amps because of the texture and warmth they bring out in the output signal.
It is also a good idea to actually research amps by experimenting with both types.
Two decade ago solid state amps weren’t able to match the sound quality that a valve amp would produce.
Nowadays technology is pretty advanced and the majority of solid state amps can pretty much match the sound quality of valve amps.
In terms of wattage, don’t really worry about getting an amp with a lot of wattage.
Basically, even something between 25 watts and 40 watts is perfectly fine for recording bass at home.
I have tried out a lot of these bass amps, the one I currently use is the Orange Crush Bass 25w Bass Guitar Combo Amplifier.
It is great tool and it delivers a really improved warm low end response. So you definitely want to check that out.
Choosing the right microphone
Once you pick out which bass amp you intend to use you can then go on and choose a microphone to go with it.
You’re better off going for a dynamic microphone because it can pick up a wider array of frequencies.
A ribbon microphone is also a good choice, the only drawback is that they are quite expensive and they are pretty delicate compared to dynamic microphones.
I recommend an AKG D112 or Shure Beta52A microphone for recording bass.
These mics are durable and they will work well both in studio and in live performance.
This is really a good time to experiment around your studio, try recording your bass in different areas of the studio.
Microphone placement depends on things like:
- Size of the room
- Is it a hard floor?
- Is the floor carpeted?
- Acoustic treatment
Try and use the dynamic mic a little closer to the speaker in order to avoid other sounds from being picked up.
I recommend using high quality headphones when experimenting with mic placement in order for you to listen to how it sounds in your DAW.
Try using headphones that are meant for listening to music rather than recording it, because most of the time recording headphones tend to exaggerate the bass.
There’s really nothing worse than the bass sounding great in your headphones, but sounding thin when you try to play it with your laptop speakers or different headphones.
4. Recording with DI Box and Microphone
Using a DI Box and a microphone at the same time is a great option if you’re looking to get the best sound possible. It is a really good option if you have the equipment.
In this situation you need an audio interface that has more than one input channel, so you can run one line from the DI Box into one input channel and record the direct sound and record a mic’ed up amp track into another input channel.
Watch out for something called the Phasing Effect when recording your bass like this.
This effect occurs when you have two tracks playing the same thing simultaneously and the waveforms aren’t identical, because of the time that sound takes to travel through the air from the speaker cab to the mic which is approximately a millisecond per foot travelled.
You need to listen carefully to the sound that is being recorded in your daw and consider changing the mics position, and also check to see how the wavelengths match up in the DAW.
TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN RECORDING BASS AT HOME:
- Avoid over compressing or limiting, if you over compress while recording the finger and fret noises can become more prominent and hence difficult to edit out. It’s better if you leave the compression for later after the recording is done.
- Experiment with your microphone and find the spot in which you can record properly.
- After the bass recording is done, you can use some effects on the bass in order to enhance it and make it sound better.
- Avoid putting the DI Box on top of the amp, the magnets that are in the amp will interfere with transformer in the DI Box and hence produce unwanted noises.
- Deal with equipment issues before recording, so you don’t have to restart the recording process again if it turns out glitch or noisy.
- Practice as much you can.