Kenny’s Tip of the Day - Bass Guitar Players - Stay In Your Lane!!
This one is going to be very genre specific. Obviously, we’ve had many styles and bass players that have created a career out of using every fret on a bass guitar. And that’s very unique and interesting when done by those special and incredibly talented players. But that shouldn’t apply to every bass player in every band.
For the most part, the bass guitar is meant to be played an octave below everything else. That’s why it’s called a bass. It should be playing in the bass clef.
Now, why am I mentioning this? Basically, because one of the more common complaints you’ll find about a mix or a production is that it sounds small. It doesn’t feel big enough. And one of the biggest problem areas is not in the mix itself, but in the song arrangement. And in this case, it’s the part played by the bass player.
Let me give you an example. Imagine you’re playing a very common rock progression in E Minor that starts on the C, goes up to the D, and ends on the E. Or E Minor. A very common thing for the bass player to do is follow this progression on the A string from the 3rd fret, to the 5th fret and landing on the 7th fret for the E. This can be a big problem spot as when you hit that E as an octave on the bass, you’re now playing a note that can be played on a regular guitar. It’s not really a bass note anymore.
What I prefer, as producer, is for the bass player in this situation to climb up the A string and when you get to that high E, bring it down to the open E on the low E string. It will sound so much bigger for the production. Especially if that’s a landing point for the top of your chorus or a similar section.
One of my favorite tricks for this example is to allow the bass player to play that high E just for the down beat but on beat 2, slide down to the lower octave to give that beat even more low end. So that you’re hitting that lower bass octave with the snare on the 2.
Now this is just a small example in one key but when you’re working out your parts in pre-production, pay attention to any notes that are played an octave higher than they need to be. This would be anything from that high E and above. Decide if they’re really necessary and more importantly, what are they doing to the “size” of the production. Are those high bass notes making the track feel small?
Another trick I like to use is to overdub a second bass guitar track (or even a low synth) just on some of those higher notes to give off the essence that high notes are being hit but also have some real bass notes playing underneath. Even if they’re not nearly as loud as the main track. They still give us something to work with.
While it’s very tempting (especially for newer bass players) to explore all the notes a bass guitar can produce. You’ll find that staying in that lowest octave is the best thing you can do for the “sound” of your song.
You can learn more by watching “Tracking Rock Bass” tutorial at https://www.groove3.com/recording-training-video-tutorials/tracking-rock-bass
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia