> Step by step
1. Bass guitar – recording and mixing basics
1 When recording, the bassist must be able to hear (or ‘monitor’) themself through a basic recording chain. So, set your audio interface’s buffer size as low as it’ll go without the sound glitching – this minimises the time between striking the strings and hearing the note coming back through the speakers/headphones, known as latency. Low latency is essential to achieving tight recordings.
2 Adjust input gain to get around 6dB of headroom on the loudest parts, ensuring a healthy signal level without clipping. On the track you’re recording to, enable the monitor option, and add a bass amp simulation plugin so the bassist hears an inspiring ‘amped’ tone. Alternatively, use an audio interface with low-latency monitoring and effects builtin, such as Universal Audio’s Apollo series.
3 Make test recordings of pickup combinations and right-hand plucking techniques to discover which fits the track. If you’re using a virtual bass solution, you might think this step doesn’t apply, but many feature playing articulations and switchable gear setups – IK Multimedia’s Modo Bass lets you experiment with playing styles, hand position, strings, pickup types, and even pickup position.
4 Once you’ve recorded or programmed your bass parts, you can dial in the virtual amp settings for real. Increase Gain for a growlier sound, use built-in compression to even out volume variations. Speaker cabinets and mic setup can have a huge tonal impact, so these should ideally be decided upon before using the EQ controls to balance the sound.
5 Place an EQ plugin after the amp sim. Use high-Q cuts to tame resonances such as overly boomy bass frequencies or high-pitched metallic ringing. Also try cutting the kick’s main frequency from the bass, to sit kick and bass together. For general shaping, cut/boost 80-100Hz for weight; 300-500Hz for muddiness; 8001000Hz for clarity; and 2-3kHz for attack.
6 Next, add a compressor with a strong Ratio of at least 4:1, and moderately fast Attack and Release times. As a starting point, set the Threshold so you get 3dB of gain reduction. Try different compressor types to see what suits your music. Use opto compression to retain low-end fatness; FET for grit and fast response; and VCA for punchy aggression.