Alright, so you have reached a point in your young musical career when you are ready to record something in an actual studio. I’m saying “young” because studio recordings are also a vital part of being a professional bass player. You cannot call yourself a musician if you haven’t hit the studio at least once in your life.
Recording something and playing it live perfectly is something that is very important, and good musicians are recognized for this. You might have a lot of experience playing in a band and at live shows, but don’t get too cocky. This doesn’t mean that much when entering a studio, as it is a completely different approach.
This is why I’ve decided to write this post and give you a bit of a heads-up before you start recording your new songs. After all, you want them to turn out great so that people can enjoy them, right? Apart from the fact that you need to find a good studio and a capable producer, you will also have to do everything in your power to make the recordings as best as possible.
So, let’s start.
Practice until you’ve reached perfection
First of all, before entering the studio, you need to perfect your bass playing skills. When you play songs live, you can make tiny mistakes and nobody will notice. Apart from that, it’s also about putting on a show and not just music and these mistakes are tolerated.
However, playing in a studio is a completely different thing; you will be playing alone, over the drum tracks, and you will be put on the spotlight. Your playing needs to be perfect and this means knowing the tempo, the dynamics of your playing, and not missing a single note.
You need to know what you are playing, when you are playing it, and how you play it. It’s a good idea to practice with just the drummer, because you two are the rhythm backbone of your band, or if not, practice home alone without the band. Make sure that you are ready, because studio recordings can cause pressure and, remember, the more quickly you record, the less money you will have to pay for the studio.
Find your tone
It’s true that, ultimately, the producer will be the one who decides how your instrument will sound. However, it’s also very important that you know how to setup your tone and know how you want to sound like. While practicing home, set up your amp and pedals the way you want and like.
Memorize your tone and settings so that you can quickly set everything up when you are in the studio. Additionally, when you know how you want to sound like, the producer can give you more tips and help you create an even better tone, if possible.
It’s very important for the good tone to be recorded, because producers cannot do that much in post production if the tone you want is completely different from the one you’ve recorded. When you set it right, the producer will be able to get more out of it and give it better quality.
Consider different recording styles
There are many different styles of recording the bass, from the actual way you play it, to the way the signal is recorded and the equipment used. This is all deeply connected with the previous point. All bass playing styles give you different results; playing with a pick gives you more punch, finger-style playing gives you more warmth and slapping is, well, slapping.
Sometimes, the producer will ask you to change your playing style so that you get the tone you wanted. This is why you should practice playing your songs with different styles as well. On the other hand, you might use an active or a passive bass to change the way you sound.
There are also different ways to actually record the bass and you can do this by using bass recording microphones or use the output channel from your amp. All of these things affect how you sound and how you record, so talk to your producer and see what is the best solution for your music and your playing style.
Don’t record with fresh strings
With electric guitars, everyone will tell you that it’s best to buy new strings to use them for recording. The only thing you have to do is to stretch them out properly for a couple of days to make sure that they don’t go out of tune while you are playing. However, I noticed that some people like to do this for bass recording sessions as well.
The reality is that your tone won’t get any clearer like with electric guitars. New strings on the bass will only give you a lot of brightness and treble, and this might cause a lot of problems for you to set up your tone the way you wanted. On the other hand, if you want your sound to be deep and warm, you won’t able to get it with new strings.
Record with an instrument you know well
It’s very important that you play on an instrument you are comfortable with. A lot of people can’t wait to hit the studio and grab a more expensive bass so that they can play it and record on it, but this is not always such a good idea. On paper, that bass might be better, but in your hands, it doesn’t have to be.
Playing a certain instrument for a long time and getting to know its capabilities is highly important to develop a playing style. This is how some people are able to sound better on cheaper bass guitars than on those expensive ones. If your base is really a budget model, then ask the producer to borrow the bass you will be using and practice some time on it before you enter the studio and start recording.
Remember these things when hitting the studio for the first time and you will do just fine. The rest is up to you to create amazing bass lines that will give sense to your music. Good luck and rock on!