Bass Tone Setup
Bass tone, I think, is like the hidden weapon on any metal recording.
It's the most important part, next to the drums.
Yeah, in my opinion, too. Well, because it's part of the drum tone and part of the guitar tone. A lot of people don't even realize that you don't get a really good and powerful guitar tone that has real teeth without a great bass tone and you don't get drums that really push without a great bass tone. It marries everything together. It's the hardest part to dial in, I think, and the mark of truly pro mixer is how well they balance their low end and it's the thing that people struggle with the most. It takes the longest to get right. It's the hardest to hear and I think it's the most fun to track also.
It's definitely the most fun part, I think, as well.
And another thing as well that bewilders me is the fact that a lot of metal bands have terrible bass players when it's like one of the most important parts.
I think it's because the importance of it is ...
not a lead role. It is to those of us who understand what comprises a metal mix, but as far players go, it's a support instrument, so--
It's actually the lead instrument.
In my opinion too.
The guitars are supporting you with white noise on the sides of the track.
I agree but, in the way that it's presented to the world, it's a support instrument and so it doesn't attract as many people, and often times even, it's the instrument that bad guitar players get demoted to. When in reality--
It should be the other way around.
Yeah. Lots of my best mixes have been when the best musician in the band was the bassist. And also on the subject of having to redo other people's parts, I find that bass is the instrument that I play the most in the studio. I mean other than guitar in my own stuff, when I'm working with other people, I replace their bass with myself more often than guitars.
You find that too?
I find that too, yeah.
I also enjoy tracking it more than not--
Yeah it's way more fun, isn't it? And you only have to get one, so.
Yeah, it's fun.
Well, one but tons of tracks of, let's start talking about this set up. They've got a lot of interesting stuff with them, that we all wanted to try, but at the same time, I just wanted to capture clean DI. Not just for the reason of re-amping and not just as a safety net, but because I like to use it for generating MIDI and all kinds of different things. It just has lots of uses and I just do it as a matter of discipline. So, we had to figure out how to take one bass and get it into several places without murdering the tone on the way. So, the first thing was, we've got this Little Labs splitter. And what's interesting about it is that this is an XLR end, but this XLR has a guitar cable end put on the other side and it has a chip in here that converts it back to unbalanced. Originally, we were going from this Little Labs and splitting it and going straight to the front of this API for the DI, right?
Yeah, that's correct.
And then out to the front of this POD XT, however, as lots of people know, these APIs that don't have input and output trims, they really clip, very, very easy. That's why I have VP-28s, for instance, because you've got input and output, makes your life a lot easier. As a matter of fact, I know a lot of people who use, when they have real APIs or 3124s or whatever, they actually have, in their rack, a set of pads right after them where they plug in line pads to the outputs of their APIs, because a lot of the cool part of an API is when you drive it, that's when you start to get the cool distortion harmonics that it can provide. So, in reality, if you don't have the ability to pad the output, an API is actually crystal clear. It's actually kinda cool that it can go from crystal clear to just distorted and punchy. However, we want crystal clear for the bass DI. So, that wasn't working, so we had to rethink this. So we know that John's POD XT has a clean out, so we decided okay, instead of splitting this out to the API, we're gonna send one to the front of the POD, correct?
No, we're gonna plug the bass directly into the front of the POD.
Cause we've got the pad on the front of this. We can pad it. It goes through the unaffected out into the splitter and then we can--
Into the API, therefore you've got pad before the API which causes us to not lose much clipping. So you've actually got two pads on it before.
Two pads and how low is the volume?
It's pretty much on zero, pretty much, yup.
Yeah, so I got that wrong that we're going straight into the front of the POD?
Okay. So one of those is being split straight to the API and that's just a clean signal from the API right into Pro Tools. Done.
Then, from that little Labs, this is where you might want to take over.
Yeah, okay, we've split into another Little Labs. This is the Redeye.
That's the Redeye.
So we split into the Redeye which is this thing here and we're running two more signals. So one is going back into another API here which then is feeding through to the bass amplifier that we have in the live room which we'll go over a little bit later and then the other side is going to these pedals here. We have a Cali 1176 replica in the pedal, sounds great. It's a compressor which then is going into a B7K Ultra which is the new pedal from Darkglass and then that's going into Pro Tools as well.
Yeah, that's going into another API?
It's actually going into another API, yeah. (laughs) Wow, quite an intense signal, isn't it?
Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to mention, actually, about going to the bass sample as well. So from this API which is going to the bass amp into the other room, we're actually running through this compressor equalizer here by Audio Design, a vocal stressor, so we're going to compress the signal before it hits the bass amplifier, so we get a more consistent sound.
Now what's crazy about that is, we'll show you in a moment that on the front of the bass amp, we've got a reamp box because this studio here puts out line level outputs and you don't want to put line level outputs into the input of an amp, but we wanted to use this sick compressor. So, then we have a reamp box out there converting it to high-Z signal. And so, let's continue this, go out there.
Yeah, let's see what the mics are saying.
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Recording Metal with Eyal Levi: A Bootcamp is the definitive guide to recording and producing metal. From soup to nuts, start to finish, A to Z, you will learn everything you need to know about recording and producing a metal song.
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- Prepare for a session in preproduction by choosing tempos and organizing the session
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- Record bass guitar
- Record, edit and tune lead vocals, harmonies, and screams
- Mix and master from session setup to final bounce
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