How to Record Bass – The Best Settings and Method

Getting a great bass tone in your mix begins in the recording stage. Let’s talk how to record bass, breaking down the two options in depth, and offering tips on capturing the absolute best bass tone for your mix.

How to Record Bass

How to Record Bass

You can’t talk about how to record bass without first beginning with comparing the two methods of capturing the signal.

Bass DI vs Amp

The eternal question – bass DI vs amp, which you should use?

Let’s compare each in depth to explain what goes into and what to keep in mind for each.

Bass DI

Bass DI, or direct input, skips the concept and need for microphones or amplifiers entirely.

Instead the cable goes straight from the bass into whatever audio interface you’re using to capture audio:

recording di

As you can see, recording DI comes with a number of advantages, including:

  • It’s cheaper in that you don’t need microphones, stands, more cables, an amp or head and cabinet.
  • You get a cleaner, more genuine bass tone.
  • You don’t need to worry about outside and unwanted noises being picked up.
  • It doesn’t lock you in to one particular sound upon recording and, as such, saves time in not having to dial in the perfect sound ahead of recording.

Even if you don’t end up using an amp modeler plugin, you can generally get a great bass tone through effective bass EQ and bass compression.

Recording Bass Amp

Your other option is passing the bass signal through an amplifier:

recording amp

While obviously more costly in terms of gear necessary, recording bass via an amp has a number of advantages including:

  • Allows you to capture the ideal tone on the front end, saving time during the mixing stage.
  • Captures the air, reverb, and depth of the room for a more natural live sound.
  • Mixes in the tone of the amplifier which can sound better than amp modelers (depending on the amp, mic, etc.).

Speaking of capturing the ideal tone on the front end, two major things to be aware of when recording bass via an amp are the EQ settings on the amp as well as microphone placement.

I put together a complete overview of how to EQ a bass amp, so check that out for tips on the best settings to dial in on the bass, mids, and treble parameters.

Of course whatever EQ settings you dial in, the tone will be drastically affected by the microphone placement.

Regarding miking a bass amp, check out my tutorial on how to mic a bass amp as I covered how different microphone positions relative to the amp and specifically the speaker will affect the tone:

how to mic a bass amp

Essentially the more centered the microphone is to the speaker, the brighter the tone and more character of the amp will come through. Putting the microphone off axis or farther away from the speaker will blunt the tone, resulting in a warmer, darker sound.

Additionally, the closer the microphone is to the amp itself, the cleaner, drier, and brighter the tone will be which also yields more of the amp’s character. Conversely, moving the microphone farther away like 1-3 feet or more will yield a warmer, darker tone with more of the room blending in and dulling the tone.

So to sum up, if you want a brighter, punchier bass tone with more of the character of the amp and its settings, keep the microphone centered with and close to the speaker.

On the other hand, if you want a rounder, warmer tone, try moving the microphone a foot or more away from the amp and place it off center of the speaker(s).

Best Way to Record Bass Guitar

If you can only choose one, the best way to record bass guitar is DI because, well, all of the reasons I listed above.

Costs aside, it’s substantially easier to get a good bass tone by recording directly in.

If cost isn’t an issue, the ABSOLUTE best way to record bass guitar is recording BOTH with an amplifier and a simultaneous DI track.

Simply use a signal splitter to simultaneously input to both your audio hardware interface for the DI track as well as into the amplifier for the mic’d instance.

This gives you plenty of options on the back end.

For instance, if you decide later on that the amp recording doesn’t mesh well with the mix, you have the DI recording to fall back on and run through an amp modeler or EVEN use for re-amping to run it through your amp later on to get the amp recording you want.

You can also blend the two signals together to produce a fuller bass tone, using the DI track for more punch and the amped version for more body (for example).

Just be aware of potential phase issues whenever you record the same source simultaneously with two different methods. If the audio of the two tracks isn’t captured completely in sync then the combination of the tracks can suffer. Check out my tutorial on fixing phase issues to make sure that your tracks are in sync and if not how to easily and quickly correct it.

Once you have your ideal recorded bass tone, check out my bass tutorials on how to get it perfect in the mix.

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