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Why does my recorded bass tone sound like a$$?

Pwrmac7600

Power User
So I'm not a bass player....
I am a guitar player who plays bass on stuff I record. I do anything from hard rock to metal. I own a LTD PJ bass. I loaded in a Dimarzio PJ set of pickups hoping that would make the bass sound better, but still no luck. I tend to use the P pickups the most. I either use a san amp bass driver, or i attempt to dial in presets with the Axe. I am convinced I just don't know what makes a good rock and or metal bass tone. They always sound either dull, flubby and lifeless, or way to sharp and pokey.

Are there any fundamental tricks to good bass tone, that sit in a mix well?
I want something that's a touch overdriven, but not modern metal overdriven. something with good punchy bottom, but not flubby over powering, and something that has definition, but not sharp, pokey and obnoxious.
Can some bass players please give me some tips, tricks, and advice please!!!!
I know this is one of those "use your ears" type of scenarios, but obviously my ears aren't working when it comes to bass tones.
 

jimfist

Fractal Fanatic
Wow a bunch of them sound nice. That atomic bass box sounds good! I may have to check that out!

The bass box is very cool indeed. All of the tools to get good bass sounds are in the AxeFx (I used the AxeFxII for years for bass), but without a fair amount of experience regarding the do's and don'ts of bass, its easy to get frustrated with all of the choices. A dedicated bass box boils down the selection process for boost/drive, compression, EQ and cabinet simulation for you, which is helpful. The tracks I recorded through the bass box were crafted to be somewhat 'mix ready' from a live performance standpoint, and of course, based on my personal preferences and tastes.

So, about the bass itself: round wound strings? Tone and volume full up? Which pickups sound best to you: neck, bridge, or blend of both? Pick playing or with fingers?
 

Pwrmac7600

Power User
The bass box is very cool indeed. All of the tools to get good bass sounds are in the AxeFx (I used the AxeFxII for years for bass), but without a fair amount of experience regarding the do's and don'ts of bass, its easy to get frustrated with all of the choices. A dedicated bass box boils down the selection process for boost/drive, compression, EQ and cabinet simulation for you, which is helpful. The tracks I recorded through the bass box were crafted to be somewhat 'mix ready' from a live performance standpoint, and of course, based on my personal preferences and tastes.

So, about the bass itself: round wound strings? Tone and volume full up? Which pickups sound best to you: neck, bridge, or blend of both? Pick playing or with fingers?
Yes, round wound strings. The p bass pickup, so I guess that would be the neck, sounds best it's the fullest. Bass has one tone control which I tend to run just below full up. Playing with pick.
 

Pwrmac7600

Power User
I realize this is probably more overdriven than i explained that i was looking for, but this is a pretty good example of a bass tone I would love to achieve for my recordings. In the non youtube version it does still have a ton of low end content there, but the highs are present but not pokey.
This is really what i would love to achieve.
 

jimfist

Fractal Fanatic
Classic Geezer. He's got a lot of grindy dirt in that sound, and very present with the neck pickup, exclusively finger style playing. He's almost giving the strings a hard tap so that they ring out, and there's a lot of upper midrange in the tone, but nothing in the high end. In the 3 piece band format, this fills up a lot of space, and is pretty much a classic tone. Maybe you've seen this video on the history of his rigs ( ).

I'd start by using the AxeFx, Ampeg SVT amp model set with some preamp overdrive, and then going into some form of 4x12. It seems that Geezer has favored them over the years. Perhaps looking for a late 1960s vintage 4x12 (Marshall, HiWatt, ??) would do the trick. It's difficult to know what kind of studio processing MIGHT have been done on the 13 album, but I believe the Geezer is the master of his domain, and would sound pretty much the same going through any rig that had the same general characteristics, with a P bass.

Other than applying some well-chosen compression (and I'm sure that Geezer's studio tracks have some world-class compression applied to them), I'd say to pay attention to rolling off the top end of the sound (if the cab sim IR doesn't do the trick) to eliminate any clicky-clacky attack noise. You may want to track with some of the top end rolled-back on the bass itself if it seems overly prominent. Also, it may help to filter (EQ) the sub low frequencies of the bass tone to keep them from getting too sloppy (again, if the cab IR doesn't do the trick).

I wish I had some better advise for you. Geezer is an old-school approach: p-bass, cable, tube amp, 4x12. The rest is him. And this is true for most of the iconic bassists: they just sound how they sound. If I have some time this weekend, perhaps I'll give a whirl at replicating something in the Geezer vein on my soundcloud page.
 

Pwrmac7600

Power User
Classic Geezer. He's got a lot of grindy dirt in that sound, and very present with the neck pickup, exclusively finger style playing. He's almost giving the strings a hard tap so that they ring out, and there's a lot of upper midrange in the tone, but nothing in the high end. In the 3 piece band format, this fills up a lot of space, and is pretty much a classic tone. Maybe you've seen this video on the history of his rigs ( ).

I'd start by using the AxeFx, Ampeg SVT amp model set with some preamp overdrive, and then going into some form of 4x12. It seems that Geezer has favored them over the years. Perhaps looking for a late 1960s vintage 4x12 (Marshall, HiWatt, ??) would do the trick. It's difficult to know what kind of studio processing MIGHT have been done on the 13 album, but I believe the Geezer is the master of his domain, and would sound pretty much the same going through any rig that had the same general characteristics, with a P bass.

Other than applying some well-chosen compression (and I'm sure that Geezer's studio tracks have some world-class compression applied to them), I'd say to pay attention to rolling off the top end of the sound (if the cab sim IR doesn't do the trick) to eliminate any clicky-clacky attack noise. You may want to track with some of the top end rolled-back on the bass itself if it seems overly prominent. Also, it may help to filter (EQ) the sub low frequencies of the bass tone to keep them from getting too sloppy (again, if the cab IR doesn't do the trick).

I wish I had some better advise for you. Geezer is an old-school approach: p-bass, cable, tube amp, 4x12. The rest is him. And this is true for most of the iconic bassists: they just sound how they sound. If I have some time this weekend, perhaps I'll give a whirl at replicating something in the Geezer vein on my soundcloud page.
So appreciate the tips. My limited shifts I am working just ended so i am off for the next week, I will take advice here and mess around and see what i get!
Thank you!
 

jimfist

Fractal Fanatic
So appreciate the tips. My limited shifts I am working just ended so i am off for the next week, I will take advice here and mess around and see what i get!
Thank you!
Please continue to post what you might find, and what does/doesn't seem to be working. I'm happy to weigh in as things progress.
 

jimfist

Fractal Fanatic
If you're up to the task and can follow what Pete Thorn is doing, that's a method which has become fairly standard issue for recording and composing bass tracks. It's a lot more work and there's a lot of tech knowledge that goes along with it vs. simply recording a single bass track. There are some bass preamp/drive pedals, or the AxeFx of course, that allow for wet/dry blend (or have a dry DI output along with the processed/distorted tone) that can get you most of the way there without multi-tracking, though multi-tracking allows you to experiment more after a good performance has been captured.
 

Pwrmac7600

Power User
If you're up to the task and can follow what Pete Thorn is doing, that's a method which has become fairly standard issue for recording and composing bass tracks. It's a lot more work and there's a lot of tech knowledge that goes along with it vs. simply recording a single bass track. There are some bass preamp/drive pedals, or the AxeFx of course, that allow for wet/dry blend (or have a dry DI output along with the processed/distorted tone) that can get you most of the way there without multi-tracking, though multi-tracking allows you to experiment more after a good performance has been captured.
yeah i played around a little with the concept. I had seen that video last week i think, and messed around, didn't get anywhere as good of results as he did though. lol
I have been playing around for the last few days, and getting frustrated realizing i dial something in that starts to sound good to my ears, and then i throw it in a mix and it sounds like garbage. lolI realized the geezer tone is a little much for when i record my more rock stuff.
So i switched off from the SVT which i find very hard to dial in even though i know it's been used on most of the songs I have listened to in my life. I tried out the porta flex and feel i may be getting better results with that.But the jury is still out. I have been working on rerecording an older "power pop/rock" song of mine, and i laid down bass today. so i am gonna let my ears rest a little and take a listen later and see if I am still happy with the results.
 

jimfist

Fractal Fanatic
yeah i played around a little with the concept. I had seen that video last week i think, and messed around, didn't get anywhere as good of results as he did though. lol
I have been playing around for the last few days, and getting frustrated realizing i dial something in that starts to sound good to my ears, and then i throw it in a mix and it sounds like garbage. lolI realized the geezer tone is a little much for when i record my more rock stuff.
So i switched off from the SVT which i find very hard to dial in even though i know it's been used on most of the songs I have listened to in my life. I tried out the porta flex and feel i may be getting better results with that.But the jury is still out. I have been working on rerecording an older "power pop/rock" song of mine, and i laid down bass today. so i am gonna let my ears rest a little and take a listen later and see if I am still happy with the results.

A couple things...try dialing in the sounds in the context of your mix, not in isolation. Many things sound great in isolation that get buried when mixed.

Also, how are things going with compression? One thing that you can try straight off is to make a duplicate track of the bass, and then compress it fairly aggressively - you want it to sound pretty even, though still highly compressed, without obvious pumping or things that give it away. This is just to see if you like results with simple settings. Now mix the original and compressed tracks, and experiment with different EQ settings on each, or leave the original alone and only adjust the balance and EQ of the compressed track. Perhaps make the compressed tone very midrange heavy, EQing it so that everything below 100Hz and above 2khz is lopped off. Worth a try if you haven't done so yet.
 

Pwrmac7600

Power User
A couple things...try dialing in the sounds in the context of your mix, not in isolation. Many things sound great in isolation that get buried when mixed.

Also, how are things going with compression? One thing that you can try straight off is to make a duplicate track of the bass, and then compress it fairly aggressively - you want it to sound pretty even, though still highly compressed, without obvious pumping or things that give it away. This is just to see if you like results with simple settings. Now mix the original and compressed tracks, and experiment with different EQ settings on each, or leave the original alone and only adjust the balance and EQ of the compressed track. Perhaps make the compressed tone very midrange heavy, EQing it so that everything below 100Hz and above 2khz is lopped off. Worth a try if you haven't done so yet.
I was handling the compression in my daw I was using a waves 1176 comp on it to smooth it out. Tomorrow my wife's going out, so I am going to mess more and see what I get.
 

Budda

Fractal Fanatic
This thread is relevant as I'll be focusing on getting better suited bass tones for my own material going forward. I like the tones I have now, but never really had to give them the mix test until I wanted to self release solo stuff. I'll be checking out the tutorials tonight with any luck.
 

solo-act

Fractal Fanatic
So I'm not a bass player....
I am a guitar player who plays bass on stuff I record. I do anything from hard rock to metal. I own a LTD PJ bass. I loaded in a Dimarzio PJ set of pickups hoping that would make the bass sound better, but still no luck. I tend to use the P pickups the most. I either use a san amp bass driver, or i attempt to dial in presets with the Axe. I am convinced I just don't know what makes a good rock and or metal bass tone. They always sound either dull, flubby and lifeless, or way to sharp and pokey.

Are there any fundamental tricks to good bass tone, that sit in a mix well?
I want something that's a touch overdriven, but not modern metal overdriven. something with good punchy bottom, but not flubby over powering, and something that has definition, but not sharp, pokey and obnoxious.
Can some bass players please give me some tips, tricks, and advice please!!!!
I know this is one of those "use your ears" type of scenarios, but obviously my ears aren't working when it comes to bass tones.
Quick and dirty way is to find a bass tone you like in a song where that tone is briefly isolated within the song and play that through a spectrum analyzer. It'll show the "sculpture" of that bass tone. You can sculpt your own bass tone similar to that one using eyes and ears. The secret is to also sculpt your mix to make sure the kick and guitars aren't significantly operating in the same frequency range as the bass and of course vice versa; isolating different instruments in their optimal frequency range is where it's at.

I did this same thing with ACDC's kick and bass to "see" what a clean, punchy kick was, and the bass in relation to that, and get a grip on what the "magic" was in those two driving the entire mix so well. I once had a guitarist touring with a famous band over at my place. He said an industry standard trick was to carve out around 400hz in the kick in order to make room for the bass. Same goes with guitar and anything else walking over the bass frequencies. Same applies to bass; you need to reign it in so it's not interfering with kick, etc. etc. It's a dark art, but if you learn the basics of what a good tone looks and sounds like, and the basics of separating instruments frequency-wise within the mix, it'll make a significant difference in your mix and individual instrument tones.

I'm sure that's been said a bunch of times on the forum in different ways but that's my 2 cents.
 

Budda

Fractal Fanatic
I just basically did that without a crossover in my latest attempt. The more you know!
 
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