Of all the different kinds of guitars including acoustic, electric, electro-acoustic, archtop, twelve-string, and double-neck guitars to name a few, mastering the bass guitar is perhaps the most demanding and arduous.
No wonder then that the bass guitar is invariably used for recording music in a variety of genres including but not limited to jazz, symphonic rock, blues, R&B, blues, gospel, reggae, country, heavy metal, and rock. The bass guitar models usually come with 4, 5, or 6 strings and always have two less strings than say an acoustic or archtop guitar.
A bass guitar always has a unique role to fulfill, regardless of whether the instrument is played in a studio recording or strummed at a live concert.
The musical instrument has its distinct scale, tone, length, and feel and therefore playing it effectively calls for having specialized strumming skills and adopting an unconventional technical approach.
When it comes to recording a specific music style, the bass guitar can prove to be incredibly handy, furnishing a firm foundation for your song.
Now, there are multiple ways in which you record notes produced by a bass guitar-by mic’ing the amp/cabinet or directly injecting or plugging the instrument into the DI box or recorder. However, many sound recording and audio engineers try to attain perfection by blending signals from amplifiers and DI boxes.
Before you can start recording, find out if the soundtrack is going to use other musical instruments or whether the notes will be superimposed or overdubbed over existing recordings.
Going DI is recommended in all recording situations in order to minimize the possibilities of spills and also to keep options open in case you want to change something during the latter recording stages.
On Direct Injection
If you’re an accomplished bassist with years of strumming experience under your belt, you’d be easily able to figure out the info embedded inside signals emanating from the DI.
You’ll have it easy making out the frequency range starting from the upper to the lower and everything in between. You’ll find yourself shifting directly between the cabinet and preamps, sometimes sporadically and often regularly.
The use of a preamp is indispensable as it perfectly senses a weak signal, usually in millivolts, and amplifies it to a level or stage, enabling the same to be eminently audible in the recording environment. Try hooking up your earpieces with the bass and you can bet your ears won’t be able to pick up a single note if you don’t connect an amplifier.
You’ll be using a DI if your preamp doesn’t come with a ¼” port that is normally designed for accepting the input cable from a bass guitar. The direct injection console comes with a XLR connector that is connected with the preamp of a microphone.
The notes of the bass that are emanated when the DI’s XLR connector is hooked up with the mic preamp are more sonorous (and more audible as well) compared to the pitch and quality of tones generated when the bass input is inserted directly into the DI.
However, the quality of the audio reproduced will largely depend upon the microphone brand you’re using as well as the model of recording board.
Recording via amplifiers
Most professional bassists make use of a dynamic microphone sporting a large diaphragm housing neodymium transducers.
Dynamic mics have the capacity to cope with peak sound pressure levels and are designed in such a manner that they can catch the perfect notes from bass guitars or other musical instruments.
To enable your mic’d preamp to give off the tones you’re looking for you’ll have to several factors into consideration like the recording setting, the microphone model, its placement, and the amplifier and bass guitar brands.
If you’re looking for striking and forceful tones, you’ll be positioning yourself nearer the amp while holding the mic. The speaker transducers will be somewhat off-axis as you’re not directly standing in front of them. You’ll have to keep experimenting with your distance from the preamp, the speakers, and of course your angle of inclination with respect to the mic.
Some of the best models that you could take advantage of for recording music from bass guitar are Electro Voice RE20, Sennheiser MD421, Shure Beta 91A, Sennheiser e902, Sennheiser e602 II, Audix D6, Shure Beta 52A, and AKG D112.
The overarching aim of all bassists and recording engineers is to achieve a perfect low-end during the mixings. And the first requirement for doing it right each time and every time is to record flawlessly at the source.
So, apart from having a quality bass guitar, you’ll need a good microphone, apart from the other requirements.
Before proceeding, inspect the equalizers on the preamps to ensure that the bass and treble knobs are at the appropriate volume positions.
Place a dynamic microphone having a sizable diaphragm in proximity to the middle of the speaker for getting a seamless blend of tonal inflection and boom.
The ideal solution would be to place the mic within a couple of inches from the middle so that you can make adjustments later on in accordance with your requirements and preferences.
If you feel the need, you can opt for an extra microphone for streamlining bass boost. The idea is to keep on experimenting with the microphone’s positioning since all amplifiers are not created alike and every product will reproduce a range of audios in the same environment that’ll be distinct from other models.
Closing up, it is worth reconsidering what’s the most impeccable of recording strumming of a bass guitar?
Under normal circumstances when everything else is in sync in the recording environment, be it your home studio or commercial studio, using DI is superlative if you intend to hear everything.
On the other hand, recording bass using a combination of DI and preamp can also generate sound results where you pick up the clear and crisp tones of the bass generated via direct singles as well as the low-end, melodious harmonics engendered by amp/cabinet combo.