Batcave Recording Studio / Blog


Where does I begin?

Right hand position (or the left if you're lefty): Probably the 1st & most important factor in delivering the tone. . Near the bridge and behind the pickup gives the most drive and probably the "most" tone. I say "most" because thats what appears to happen, at least. Of course when you play there you've got to be careful not to hit the pickup with the string. It happens a lot more than you'd think and sounds poopy (no you can't use it as homemade distortion). If you're good with your finger timing you can do homemade chorus or delay. I say homemade but I mean at the string source without any effects. Just like that old EVH adage that "its all in the hands." But I digress. . Nearer to and over the fingerboard can give more of an upright (washtub) bass tone especially on a fretless electric. It gives a much mellower tone and (if done right) allows the string to "swell". That is a delayed volume swell which comes up just after the initial tone is produced. It happens because plucking over the fingerboard is about the middle of the string length. Plucking there makes the energy take a little longer to get the string to fully vibrate all the way to the bridge. When the string vibrates the bridge harder the tone is delivered more directly to the bridge, body and pickup. . The next thing to play with is the tone knobs on the bass (yes, every knob likes getting played with). Especially if you're recording it direct. If you have a great-sounding bass you'll probably just need to dial out the highs so that you have just enough clickiness. You can always dial out the highs later in the mix but not too much. The highs of a bass tone can help to project it through the mix when everything else is in place. If its an active bass with like a 3-band boost/cut array you may need to dial up or dial down the mids depending on what the bass sounds like and what you're going for. I've always liked old, heavy p basses with nasty mids for punk or metal. Especially with a pick. . Preamp direct: I'd typically leave the controls on the bass wide open. Or centered in the case of using a bass with active boost/cut. Depending on the preamp (and again, what you're going for) you might want to do a little tweaking with an active boost/cut axe. . On the amp you're going to have to set a pretty broad tone curve. Now thats not exactly definable when I say broad. (and no, thats not a sexist slur..."whats wrong with being sexy?") Setting a broad curve means that you're setting for what you're going for and setting for getting the most out of what the bass is already delivering. You will most definitely need a setting which minimizes any inherent obnoxiousness in the bass itself if any.


There are so many secrets regarding this topic. So many mysteries and elusions but more importantly, there are so many variables. . Most producers and engineers will tell you about posture and mic distance, maybe pitch but thats about it. I've been in a lot of studios in my life and I've never once had a knob twister tell me about things like: one line per breath or how far to fill the lungs or focusing on which body parts are creating the tone. In fact, most producers don't know the first thing about getting a vocalist to experiment with different techniques and use them on the fly. . There are elements of constriction, stance, lubrication, pharynx clarity, tone source, starting pitch, time of day, diet ... it goes on and on and I think I can safely say that about 90% of the studio operators out there don't know how to think and (more importantly) feel like a vocalist. Most blokes know about smacking the snare in the center or trying a different hand position for playing fingered bass but vocals can be so damn elusive. . In my earlier days I had to (as a vocalist) learn how to engineer myself so that singing with headphones felt as natural as singing in a room while strumming an acoustic. I had to take into account: input level & compression curve, mic selection, mic distances, etc. (gloyvin!) There are basically 3 singing categories in my school of thought: room, PA and headphone. I have a handle on all of 'em. . There are a few different postures to consider as well. The standard, upright, smiling posture doesn't always apply to all vocal styles. As a power vocalist I find I can get a little more "umph" from my diaphragm in certain pitch ranges if I use more of a "fighting" stance and sing down on the mic. How many photos have you seen where a strong vocalist is hunkered down almost curled up in a ball while delivering some long, powerful, sustained note? I'll use an upright stance if its something like singing falsetto backup tracks and going for the vibe of 3 backup girls singing "wooo". Sometimes I'll sit. Different styles require different approaches. . Feel free to comment.