Ask the Expert – Tips for getting the best sound for a bass guitar on stage
Great bass guitar sounds
At our live Ask the Expert session Daniel Fiott asked:
“What’s the best sound you can get from bass on stage?”
Geoff Boswell, Audioplan:
I can only add this from being a bass player as well as earning my living from sound …. so here we go.
At first getting the best sound ‘on stage’ may be very different from the best sound Front of House [FOH] but let’s start with the best sound on stage bit. I want a clear sound on stage so that I can hear my bass well. As a low frequency instrument it has to be somewhat louder so that the bassist can hear the low notes clearly. Using an amp stand to get my amp higher, nearer to me and off the floor. This helps my sound become clearer to me and also means that I don’t have to run the amp so high.
To get a good sound on stage depends on what sort of bass sound you want in the first place. I like a rounded deep sustained bass sound as a starter. Then my sound can change depending on my style finger strokes, pick, nearer bridge or nearer end of neck, all this makes a massive difference but you at least start off with a good rounded sound. After all bass is meant primarily to sound bassy !! [sorry Shirley]. I take the output of my Eden pre into the RETURN of a Gallien Kruger 2 x 10 wedge combo. It’s a great sound for me and the rest of the band but it’s not necessarily good for the poor FOH guy as its often too loud. If this is the case then I have to just simply turn down a little.
Regarding DI use if you have the FOH channels then you have the choice of DI of the bass clean [ie the instrument output paralleled at the DI and then on to the amp], DI from the amps DI output or mic in front of the bass cabinet. All are OK and it just depends on what works for you. If the bass player is using a pre-amp then most probably a pre-amp output is a good starting point. Works for me and the sound guys at church.
Regarding on stage sound again choice of pre-amp or input stage is the most important closely followed by the headroom in the amp/speakers. A decent input stage allows the guitars character to come out. My Music Man sounds good plugged direct into the amp but it does need some EQ to get a solid warm sound. Putting it through the valve pre-amp makes it sound SO much better.
One final thought. I bought my pre amp and my amp from a well know internet auction site. I bought my Fender frontman bass combo [which I use for smaller stuff and practice also on E**Y. All were second hand. I am not suggesting that music shops should not be explored but the second hand proven route works well for me.