Building Up A Bass Tone From A DI
Whilst mic’ing up a nice bass amp can have great results, I don’t believe that it’s essential for a good bass sound. This blog post is going to be all about building a bass tone from a DI. For this track the band played together live, the drummer and bassist were locked together in terms of performance. So I had to make sure the mix did the track justice in making sure they sat together nicely.
The kick drum had lots of body around 60Hz, so first make sure the bass doesn’t overlap. A multiband compressor is perfect for this. Use a low shelf at 60Hz, then side-chained it to the kick drum. This means that every time the kick drum plays the compressor kicks in, moving everything below 60 Hz of the bass out of the way of the kick drum. Set the fastest attack, so that as soon as the kick drums hits the bass is compressed and then play with the release so it is just long enough to stay out of the way of the entire kick. A multi band compressor can work better than a broadband compressor for this application as it allows you to compress heavier without sounding like it’s ducking, its only getting rid of the overlapping frequencies.
Too control the dynamics add a compressor, such as the Slate Digital FG-116, which is a ‘modern’ take on the 1176. Set a gain reduction of about 3dB and set the attack and release both fast so that it clamps down on any peaks.
Next add some saturation from the plug in Saturn. This is a multi-band distortion, which makes it perfect for bass. It allows you to split it into different bands. I left the lower frequencies alone and added a tape saturation to the mids/ highs. This kept the low end clean whilst adding a little bit a character to the tone without adding too much grit.
Too emulate a bass amp, used an IR (impulse response) from amplitube. Keep the track playing whilst scrolling through different amps and until you find one that fits the song.
This can add lots of low end rumble and some resonant spikes. Use an eq to cut out the low end and notch out some of the resonant spikes.
At this point the tone was starting to sound nice but could do with a little more more presence and punch. The Virtual Mix Rack is perfect for using multiple eq’s, each having different characteristics. First using the SSL EQ, which is quite clean and precise, sweep around to add some pick attack and then again to find some punchy midrange. The custom series lift, using the present mode, boosts the upper midrange and adds some harmonics. This gives the tone some nice presence that helps the bass cut through the mix. The FG-N, which is modeled from a neve EQ is a really aggressive and colourful EQ so I made sure to use it subtly, only boosting 1dB at 800Hz which added some midrange punch to the bass.
To make sure the low end is locked in place add another multiband compressor and compress from around 60Hz – 300Hz. This works when when used subtly at about 2 – 3 dB of gain reduction, any more can start to kill the low end.
With the Fab Filter pro Q side chain setting you can see the frequency response of another instrument in the same EQ. Set the side chain to the kick drum and you can see both waveforms. This is great for carving out space and blending the two together. This feature is helpful, however its important to not rely on the visuals and trust your ears!
Finally add a limiter to further control the dynamics and make sure the bass stays at a consistent punchy level.