Things used to be different.
Not too long ago, you needed a lot of expensive equipment to record an instrument at home.
These days, anyone can do it with a computer and some inexpensive hardware.
Naturally, you also need to know how to record bass guitar.
Luckily, that parts is now quite easy.
Keep reading to learn exactly what equipment you need, and the entire process to get everything set up for recording. You’ll be surprised at how easy it actually is.
Table of Contents
- 1 How To Record Bass Guitar
- 2 What’s The Best Way To Record Bass Guitar?
- 3 Recording Bass Guitar: Final Thoughts
How To Record Bass Guitar
Just as with any other instrument, there’s more than one way to record bass guitar at home. In fact, the tools and methods have been so perfected that you can record pretty much anywhere you want, and even do some advanced processing and mixing of your original music.
In order to ensure a high quality recording and to make the entire recording process as simple and as smooth as possible, you are going to need an audio interface. This is true whether you end up recording a direct signal or using one or more microphones to capture your amplifier.
Fortunately, there are so many great, yet affordable, options on the market. On top of that, plenty of DAWs and other digital tools are not at all difficult to use. Getting a good bass sound from the comfort of your bedroom is definitely no longer an impossible task.
What You’ll Need To Record Bass Guitar
We already mentioned the audio interface, but you’ll need a few other things for your as well. Let’s find out exactly what you’ll need. We will assume you have already bought a good bass guitar and it is set up properly.
Apart from your bass guitar and an instrument cable, you’ll need your computer and an audio interface. What we used to know as PCI soundcards has been replaced with simple external USB-based devices, making it much easier to record bass guitar on PC.
Technically, these audio interfaces convert your analog instrument signal into digital information and then reproduce the digital information from your computer as an analog signal into your speakers.
That’s why you’ll also see them being referred to as “analog to digital” and “digital to analog” converters.
We have to point out that you’ll need a specialized audio interface designed to work with guitars and bass guitars.
These come with the standard mono instrument inputs, just like the ones you see on regular bass amps. These are where you plug your bass into the guitar amp. Interfaces can also have additional microphone inputs, but more on that later.
Of course, you’re also free to add more hardware to the list, like amplifiers, pedals, and other processing units. However, it could be more practical to rely on a clean recorded signal that you can further process digitally, or even re-amp to suit the needed mix.
In most cases, you’ll need a single-channel instrument interface. But you can also use ones with additional channels, if you want to combine direct input and microphone recordings.
In order to make things work, you’ll need a digital audio workstation, or DAW for short. This is essentially a program or an app that allows you to record multi-track projects, add effects to individual tracks, and even mix and master entire songs.
When you connect your audio interface to your computer, you should carefully check if the channels are “mapped,” meaning that your DAW recognizes the interface. After that, you’re all set to record.
There are a lot of free DAWs to choose from. These generally come free when you buy an audio interface.
Mac devices come with GarageBand, which is more than enough to get a great recording at home. Other free options include Ableton Live Lite, Audacity, Pro Tools First, Cubase LE, Tracktion Waveform, and others.
Apart from a DAW, you can also get some amp and effects modeling software. These days, tools like AmpliTube also come with integrated recording options.
Getting amp modeling software, be it as standalone software or plugins for your DAW, is mandatory, if you want to get a realistic amp-like tone.
If you’re a Mac user, you will get all that you need within GarageBand, including amp and effects emulation. A cheap MacOS-compatible interface is all you need, and you’ll be ready to roll.
Recording Your Bass Guitar
There are a few different ways you can record your bass guitar. We’re going to take a closer look at them all, starting with the simplest option.
Going Directly Into An Audio Interface
The simplest and most effective way to record a bass guitar is to plug it directly into your interface using the standard instrument cable. Just use the instrument input, create a new channel in your DAW, and you’re ready to go.
In most cases, audio interfaces also come with additional level settings. Make sure to set them up so there’s no clipping in the input (when indicators go red). Some may also have buttons marked as “Hi-Z” or “high impedance,” which are used for direct instrument inputs.
If you’re using a distortion pedal, the input will most certainly clip. You’ll need to follow it up with some sort of a cabinet emulator or an impulse response at the end of the virtual signal chain. But if you’re just starting out on your home studio, I suggest that you start out going only digital, until you learn some of the basics.
Using Microphones With Your Bass Amp
Miking up your bass amp is a more advanced option. Although it’s more expensive and kind of difficult to get consistent and optimal tone this way, it is a good method to learn how the pros do things.
First, you need to position your microphone in front of the amplifier. This will take some playing around. You want to that “sweet spot” where you get the exact sound you want. Naturally, this will be different for everyone.
The center of the speaker cone gets you a thinner-sounding tone. It gets more bassy near the edge. If you move the mic away from the speaker, you get less bottom-ends in your tone.
After positioning your mic, or multiple microphones, you adjust the input levels so that there’s no clipping. Ideally, you’ll probably want to use two mics to get the fuller picture of the sound.
Direct And Microphone At The Same Time
Another method is to combine the direct input and microphone options. This is sometimes considered the ideal way to record, since you get both options and you are able to process and mix your recorded bass guitar any way you want to.
For this, you first need an audio interface that has two or more inputs, as well as options to use both microphone and direct instrument inputs. Luckily, there are a lot of options on the market that aren’t that expensive.
Next, you need some sort of a channel splitter, like an ABY pedal. This way, you can plug into an amp and into your interface at the same time.
By using a standard 4-channel audio interface with line and XLR input jacks, you can use one direct input and two microphones. One popular example is the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4.
What’s The Best Way To Record Bass Guitar?
It’s hard to say what the “best” way to record a bass is, because it will differ depending on your needs, your style, your equipment, and more. That said, in order to ensure the best quality and to make the process as easy as possible, you are going to want to use an audio interface.
Recording Bass Guitar: Final Thoughts
I bet you thought learning how to record bass guitar was going to be harder! It really is as easy as this article makes it sound, especially if you simply plug the instrument directly into the interface.
If you want to record there sound from the amp, it’s a little more involved, but still not overly difficult. You’ll need a multi-channel interface and some mics as additional equipment, nothing more. To me, the hardest part is finding the sweet spot, or sweet spots, for the microphones. I find myself adjusting them far too much.