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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok, I've NEVER been able to get a bass sound I'm 100% happy with.

It's not the source - the Sherman sounds sick. I generally record it with the actives bypassed because the fundamental tone of the thing is just so good.

Theoretically, it shouldn't be the gear, either - I've experimented with splitting the signal between a direct line through a Sansamp pre, and then a mic'd, grittier signal from my Rectoverb's clean, and then lately with that Ampeg VST modeling plugin.

Still sounds mushy and indistinct in the mix to me. So, I figure it's gotta be the way I'm mixing my bass tracks.

So what do you guys do? EQ thoughts/philosophies? Compression settings/philosophies? Any other tips or tricks? Thanks!
 
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I think too much
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I have this same problem. My only fix was to just pay a bass player. When we recorded my CD, Dave just plugged into a DI box and went straight into the board.

[/not helpful but closer] :D
 

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Drew - are you playing with a pick, or fingers? Are you looking for a sharp attack type sound, or a round mellow tone?

Some general pointers - some compression with a medium attack medium release and 4:1 ratio set to knock off 4-5 db is a place to start to control the dynamics.

For EQ, try cutting some 200hz to get rid of the mud, try boosting some 700hz to get some clarity. Don't be afraid to roll out some of the low bass either, from 50hz down.

For the last Pharaoh record I did (where I am really happy with the bass sound), I used two EQs for a total of 8 EQ points, two compressors (in series, for a little compression each time) and a limiter to knock down the super dynamic thuds. The bass guitar (IMO) is the hardest thing to get right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
It depends on the application, Matt. When I can I'll play with my fingers, especialyl for slower stuff, but more often than not my technique just isn't good enough so I'll have to go with a pick just to keep things rhythmically tight.

For perspective, I LOVE the Tool bass sound. I'm not sure how appropriate it'd be for a lot of my stuff (but it definitely works for some - that new track has sort of a Tool vibe going to it), though... And, for a reference mix, I'll usually grab a Satriani album, lately generally "Crystal Planet" or "The Extremist." If I couldn't get into Tool territory but could do a tolerable job on the Stu Hamm sound, I'd be happy at the end of the day.

Hell, if I got something other than mush, I'd be happy at the end of the day. :lol:

I'll screw around in the bands you'd suggested next time I get a chance to work on a mix.

Also, if it's not too much effort and if you still have the stuff available, would it be possible to maybe post up "before" and "after" bass clips from that session? The track itself with all effects bypassed, and then a solo'd version from the mix?

The bass guitar (IMO) is the hardest thing to get right.
This makes me feel better about how bad my bass recordings generally sound. :lol:
 

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I don't know if I have any of that session left on my hard drive. If I do, I can post before and after. I do mix an amp track (SVT) with the DI track. Don't ask the SVT settings, because it was well over a year ago. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
:lol: It's cool. I guess if you do this shit for a living you can't really afford to leave sessions on your hard drive. :lol:
 

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Well... it's not for a living. But once a disc comes out, I erase the project from my hard drive. I can see how you'd not understand! :lol:

I'll look tonight for the bass examples...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ouch! :lol:

I did delete all the raw tracks from my old Mp3.com album after I finished it, just to kill the temptation to keep remixing it. I probably should have backed them all up just in case, but still, there's something to be said for a clean break.
 

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So, I do have some tracks, but no where to host them. It would be pointless to put up mp3s, and I don't have any more space than an mp3 would allow.

Can I email some files to you Drew?
 

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Sounds to me like you primarily have a low-mids problem, Drew. IIRC, Tool's bass sound is very trebly, albeit not quite in Chris Squire territory.

I have a patch on my Axe-FX for bass guitar, where I used a Hartke 4x10 cab sim, which seems to a real good job on its own of clearing up any mud--I hardly had to apply any EQ to it. Using a real bass amp in the mix is typically going to provide more body and hurt clarity.

Nowadays, though, I don't record a lot of heavy rhythm guitars that compete in the low mids with the bass, so I'm not as sensitive to that stuff as I was in "The Metal Years". You need to be really careful about carving out an EQ niche for each of them, that's for sure.

Oh, and I compress the fuck out of my bass parts as I track them. Unless you're playing old-school jazz, dynamics bring only pain to the bass part... :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So, I do have some tracks, but no where to host them. It would be pointless to put up mp3s, and I don't have any more space than an mp3 would allow.

Can I email some files to you Drew?
Yeah, send them over. If they're not HUGE, I can stick them up on my ftp, if you want to share them publicly. :yesway:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Sounds to me like you primarily have a low-mids problem, Drew. IIRC, Tool's bass sound is very trebly, albeit not quite in Chris Squire territory.

I have a patch on my Axe-FX for bass guitar, where I used a Hartke 4x10 cab sim, which seems to a real good job on its own of clearing up any mud--I hardly had to apply any EQ to it. Using a real bass amp in the mix is typically going to provide more body and hurt clarity.

Nowadays, though, I don't record a lot of heavy rhythm guitars that compete in the low mids with the bass, so I'm not as sensitive to that stuff as I was in "The Metal Years". You need to be really careful about carving out an EQ niche for each of them, that's for sure.

Oh, and I compress the fuck out of my bass parts as I track them. Unless you're playing old-school jazz, dynamics bring only pain to the bass part... :lol:
I've actually been meaning to grab an outboard compressor largely for bass, to keep the dynamics in check when recording direct.

Do you do much with a multi-band compressor on a bass, or do you pretty much just hammer the whole thing?
 

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Bass can be tricky sometimes. It's easier to get a good bass tone than it is to get a good guitar tone, but it can be tougher to get bass sounding right in the mix. The rule of thumb is to boost the bass frequencies where you're cutting guitar frequencies, or possibly in other areas of the mix's spectrum where there's room. The 200hz to 700hz range is a good place to start to get a big, thick body. You'll also generally want to put more compression on bass than you would on guitars. Try to avoid mixing any of the bass's direct signal into the actual mix. A lot of people do this, but IMO, a bass just doesn't sound quite right until it goes through an amp. You can also try mixing the VST's "amp" DI with the "miced" cab sound. Then you'll have the extra thump and clarity of the DI with the space and air moving of the cab sound.

a real bass amp :D

[/not helpful]
The Ampeg VST is actually pretty damn good, as are Tech21's bass products. The Ampeg models are very convincing, and the SVT-4 model sounds nearly identical to my bassist's real SVT-4. I don't have anything saved that I could share, but I was doing some experimenting with running a Tech21 Bass Driver into the Ampeg VST, and it sounded great! The Ampeg VST is so far my favorite bass amp modeler, VST or otherwise, I've ever used.
 

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Do you do much with a multi-band compressor on a bass, or do you pretty much just hammer the whole thing?
I just hammer the whole damned thing. :lol:

But I use a high enough ratio (can't remember the exact settings) that it effectively becomes a limiter like what Matt is using. It's not the 'preferred' method of doing things, but I've been able to get things done with it. I'm sure a more knowledgeable person could get better results out of my setup. I was actually pretty happy with my bass sound on One Day in August, which I did with my Axe-FX. Haven't recorded anything since then, so my memory is a bit rusty. I was going for a cleaner, funkier sound there, however.

One other point worth mentioning: If you look at metal bands with big, Ampeg-driven bass sounds, like Tool or old-school Sabbath, you'll often find that the rhythm guitars are fairly trebly, not overly doubled, and certainly not mid-scooped. That Geezer Butler school of bass sound takes up a LOT of room in the mix. It seems like the thicker and/or faster the rhythm guitars you use, the cleaner you need the bass to be. I'd certainly be judicious with the bass gain when using a 7-string guitar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
One other point worth mentioning: If you look at metal bands with big, Ampeg-driven bass sounds, like Tool or old-school Sabbath, you'll often find that the rhythm guitars are fairly trebly, not overly doubled, and certainly not mid-scooped. That Geezer Butler school of bass sound takes up a LOT of room in the mix. It seems like the thicker and/or faster the rhythm guitars you use, the cleaner you need the bass to be. I'd certainly be judicious with the bass gain when using a 7-string guitar.
Yeah, a lot of those guys don't tune down that far - I mean, Tool only rarely goes below D. I don't use a heck of a lot of preamp gain anyway, but...

I think maybe my problem is that I'm going sort of a hybrid direction, where I'm digging the Tool bass sound, but I'm also still processing it like a more conventional bass sound, lopping off a lot of the high end. Listening to some Tool on the drive to work, it's actually a pretty bright, "clangy" sort of bass sound. Maybe I just need to try to really bring out the attack. :shrug:

My monitors aren't helping either, a 5" driver means there's a lot of guesswork when tweaking the low end. :/
 

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My monitors aren't helping either, a 5" driver means there's a lot of guesswork when tweaking the low end. :/
I know how that goes, even though I have 8" drivers in my monitors. I use the M-Audio BX-8's, which have incredible detail (to my ears), but are definitely biased toward the treble. It took awhile to get used to them--my early mixes with those monitors were comically bass-heavy.

The Tool bassist is quite trebly--probably a big Geddy Lee fan. You need to get a Rickenbacker for that sound. :lol:
 
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