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Microphone Techniques for Electric Bass Recording

When you set up a microphone for an electric bass, getting a good sound can be a real bear. Your two adversaries are muddiness (lack of definition) and thinness (a pronounced midrange tone). These seem like almost polar opposite characteristics, but they can both exist at the same time.

Running your bass guitar directly into the board — via a direct box, your amp’s line-out jack, or a Hi-Z jack on the mixer — gives the guitar a punchier sound. Some recorders have amp-simulator programs for bass guitar as well as guitar.

So don’t be afraid to skip the amp and go directly into the mixer. Or if you’re bold and have the available tracks, try using both a mic and a direct connection and mix the two mics to taste.

Managing the room

The sound of an electric bass guitar can quickly get muddy. Your best bet is to choose a room that doesn’t have a lot of surfaces that reflect sound (for example, paneled walls and wooden floors). A dead room is easier to work with.

Don’t make your room too dead, however, or it just sucks the life out of your amp’s tone. If you can get your amp to sound good in your room, placing the mic properly is easy.

Don’t be afraid to be creative and to try recording your bass in different rooms. Look for a room with a warm sound to it.

Getting the most from the mic

Because the bass guitar produces low frequencies, a dynamic mic or a large-diaphragm condenser mic works well. Avoid small-diaphragm condensers and ribbon mics for the electric bass, but try them if you want. Who knows — you may end up with an awesome bass track.

Mic placement for the electric bass is similar to the guitar: You place a single mic 2 to 12 inches away from one of the speakers. Sometimes with bass, angling the mic and letting the speaker’s sound kind of drift past the diaphragm produces a great sound. For a bass, skip the distant mic, which generally just adds muddiness to the sound.

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