Do You Have To Change Set Up Between A Live Set Up And A Studio Set-Up

General tips on the difference between studio and live bass guitar set up from session musician Alex Kehoe.

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Session Musician Q and A

3. Do You Have To Change Your Set Up Between A Live Set Up And A Studio Set-Up?

Depending on the sort of music you are playing when playing live, you won't need to do much other than set up your initial sound on the bass and amp at the start and slightly tweak them both between songs as required. I tend to use just an overdrive pedal that I would have already set up at the start ready for any point when I want to kick in with a nice beefy distortion sound. You can have as many pedals as you wish for live shows as long as you know how to adjust them to get that sound you want for a particular song. I would certainly recommend setting them all up prior to starting the show and, even better, before you have even sound checked. The reason behind this is because the best way to work out how to get all the different sounds is to literally experiment and during your band's sound check is not the time to be doing that!

Another useful bit of kit to have is a tuner with a built in by-pass. Do you ever hear your favorite bands playing in front of 1000s of people doing the familiar and annoying "I'm tuning a guitar" tune? No, because someone has most likely just passed them a completely different guitar in between songs that's all ready to go! If you don't have the luxury of other guitars, then a tuner with a by-pass to mute the guitar as you tune it will be more than adequate and will stop you sounding like an amateur. I have a by-pass tuner built into my amp but I also own a tuning pedal with a by-pass just in case I end up not using my own amp if, for example, I'm playing a festival or larger venue.

In the studio it would again depend on whether you know what sort of music you might end up playing that day and the sort of sound that will be needed. If you are recording with your band then you will already have a good idea of the sort of sound you want to create and hopefully by now, know how to create it. If you do have a specific sound that you are happy with, then bring along your pedals and your amp to the studio and they'll mic up your amp to record your individual sound. If creating an individual distinctive sound isn't needed and you're simply using a clean bass tone, then all you will need is your bass and a lead to plug into one of the studio POD inputs. Despite not having any obvious effect on the guitar, it is still worth having a play to get the kind of tone you want or you could just use one of the pre-saved sounds that undoubtedly the studio will have. Some musicians turn their nose up at using amp models (digital programming that emulates the sound of a particular amp or instrument) and prefer to have their bass amp mic'd up to give a more authentic sound. These days however, amp models are so accurate that I don't think anyone can really tell the difference if they're honest other than perhaps the amp model giving you a more clear and powerful end product.

Taking that idea one step further, and this is more for those wishing to become session musicians, if you are showing up for a studio job on day one and you don't know what kind of sound the artist/producer will be after, take all of your gear with you. That means every decent guitar, peddle and even amp you own provided they all offer a slightly different sound, tone or effect. This is by no means essential and don't go thinking you Have to buy lots of equipment in order to be a successful musician because you most certainly do not! The reason I say bring everything is because it gives the artist more options for trying to create the overall sound they desire for their song. For example, I once had a job with an artist who was recording songs that had an "old school" reggae feel to them. I initially played with my personal active four-string preference but then suggested that by using my old passive bass that I just so happened to bring along, I could give a softer sound more in keeping with the song. The artist was more than pleased with the improved sound which in turn led to a happy producer and subsequently more jobs followed for most importantly showing that I was doing everything I could to make the end user happy. Once again I emphasis that lots of guitars and pedals are Not a must, but can certainly come in useful from time to time.

Sometimes you will go into a studio and the producer or engineer will have a set up that he wants you to use. This can be frustrating especially if you are an experienced player with great gear and your own great sound. It can be difficult to handle this situation with grace, but this is actually the limitation of the producer or engineer. They know that they can get a sound that will be easy to mix with their own gear, and don't want to take extra time to have to deal with your gear with which they are completely unfamiliar. If you're getting paid then it's probably best to just go with what they want you use and maintain a professional attitude. If it's your own recording though it's completely up to you the way the track gets recorded within reason!

If you're a little newer to the studio game and you aren't sure about creating a nice bass sound don't be afraid to ask the producer or studio tech as getting a nice recorded sound is their job and they'll be able to help you out with no problem at all. If you do ask for help though, make sure you watch what they do and listen to any advice they have to give so that next time you won't need anyone's help at all.

Join the mailing list on my site and receive my Exclusive article "How to Turn your Amateur Band into a Professional Band". Got a bass related question you would like me to write about? Feel free to email me at with the subject header "Session Question" and I'll endeavor to get it answered.

By Alex Kehoe,

Copyright 2012 Alex Kehoe

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