This is the 11th installment in guest blogger Steve Lagudi’s series on Guitars & Bass in a Live Setting – if you missed Part 2 of his previous blog series on Acoustic Guitars, you can read it here.
This is what a sell out crowd looks like from Steve’s point of view.
Despite all the jokes about bass players, and I too was a bass player, many of them are true, hahaha! Seriously though – bass is very, very important and can be very difficult to get right. You have to deal with the deep lows fighting and masking with kick drums, plus mid-range and getting it to sit right with the guitars and vocals. Then you have the lovely task of trying to be consistent when you go from a killer sounding PA system that gives you everything you need to having to recreate it in another venue that might be lacking in the subs and low-mids. So we as engineers have a lot to think about when dealing with bass.
Just like guitars, there are an infinite amount of sounds bass players can bring to the table. Some are just tubby and thunderous low-end, which to me causes the subs to just create wind and not produce actual notes, or others with so much top-end on it it might just be all fret buzz and clickety clack!
We need to see what we are working with. We need to know what we want to achieve sonically. With bass, we have a lot of options, from DIs and direct outs from amplifiers, to using a mic on a speaker, as well as various combinations. I am always a combination guy. Why? Because getting the fries and the drink with your meal just makes sense!!! Seriously now, I find I can get a li’l something from each to create the right sound. Just like with the guitars using a dynamic and condenser, each give me a li’l something that ends up sounding right when blended together.
It’s All About The DI Box
Let’s talk about the DI first. You need the right DI box for starters. Then, you wonder if you should go with active or passive. It is best to have a few on hand, depending upon the pickups, one might work better then the other, so if you have the time try both. Bass players might even carry their own DI box. Don’t be afraid to use it. Plus, it’s one less thing to pack up at the end of the night! Hopefully the player has a good, solid-sounding bass. If that sounds bad, then no DI box, amp, microphone, preamp or EQ will fix that. If not, well, ya just gotta make do with what you have.
Most engineers like to use the DI to get the low-end from the bass – I like to get the mid-range and upper-mids from the DI. The lows I get from the direct out from the amp or the mic on the cabinet. If I only have the straight-up DI to work with, then I adjust accordingly.
Check back next Wednesday to read more about DI boxes and bass in part 2 of this installment!