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How to Record a Punchy and Powerful Bass Guitar


Getting a juicy bass sound is something we all want right?

We want a tight bass sound that’s thick and deep but still has definition and punchiness. You can either record bass directly, via a DI box, or you can mic up the bass cabinet. Some engineers rely only on DI to get their sound, dismissing the cabinet entirely. But others like the combination of the DI’d signal with the miked up cab.

If you have the option of recording both, then take the opportunity and record both.

DI Recording

recording bass

Recording direct is great if you’re left without an amp. Just plug your bass straight into your interface, or use a DI box.

You can also record through a pre-amplifier. Instead of the signal going into a cabinet and out of the speakers, you can just route the bass part directly into your audio software. A pre-amp can add that much-needed warmth to your bass sound.

Once you’ve recorded your bass part, use an amp modeller to round the tone out. A DI’d sound can sometimes sound too “stringy,” so an amp modeller can really help you round out your tone.

Recording the amplifier

It’s a little trickier to record a bass amp. Especially if you’re in a home studio. You want the cleanest sound possible, and if you’re in a sub par room you need to isolate your amp.

Throwing thick blankets over the amp and microphone can work to deaden some of the reflections. Putting the amp in a padded closet is also a way to keep the reflections out.

Finding the Sweet Spot

The quick and dirty way to record a guitar cabinet is to throw a dynamic mic up to the grill and hit record. You’ll get a close and full range sound from your guitar, but miking up the bass cabinet is a bit different.

A Little bit of Physics

Here is a short physics lesson. Let’s say we want to capture the thickness of the bass around 80 Hz.

Sound travels at 1130ft/344m per second. Lower frequencies travel slower, and take longer to finish one period of their wavelength. If we know this, we can actually calculate where we should put the mic.

sine wave

Wavelength = Speed of sound(1130ft or 344m) / Frequency

We want the thickness of the 80 Hz.

Plugging 80 Hz into the formula we see that:

1130(OR 344M)/80HZ = 14.125 Ft. or 4.3 Meters

Now we know the full wavelength of 80 Hz, or how long it takes 80 Hz to travel one cycle, as shown in the image above.

But we don’t want to capture the energy of 8 Hz at the end of its cycle. You can see that the most amount of energy coming from the wave is around 1/4 of its cycle. This is where the sine wave peaks. By dividing the waveform by 4 we see where the most amount of 80 Hz is located.

14.125/4 = 3.53 ft, or approx. 1 meter.

Now we know where we should put the microphone in front of the bass cabinet if we really wanted to accent the 80 Hz. Placing your microphone like this doesn’t mean you’re not capturing any other frequency. It means that in that position, that particular wavelength is very strong and prominent.

Recording Well to Start With

If you record the cabinet as well as a DI’d signal you get best of both worlds. Later, you can combine both signals to get the most ideal sound you are looking for. You’ll have both to choose from, giving you a nice palette of bass sounds to choose from.

As always, if you’re recording a cabinet, make sure your bass is sounding good in the room. Fix everything at the source and make sure that the bass sound you are hearing before you record is the bass sound you want recorded. You don’t want to record a lackluster bass track that’s impossible to fix in the mix. Record it well at the source and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache during mixing.

P.S.

For an in-depth guide to recording and mixing check out Recording & Mixing Strategies:

www.audio-issues.com/strategies

Image by: Mourner


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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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LEAVE A COMMENT

  • ntnsystems

    Great post Björgvin. This is a good reminder that mic placement, sometimes within a few inches, can make a huge difference in the tone of an instrument. I took your formulas and put it into a spreadsheet (measured in feet) to keep as a reference. I posted an image of it here: http://www.hudlin.net/frequency_chart.html

  • ntnsystems

    Great post Björgvin. This is a good reminder that mic placement, sometimes within a few inches, can make a huge difference in the tone of an instrument. I took your formulas and put it into a spreadsheet (measured in feet) to keep as a reference. I posted an image of it here: http://www.hudlin.net/frequency_chart.html

  • Ronnie Marler

    I have seen these formule before. but your explanation realy made the meaning pop for me. Thanks 🙂

  • Ronnie Marler

    I have seen these formule before. but your explanation realy made the meaning pop for me. Thanks 🙂

  • Robert

    I don’t understand the logic of placing the mic at that distance – it seems to assume the room produces an 80Hz standing wave with a node at the mic… but if the room doesn’t produce a standing wave then the entire wave will pass the mic with the same energy no matter where it is placed. Is that wrong?

  • Robert

    I don’t understand the logic of placing the mic at that distance – it seems to assume the room produces an 80Hz standing wave with a node at the mic… but if the room doesn’t produce a standing wave then the entire wave will pass the mic with the same energy no matter where it is placed. Is that wrong?