In this tutorial we'll talk a little bit about some techniques for recording bass instruments like bass guitar and upright bass. While it is one of the more simple things to record, there are still a lot of different techniques and ideas that come along with recording the bass of a song, as it is quite important to get a full tone to hold down a mix.
First off, like recording everything, the most important part about recording bass is to make sure that you are happy with the tone before you go to record. This means dialing in the settings on both your guitar and your amp, or in the case of a stand up bass making sure that everything is working properly and that your technique is spot on. Also falling under this category is making sure that you have the right type of bass for the song, as a Fender Jazz Bass can sound quite different from a Precision Bass and so on...
After you are happy with the sound coming from your instrument, its time to record. Pretty much all engineers, myself included, will always get a direct input signal from the bass guitar. I always do and sometimes it is the only thing that I record, but often times I will use a amplifier and blend the two. As far as choices for a DI box, almost anything will work but I usually use a Countryman Type 85 DI box as these are my favorite to use. While I can understand if you just want to get an amp sound, it never hurts to get the DI signal as well, and vise versa.
Next we'll talk a bit about recording your direct input signal while using some compression. While this step (like all of the others) isn't necessary, I always try to record my direct signal with some compression as it can help to keep the level in line and give you a tighter overall sound. While most compressors will do, I find that the Summit TLA100 is a great compressor for bass guitar and is what I will usually use. I can understand if you want to record dry and add compression later, but for me I always like to get a tighter direct sound from the start by using compression during tracking.
While getting a direct signal is often times enough for bass, I generally like to try to get an amplifier sound as well. I have used both bass guitar and standard guitar amps for this and both will really give you different tones so you need to know when to use them. Most of the time I will use a bass guitar amp if I am going for a traditional thick and fat bass tone, but on occasion I will add a guitar amp into the mix, which I find gives you more slap and punch. However, I would only recommend trying it out with a guitar amp if you are also getting a direct input signal and blending the two, as the guitar amp on its own doesn't have enough low end presence. Also, be careful to keep the volume relatively low so you don't blow out the speaker!
Lastly, I'll talk a little bit about recording an upright bass, as this can be a completely different challenge. Generally what I do is place a large diaphragm tube condenser microphone (like a Neumann M 149) by the bridge of the instrument about a few inches away from it as I find that this will give you a pretty accurate and tight sound. While it never hurts to put up another microphone further back, I generally try to keep my bass sounds as tight as possible..
While these tips can be helpful please keep in mind that these are only guidelines and that you should definitely be experimenting and trying things out to try to get your own methods and techniques down that will work for you and your sound. Remember to have fun and always try out new things!