But this doesn’t mean they are impervious to poor judgment.
And it’s those rare times when you’re hearing something suspectfrom the bass that your production chops, taste, and paranoia will be put to the test. But don’t freak out—simplyuse this short and handy checklistto evaluate the low end.
Of course, you won’t be able to dothis gig right if your ego crashes the studio party. A good bassist is a masterat bridging the sonic, rhythmic,and musical gaps between the guitar and the drums, so it’s far from a signof weakness to assume he or she isspot on. It would suck, however, if you opened your mouth simply because you wanted a perfectly excellent basspart done your way. If everythingpops, freeze—the bass track is done.Go torment the drummer.
I made a huge mistake on a recentproduction by letting the bassist playa fretless upright, when I knew a frettedelectric was the best option fordriving a straight-ahead rock song.Melodyne took care of the uprighttrack’s out-of-tune bits (the guy wasone of those self-professed “perfectpitch” wunderkinds who nonethelessplay a slew of poorly intonated notes),but nothing could fix the distractingslaps and snaps or thewobbly low end. If I had a clear“groove goal,” this miscuemight not have occurred. Before tracking, tell the bassist,“I want this to rock as hard asan ice-road trucker blastingthrough snow banks,” or “Ineed this to slip and slide likean old jazz cat three whiskey sin to an all-night set.” You getthe idea. Lay out the rightscene, and the bassist won’t tryto foist a fretless on you when a Fender Precision is obviouslythe ideal cast member.
You’re listening to a playback,and everything is played well,but something isn’t right withthe groove. In these instances, I findit helpful to forget about technical performance issues, and focus onenergy concerns such as, “Is therhythm track matching the vibe and vitality implied by the song?” Abassist may like to punch preciselywith the kick-drum beats, for example,but that approach might be too uptight and segmented for a fastrocker or punk track. Perhaps it’sbetter to rock eighth notes. Try itand see. On the other hand, a pulsating part might sound too anxious forthe plaintive energy of a ballad. Your“energy meter” should even chartthe ramifications of the bassist usinga pick or fingers to perform his orher parts. Different feels, right? Youmay need to overrule a player’s preferencefor fingertips and nails if thesharp and consistent attack of a pickserves up the intensity you’re lookingfor. These are obvious examples, ofcourse, but the point is to zero in onthe energy you’d like the track tounleash, and share that information with the bassist. Otherwise, the player may default to personal preferences that don’t deliver the vibe you wish to achieve, and, ultimately,it’ll be the song that loses out.
Unless your bassist is John Entwistle,Jaco, Paul McCartney, Stanley Clarke,or a similar...