Are You Making These 6 Mistakes When Laying Down Bass?
This is a guest post by Ian R. If you would like to contribute a guest post to Audio Issues, please read the guest post guidelines right here.
You have a track all ready to go, and now all you need is the bass part. Excellent!
As easy as recording bass may seem, avoiding just a few common mistakes and pitfalls while playing can save you and the audio engineer countless hours of work to get a usable recording.
Following these tips will give your song a solid foundation on which to stand, and it will make future recording sessions a breeze since you know what to look out for.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
1. Playing Too Hard
When you play the bass strings too hard, a few things happen that can negatively affect the recording.
First, you’ll get the bright twang of the strings hitting against the body of the guitar causing an unpleasant sound (which a lot of audio engineers try to minimize anyway).
Secondly, when you pluck a string too hard, it tends to have a very large range of motion which in turn can cause your bass guitar to sound out of tune for the first few microseconds. Because of this, it can be a good idea to slightly tune down your bass to make up for this if you are planning on striking the strings aggressively such as in rock or metal.
It’s far better to follow the technique of some of the masters and barely use any force at all. This way the tone will have a smoother and more pronounced low-end, and it will always sound perfectly in tune. Watch a video of any professional bassist in the studio and you’ll notice that most of them play very soft, and for good reason.
2. Not Locking In With The Kick Drum
Want to get a deep and punchy low-end on your bass recordings? Playing when the bass drum hits is a great way to easily achieve this, and not doing so is one of the most common mistakes beginner bassists make.
When you play along with the bass drum, the low-end from each instrument complement each other and this leads to a fuller, more rich bass sound overall.
The song as a whole will also benefit by sounding tighter and more cohesive.
3. Not Rehearsing
A recurring nightmare for recording studios is when 2 guitarists come in to play, and neither knows what the other one is playing. It becomes more of a practice session as they sit there trying to figure out their part, and minutes turn into hours.
Go into your recording session with a solid game plan and know your part as best you can. Use your own free time to nail the part and practice it relentlessly. Recording time should be used just to record what you already know by heart.
4. Not Leaving Enough Space For Other Instruments
You’ll hear it time and time again:
“Keep it simple, stupid!”
The simpler you can keep your bass lines and the more breathing room you can give, the more you’ll enhance the other instruments like guitar and vocals in the final track.
It can be tempting to fill in every empty space with something, but the bass guitar is a supporting instrument at heart, so it should act like one. Less is more!
5. Not Using Your Own Gear
When you play using your own bass and amp, you learn every subtle nuance and how to fully manipulate the sound to become what you want to communicate.
It’s understandable to use a different amp that is better suited for recording but try to use your own bass guitar if you can. Switching to a different one at the last second will only make your job harder, and the end result just won’t sound like “you” if you aren’t fully comfortable with it.
6. Ignoring Intonation
If you are going to be recording your bass, it’s probably a good idea to make sure the neck of your guitar is perfectly straight to avoid any tuning problems. Take your guitar to a professional guitar tech to have it set-up the right way.
Also, make sure to put brand new strings on before hitting record. Using old strings can cause for a dull and unpleasant tone which will carry over to the final track. New strings and proper tuning will lead to a clean, warm, and accurate tone every time.
As you can see, these tips are super easy to put into practice. You’ll also notice that the majority of them are related to playing technique and your guitar itself, not microphones or software tricks.
A great sounding guitar track is only as good as the source, so any little thing you can do to make that source sound its very best from the start, the better.
Your engineer and bandmates will thank you!
Ian R. is the founder of the popular bass guitar website, www.bassguitarguide.com. It’s a website for bassists filled with buyer’s guides, how-to articles, tips to becoming a better bass guitar player, and much more.