Last week, we started on the bass tracks for the new Lich King album. We live streamed some of the recording process on LK's Facebook page, and during the live stream we had viewers asking about the bass tone. Read on and we'll walk you through the entire recording chain, from the DI we used to Mike's bass rig.
BASS AND TECHNIQUE
Mike's tone starts out with a 4-string Ibanez Soundgear bass. This might be hard to believe, but Mike plays entirely fingerstyle. Instead of plucking the string, however, he essentially slaps the string with his fingers to get an incredible amount of attack - watch at 3:24 in the video above for a closeup shot.
We ran Mike's bass into a Neve RNDI, then into a Focusrite Saffire preamp, then into a line in channel on our Antelope Orion for A/D conversion at 96 kHZ/24 bit. The Orion is connected to our Mac Pro over Thunderbolt, and we recorded in Logic Pro X. We record-armed the bass DI channel and sent the output through a line out on the Orion into a Radial X-Amp reamping box in the live room, which then fed that dry DI tone to Mike's rig. The reason for this setup is so we could A. have Mike playing in the control room while his rig was in the live room, and B. so we could simultaneously record the DI and mic'ed tones.
Mike's rig starts off with a Boss Bass Overdrive pedal, which provides most of the grit to the tone. The gain was set a bit higher than 9 o'clock, Dry/OD mix was 95% towards OD, and the high EQ was slightly boosted. The level was set to a point where turning the pedal on and off would result in no audible change in volume through the amp and cab in the room. I like to set guitar pedals that way as to minimize gain changes through the chain, and to A/B the pedals without the perceived loudness affecting my decision-making.
After that, he runs into ANOTHER overdrive, this time a Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive. Gain was at 10 o' clock and Tone at 1 o' clock, Clean (which adds the original signal pre-OD back into the tone) at 10 o' clock, and Volume again set to a level with no audible change when turning the pedal on and off.
Mike's head is a Little Mark Tube 800. This head is a hybrid Tube and Solid State amp with a ton of options, which can both a blessing and a curse - you can make the amp sound nearly any way you want, but you can also spend FOREVER tweaking it until it's perfect. We started off with Mike's usual live settings, but he tends to scoop the low mids a bit more than I prefer on a recording. The end result was Gain at 9 o'clock and Solid State/Tube mix set slightly towards Tube. For the EQ, Low was at 12 o' clock, Mid Low at 1 o' clock, Mid High at 12 o' clock, and High at 12 o' clock. The VLE (basically a presence knob) is at 11 o' clock, and VPF (a mid-scooping filter) is at 1 o' clock.
CABINET AND MICS
Mike uses an Acoustic 8x10 live, but for recording we've always opted for a 1x15 - it has a more rounded low end and tends to sit better in the mix. This was mic'ed up with three mics - an AKG D112, a Sennheiser 421, and a Shure Beta 52A. We tried several other mics, including an Audix D6 and a Sennheiser e902. Most of these mics are typically used on kick and also work well for bass, but the latter two are known for the their pre-sculpted EQs that eschew mids in favor of low-end punch and high-end snap - not what we were looking for in this case. We almost didn't bother using the 52A as it was our third favorite, but it did add a bit of something that the D112 and 421 didn't capture so we figured what the heck.
The AKG D112 was setup as the "primary" mic - pointed on-axis, just left of the speaker cap, and 1.25 inches away from the grill. The other two mics are pointing at the same position on the speaker, but the distance was adjusted for each to keep them in phase with the D112. I did this by playing white noise from an oscillator plugin in Logic through the rig and monitoring the D112 and one other mic at a time through headphones. I would then slowly adjust the other mic, moving it closer and further away from the cab until I found the sweet spot where I couldn't hear any coloration in the white noise due to comb filtering.
TRACKING and editing
As far as the recording process, we typically ran through the song until we had three complete takes, then punched in any remaining sections as necessary. On one song, we had a last minute change the day before I did my drum tracking, and some of the fills I did weren't lining up with what Mike had planned on playing, necessitating a quick rewrite on the spot.
After we felt comfortable with the performances, we used Logic's Swipe Comping feature to compile all of the separate takes into a final comped take, making sure that all four of the bass tracks (the DI and three mic'ed tracks) were grouped to ensure consistent edits. If we found a section that still didn't have a suitable take, we fixed it with a quick punch in.
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