My first day as a real engineer rather than an assistant was all about bass. The engineer (who was the studio manager as well) took a break after we recorded basic tracks on a Salsa song.
Before leaving the room he told me to punch where the bassist wanted. I started, and was easily able to hear and punch individual notes rather than whole phrases.
A few times I disagreed about which note was pulling the groove off but punched where I was told anyway.
After doing the punches, the bassist and producer agreed that we should have punched what I indicated instead, and we had to punch BOTH notes…the one that was originally out and the one we “fixed”.
After a while, I realized that the engineer should have returned. I turned around to see him sitting in the back of the room watching. When I jumped up and said, “Oh sorry, I didn’t see you” he told me, “I’ve been watching…sit back down, ‘cause it’s now YOUR gig.”
In order to be able to punch the bass, you have to capture it first. There are two aspects to recording electric bass - direct or putting a mic in front of the bass amp’s speaker.
Recording electric bass using a direct box is rather simple. The problem many people encounter is too much compression. I tend to use slight compression to smooth out the transients (usually caused by popping techniques and uneven notes) rather than try to force every note to be the exact same volume.
Although I know many people that automatically crank up as much bottom as possible on every direct Bass they record, I usually add a little 100 Hz (WHEN NEEDED) and also a little bump at around 3-5k (AGAIN, WHEN NEEDED) so the “note” comes through more clearly. Sometimes I will add a little higher frequency to hear more of the “finger attack” or “pick.”
My favorite signal path for recording direct electric bass is a Neve 1073 or 1081 mic pre going into an LA2A, with just enough compression that the needle stays at zero but drops down no more than 2-3 dB at times.
The trouble with trying to compress and squeeze every note to be the same volume when recording is that you may end up losing some of the tone and dynamics of the performance.
YOU CAN ALWAYS COMPRESS MORE OR DIFFERENTLY DURING THE MIX. ALTHOUGH YOU MAY BE ABLE TO MAKE A “FLAT” SOUND MORE FULL, YOU CAN NEVER UNDO COMPRESSION.