A side view of faders on a console.

How To Record Bass Guitar

Wondering how to record bass guitar?!  Before you start figuring out which bass to use, what amp to use, what microphone to grab, you have to start with style.

Bass guitar is extremely important to the mix and the energy of the song.  The bass, like many instruments, sits differently in the mix and arrangement based on how it is played.

Composition, tempo, arrangement, and style all go into consideration when creating your production.  How to allow the instrument to “speak” within the mix changes the entire voice of the song.

So how should you decide to track your bass guitar?

Watch the video below:

Now that you see the fundamental differences in the approach you can start making decisions on how you want to track the bass.

How To Record Bass Guitar DI

I have had a lot of experience recording many instruments in many different scenarios.  I can say with absolute confidence that I prefer recording bass guitar direct in over micing an amp.  By tracking the bass DI, you have more control over how to shape it within your mix.  It becomes easier to edit the transients to snap to the grid of the kick drum, and you can use incredible sounding amp sims.  The clean DI signal also gives you more options with how you handle parallel processing to the bass.

What style is the song?  This will determine the bass sound that you go for.  Once you have selected the performance style that we discussed in the video above (plucked, pick, or slap), it is time to figure out what sound will work best.  This is another reason why I prefer to track DI.  I like to select my bass sound after the guitars are tracked so that I can find the perfect tonal blend between guitar, bass, and drums.

How To Record Bass Guitar Amps

At times you do want to record a bass amp.  I tracked a record where we had a vintage Ampeg amp that sounded unreal.  We were determined to capture that sound of the tube warmth.  In this instance, I recommend multiple microphones with the capsules aligned.  When I rarely record a bass amp, I reach for the standard Shure SM57, a Shure SM7B, and a Yamaha SubKick.

Why These Three Microphones?

I like to think of microphones as paint brushes.  Each one has a different harmonic characteristic and an overall different “EQ sound.”  I use these microphones to blend to taste to achieve my overall balance.  It is not uncommon for me to use the same approach in micing a kick drum.

  • The Low End:  I will use the Yamaha SubKick for the super low end.  You can even build a DIY version!
  • The Low Mids: SM7B captures a very rounded sound.
  • The Top End:  Shure SM57 captures a bit more of the top end than a Shure SM7B

This isn’t to say that all of these microphones don’t capture more frequencies than I am using them for.  This method serves as a mental guide in my head in how I approach balancing them.  When I’m mixing the bass, I grab the SubKick fader and blend it in to taste with the kick drum.  I blend all three for that perfect balance.

I can even do things to one microphone that I wouldn’t to the others to get different characteristics.  One example would be putting a harmonic saturator or exciter on the SM57 to get a little more grit out of the top end without distorting the bottom end from the SubKick.

The Choice Is Yours

How will you choose to approach recording your bass guitar?  My recommendation is DI because it is clean, simple, and easy.  The choice, however, is completely up to you.

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