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Bass Sound

Lesson 16 from: Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

16. Bass Sound

Lesson Info

Bass Sound

Hey, welcome back, my name's, kurt and I want to talk some more today about recording and mixing if you guys were here watching yesterday. Thank you. Welcome back. And for those of you just tuning in today for the first time, thanks for tuning in. Just want teo quickly. Thank the band nice hooves whose video you just watched it's really a pleasure for me to be able to record a great band full of great people, and I find that, you know, the quality of my of my output and also the quality my life is better when I'm working with people and working on music that I really enjoy. So hopefully you guys get to have those kind of experiences as well, and just a quick recap of what we talked about yesterday. Cem, cem there's a lot of really broad brush stuff and sort of, you know, cem, right brain stuff, but we also got into a lot of really specific technical mumbo jumbo as well, but for me, the big takeaways of yesterday's class wass when you're when you're working with a client, remember that ...

there are entrusting you with their baby, and you should treat them with the same respect on treat their music with the same respect that you would want paid to you if you were entrusting your baby in someone else's hands so just never never lose sight of that as you're recording a band and the other big takeaway from yesterday's class is that as a recording engineer you are required to manage a ton of little minutia and it's the cumulative effect of all that mute minutia that creates the record our song or whatever it may be but ultimately it's the it's the song that's the most important and you know you have a bunch of tools at your disposal be it the rooms that you're recording in the people that you're recording the instruments that they're playing the microphones you have the mic cramps, the recorder whatever, whatever it may be these er just er tools but don't lose sight of the fact that these are on ly tools used in used to create the final product which is the recorded version of that song so always keep that final project in mind as you are recording a band so that's yesterday now today we're going to finish up talking a little bit about tracking beginning with the bass and vocals and we'll do one segment on that and then the balance of the day will be about mixing I'm lumping the bass and vocals together in one segment for two reasons number one base shares a lot of the engineering requirements with guitar we've already covered guitar in great detail so we don't need to spend quite a much time on base the other reason is because engineering a vocal isn't really the most complicated thing in the world so it's usually one or two microphones as opposed to a bunch of mike's and it's not because the body is the instrument there's not as much of a selection process too choosing the right instruments to record you sort of get what you get when it comes to a person's voice I will talk about vocal coaching and how teo you know how to get someone sounding their best how to make them comfortable well, that'll take care of one segment, but the other big reason why I'm lumping them together is that when you're recording a singer, you really need to keep in mind thiss person I will not have the same stamina that say a drummer or particularly like a guitar player or bass player would have especially for recording music like me where the singers or sing very loud and aggressively like you know you might get thirty minutes to two hours out of them in one day before they ruin their voice, so I feel it so it's important not to wait until the very end of the recording process to record vocals if if at all possible you should be flip flopping vocals with another instrument so that the singer can you work until they feel like they're at the point where if they go any further there going damage their voice on dh then switch to something else so typically I even start you know shortly after I'm done with drums when I start doing recording guitars once I have some decent rhythm guitar tracks down for you know two or three songs you know I'll put it in the singer's hands and say you know are you ready to start singing now and we can toggle between vocals and all the other instruments so rather than being forced to record an entire album in a couple of eight or ten hour sessions the singer can spread out their vocals over the course of a week or whatever it may be so with that being said let's let's get right into base I think we have a short sort of fly on the wall style video about recording bass in my studio you play now for you I need like trick with this before the moon rises I like this well this the lettering worn off on this one but there's two channels each input goes to channel you can like mixing together like a like it's a mixture so I do like one distorted channel unclean channel the same time then kind of blends right you get some punch and there's clean jalen and the ground out of this fortune so like your theory has been able to get meet me in growl ah you thought rages or something but like you're you're like two diagonal is you're thinking yeah, so kenny from isis is awesome, he's a one take wonder and it's really a joy to record a base where they could just go nailing a lot of a lot of bass players tend to be like failed guitarists or guitarist who got demoted or something or like it will be easy because it only has four strings or something. I guess I set out to play bass in a band that will be the fastest way to get into a band anyway. It's it's a joy to record somebody like candy who's just pretty much nail it in one or two takes every time. So anyway, that's a typical day of recording based around my studio and we're using actually this this cool, huh? This cool base that I got from from warwick it's, the starbase two it's like a hollow body base made from boob inga plywood, that sounds really killer it's like super super aggro sounding like really mid range forward, but it has to pick ups, so I do want to talk a little bit about pick up, landing on basis. This, you know, usually like my favorite type based record is a p bass andi think a lot of that because it just has one pick up have a harder time recording, say, like a jazz bass or or some of those like to pick up music man's or something? I find that a lot of bass players feel like a broader sound when they're blending the two pickups on their base and intend to favour that because they get some attack but then they get some bottom by, you know, blending a bridge and a neck pickup. However, I feel as though there's a little bit of phase cancellation that happens when you're you have a to pick up base you have to be careful about and you also like, you know, the actual thiss starbase it's two single coil so and one of them is reverse wound, so when you're in the middle position, the two coils will cancel hum so that's another reason why bass players will will tend to blend pickups and jazz basis of the same way to like it's two two single coils I think one of them is reverse wound, so when you're in the inbetween position, you get a hung cancellation. However, um, you also get these subtle phase discrepancies when you blend pick up so you'll notice that, as I'm sure a lot of you have had the experience of like when you just play like a chromatic scale on a base, there'll be spots on the neck that air extra live and spots on the neck that are extra dead andi I find that that just going to one pickup is opposed to binding two will reduce those those cancellations that caused the dead spots on the neck. So with kenny, we were using just the bridge pick up on that base because, you know, the night nice house based tone is is quite mid rangy and growly and sort of guitar like, and it finds its own space in the mix not so much from having a dramatically different frequency response from the guitar but more from its panting space being centered and then the guitarist being being panned out. So once you find the optimum pickup to use on the base, then you goingto select a base rig and dial that in and I select a base rig in much the same way that I select a guitar reagan get whatever cabinets I have in my disposal and whatever heads I haven't my disposal and if the bass player brought in their own stuff, we'll check that out first and see what I like about it see what I don't like and also sort of pull them to see what it is they like about their sound and what it is that they they don't like, you know, and then also trying trying to learn their terminology like toe one bass player punchy means, you know, kind of distorted and very mid range forward and sort of almost sounding like a like the piano look of the bass notes on a piano it's like percussive but growly for others you know punching means super clean high head room deep bass with also some clack on top eso tryto like determine what the terminology is that they're using and fine things in the base rig that captures what they like and what is admirable to this song in the case of nice hosts we ended up settling on am peg before guitar head through an mpeg eight by ten base cab and think before was sort of made back in the days when there weren't typically dedicated guitar and bass and you just sort of had an amplifier and you plugged your key border your harmonica or your base or guitar whatever into it there is an mpeg before b which is the base version and I think the it's the game staging is a little different in the queue is voiced in a different location but it's essentially the same man but I prefer the before our for base especially aggressive base it's a little more no more gaining a little more gnarly in the mid range um I do ten tio whereas whereas with guitar I'm a little bit nervous when combining multiple signals whether it be multiple amps or or multiple microphones on a guitar for base I almost always do that I like to have a little bit more independent control of different elements of base be it a d I a clean amplifier, distorted amplifier, the high frequencies, mid range lows. I'll do all sorts of different tricks with the bass guitar, and we're having a pen in control of these things, sometimes even multi band compression, and we're going to talk more about that in the mixing portion of this thing about how to manage the different base elements, but you're at the tracking face. Sometimes I'll do with the eye sometimes they wont a lot of times they want but what I usually do, some sort of clean distortion blend, and that can be done in a number of different ways. Nate newton, the bass player of converge my band, he plays out of an orange eighty, two hundred and an orange thunder verb, and he will do set up the eighty, two hundred a little on the clean side, and that has a ton of bottom and also, like sort of a claque e not super classy, not like corn clocky, but it's got some it's got some pick attack to it on the top, and that not a whole lot going on in the mid range and then hiss and that's going through, made by ten cabinet and then his thunder verb has a ton mid range and that's going through two fifteen, which, you know, actually, they pretend despite the fact that it doesn't reproduce, a fundamental frequency is low on the two fifteen, it exaggerates the sort of upper base slash low mid stuff, so you have a a greater perceived bottom end coming out of that cabinet to fifteen feels a little bit more guitar e so that's, like the mid range stuff is coming out of there. So it's sort of like what I was talking about for guitar yesterday, where all you know, I'll pick camps, cabinet two microphones that actually sort of exaggerated with the inherent quality of that amplifier. So, like the mid range guitar, ian might go through uneven mid range your cab and use a mid rangy mike so that it has less of a phase correlation with the scoop guitar and through this coop cab through the scoop, mike, same same thing with base. So but for the case with nice hose, I decided to do it all at one amp, and I think I have a little video sort of demonstrating after the fact that after I recorded nice clothes and I went back for gear gods and did a little video detail ing what, that what that bland entailed, so if we could play that right now, that'd be cool, so today I'm gonna be playing bass out of a magnavox era before guitar amp that brian from traveling actually owns and he abandon it here so I'm using on base because I think it sounds pretty gnarly. One thing that I like to do with base is to split the signal up into different components so sometimes it's blending a d I a an amplifier other times it's using two different amps like mate and converge. He likes to use thes two orange amps where he has an eighty, two hundred kind of doing the bass and the trouble, and then ah, thunder verb kind of doing the mid range, but today I'm going to do both of those things within just before so the way that I have a single routed here start with this warrick starbase two and then that goes into the input of a radio jd seven, which is a seven way splitter box, and I like using this because it gives me control of the polarity of the upcoming signal as well as ground left for each output. So coming out of the jd seven way have one cable that's just the clean single from the base going into input one on the before, which is controlled by volume one here the labels have all worn off on this particular answer you don't really know what it is and this will tell you so volume one is the clean signal also coming out of the jd seven from another output is a single going through this regular ass boss overdrive distortion pedal that my buddy rob davis kind tweaked out for me and that goes into input number two on the before with its own volume control the e few controls air shared between volume one and two, but using the two separate inputs allows me to blend my clean and distortion at pm some pedal manufacturers were smart enough to put a blend control on the actual distortion pedal there's not one on this panel, so I'm doing the bland at pm you can also use this technique with a lot of different other amps like fender baseman orrin and peggy sbt or a box a c thirty or older marshals. The blending technique works as well. On guitar is a dozen bays to let's hear how it sounds here's just the clean component of the signal. All right, so with that I'm just looking for some punch and a little bit of clack now let's list turn off this output and turn on the distorted output and only listen to the distorted signal all right, so that's the clean and distorted singles on their own now let's hear it together so sounds pretty cool one thing I've noticed when blending signals is that a lot of distortion pedals actually invert the polarity of the incoming single so when you're blending the singles together you need to then sometimes invert the polarity on just the distorted signal too restore it to its original polarity so that it effectively blends with the clean sound you could do that either by making yourself a custom little cable that reverses the tip and sleeve or in the case of this radio box I actually have a polarity switch which is this little one eighty degrees got here so let's hear what it sounds like without the polarity flipped followed by with the polarity flipped you can really hear a difference in the bottom and I mean yeah that and certainly a little rough around the edges and got some scratchy possible I'm not but yeah cool bass tone and that's just that's just one way to do thie clean distortion blend way we were going for twenty cents we do it with before but you could do with a lot of things the sometimes the boss base overdrive pedal a simple a zit is is actually a great choice and that one has the the clean blend or a clean dry built into it and you know the distorted signals the character of the distortion usually we'll carry through even if you just blended in a small amount so you can like a clean base will not have much character will not cut through the mix the way that a a distorted base will or won't be so obvious in the mix but you might be able to get the dynamics from the clean stuff and the character from the distorted stuff another way to do that whole blend thing is this a few companies I know carl carl martin is one of them they have a pedal called para loop that allows you to do sort of ah clean distortion bland so if you're getting your gain from a paddle a supposed to the overdrive I'm head you know you could find like a fuss pedal you really like that, you know, maybe has a rad tone but doesn't have the clarity that you need and get that para loop pedal put the foes pedal in the para loop and then sort of, you know, dialling the right percentage, you know, to put it, put it as a front end to your base rig and get the clean distortion blend so uh yeah, andi, I've done that that whole blind a million different ways sgts work cool, you know, even solve st anne's g k's or cool. I was actually just a decent name last week the sort of totally overwhelming giant guitar center thing, but there is some cool new products I saw and I was in the orange amps dental room they had this new bass and I think it's called o b kay one or something like that it's like a super high powered solid state basement that actually has that clean distortion blend built into the head. And so if you're if you're okay with having shared e q between your your clean channel in your distorted channel, you can sort of dialling a distorted sound and then make it super overdrive but then adjust the blend control and back off on how much overdrive is in the final signal. Ok, so now we have a bass sound that we love we think it sounds great in the room we think it's going to work in the context of the song than this and it's time to make up the base rig and this is another thing where I like to kind of in a sense bye amp it and split the mike's up into several different signals usually used to microphones on a bass cabinet sometimes mohr some people love to use condenser microphones on base. The kg for fourteen e b is a particularly popular one. I've used my wonder cm seven fete a lot, which is a u forty seven fat clone anything sort of in that you forty seven family like a blue mouse, for example is a pretty are somewhat affordable alternative to that I don't usually use condensers on base, but a lot of people love him I'm usually looking for that sort of presence push of a dynamic mike on base. Some of my favorite bass mikes are the buyer m eighty eight a g d twelve or a heil pr thirty one I tend to stay away from bass drum microphones on base because they already are sort of pre queued for to exaggerate bottom in and remove low mid range. But if you're working quickly or if that's the sound you want, you know d twelve's de sixes are assuming the one, twelve d sixes, maybe fifty two might be a good choice, and those mikes also might be a great choice if you are blending a brighter mike like a fifty seven or something with with one of those guys and you need teo, you know toe kind of split up your highs and your lows for the nice of session. What you saw was ah, hi opr, thirty one, sort of aimed at the edge of the dust cap on one of the speakers to get some of the bright stuff that's for a pretty pretty bright microphone position and that's a fairly neutral mike but maybe a little bit mid range forward and then that's being combined with a yamaha sub kick on one of the lower speakers which captures all the sub base and this this sub kick is essentially a speaker working in reverse and you can do that you could do that you can buy the sub q can do that or you can go to radioshack and get a get a little twenty dollars subwoofer and wire that up to an xlr connector and send natural might preempt if you do that trick, I'll advise you that low impedance microphone prem's tend to work better if you have something that does like three hundred dollars just like that, you might have better results than a standard high impedance microphone preempt so I've got the uh the two microphones on the base cab and with this band were sort of guitar e sounding base I like tio send my my main sort of most tone ful microphone, which in this case is the high opr thirty one into a guitar type mike premium usually something with a transformer in it. Some of my favorite mike prancer base are you know anything anything need styled anything ap style, anything tried and styled in my studio my knee style pre nup is a chandler lt anyone a style things I have esa mike bring up power forget the model number and I have a lunch and a king like cream searchers sort of related teo tried on a range also on actually, but the one that he actually used probably the most is actually a john hardy microphone preempt which is lesser known choice but still pretty cool microphone cream in that one, I believe, does not have any capacitors, that's, something that sets it apart from other microphone cramps. Um, and then with that when I'm going for, you know, fairly colored signal, and I don't mind getting extra harmonics that the transformers from the mike pre ops will provide, however, the the bottom end of the signal, which in this case was the yamaha sub kick, I liketo have more of like a hi headroom type of type of pre amp, and I think that I used a thurman thurman on a culture early bird might preempt, which has a low on bean setting, is it's a tube my cream, but it's very super high five preempt, so getting very clean, dynamic, bottom end, and then I might even teach you that a little bit further where I do like a high pass on the guitar, a bass mike and a some sort of like a low pass filter, or maybe even a low made cut on the sub kick, too, sort of move them away from each other more and give them less of a phase correlation. But I will horse, check the the polarity of each of my creams and try to find the best clarity position think I have another, a short video that details how a position the mikes and how I would choose mikes and how I move them think if you haven't yet switch to the video when I, uh I'm not using in this video, I'm not using the sub kick I'm actually using a cvi are one which is a really deep sounding ribbon microphone on captured my bottom and with that all right, so let's, check out that video, madeline to microphones on this base rig the first one is an scv are one, which is a figure eight pattern ribbon mic, so because figure eight it picks up in front and behind the mic, but rejects the stuff to the sides so it's rejecting this adjacent speaker and really just picking up the primary speaker here, it's a really basic mike, and I'm putting it in a particularly basie microphone position to really get the bottom, and from this microphone over here, we have a high opr thirty one, which is a dynamic cardio, and mike and I've positioned that in the center of the cones that's going to get the really bright stuff and the upper mid range, and that makes it easier to blend and you get fewer phase discrepancies when blending really different sounding signals than you do when you're blending really similar sending signals? Okay, here's, what the beer one sounds like you're thirty sounds like there's a number of different ways to get to mike's in phase with each other if you keep the two mikes on separate tracks in a doll, you can use some sample alignment, tow line them up after the fact, but sometimes you want to do that in the analog domain while you're tracking getting your sound and one way that you could do that is to blast a bunch of noise out of the amplify they're using put on a set of headphones, send that signal from me and to your headphones and then listen to the noise coming through the two microphones and see how it correlates with each other. What I've done here is I flipped the polarity on the high opr thirty one and then I'm gonna blast a moist for the end and then move the mic in and out find the null point where the noise cancels the most, and then at that point, I'll know what the often face position is. We'll just go back into my control are after the fact flip, the polarity hundred eighty reason this mike, and then I'll have the best face position, all right? So let's, give it a try ah should be good, all right, so that that last little thing can be can be kind of difficult to hear and you really got to know what you're listening for, but just to sort of explain that again essentially what I did was I, uh crank the gain on the distortion pedal leading into the anxious to get a bunch of like what's essentially white noise coming through the amp broad broad actually more like pig noises I want like broadband stuff it wants a bottom and top and sort of you khun that gives you like a rather than a person playing through him by just using that noise you get a steady state signal going through it and then you can move the two microphones around relation to each other to find what is the greatest point of cancellation. Just quick, quick step back before I do that, I'll invert intentionally invert the polarity of one of the microphones and then move the microphones around until I find where they cancel the most and it can be a bit hard to do when you have two microphones with a very different tone since it's not as much phase correlation is if you were to just take two s and fifty seven's and do this with them, you'd really hear it really well. If he did that with two of the same microphones to different microphones, you might not hear it much, but yes, a move the mikes around find where the signal cancels the most and then once you find the place where it cancels the most go back into your control room area or too aware of your microphone preempt is reversed. The polarity of that microphone preempt and now the area that cancel the most is going to add the most and that's one way to position microphones certainly sample alignment after the fact if they're on separate tracks is another way to do it and, you know, visually lining up the capsule's it's another way to do it, and I encouraging to try all three techniques or a combination of those three techniques and see if that helps you get amore phase coherent based tone. Okay, so now we have an awesome bass sound. We've done a little bit of the queue to it, maybe to bring out the mid range, bring out the growl we might have sucked out a little bit of low mid with me cue to give it some size and toe to set the state a soundstage. If you want to be a sort of in front of the speed here's, you might have a little more low mid if you want to sort of set setback, you might want a little bit less low mid, and then you have independent control of at least the upper frequency spectrum of the base in the lower frequency spectrum of the base, you know, the upper frequency spectrum is going to be interacting with the guitars and the vocals a lot. And the lower frequency spectrum is going to be interacting with the drones a lot. So it's, nice to have separate control of those two things. That their interaction with the rest of the mix can be controlled best during during the next face.

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Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

I've been engineering out of my home studio for the past 7 years. I recently graduated from college for studio production and recording bands has been my main source of income for the past 5 years or so. Honestly, this course was incredible and completely worth the $100. Kurt Ballou truly understands the art and he really got me excited to be a recording engineer. I already knew a lot of the techniques and details he went over, but he presented his ideas so intelligently that I was happy to sit through the topics that focused on beginners. I'm not a huge metal or hardcore fan, but Kurt has amazing taste in the way he produces these bands. It's hard to listen to some of the releases today that have the life sucked out of their music with full-on drum replacement and crazy amounts of autotune. It was just refreshing to listen to an engineer who totally knows what makes rock music exciting. This class is worth checking out even just to watch a successful modern engineer show you the basics of his craft.

Fariz Junaini

This was a great course to pick apart the brain of The Kurt Ballou, but I felt some of the topics could be presented a little better and went more in-depth in like the framework of the mixing process. I fell like if you don't have an understanding of basic audio engineering you would be pretty lost but thank god I knew enough to get me through. But nonetheless, Kurt shared some pretty interesting techniques like the crossover method. Love this guy! Hope to see more of him!

a Creativelive Student

This course has been the most comprehensive I have watched concerning the art of audio manipulation. The points made in terms of phase relationships, mic technique, and polarity are valuable insight into getting good sound. My personal favorite was the way he edits toms. All the content is good stuff and well worth your money. Icing on the cake in the included IR samples. I purchased the course for $79. I love you Kurt!

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