Setting volume and tone across all gear

Apologies if this subject has been specifically addressed elsewhere on the forum (I couldn’t spot it) …… I’m seeking advice from more professional players than I am re how best to set volume/EQ/etc. across all my gear. My problem is these settings can be addressed at multiple points in the chain e.g. at the bass itself, on various pedals, at the amp end etc. For example, I have a Fender Jazz 5-stringer running into a board that includes pedals like an MXR Bass Octaver, a Spectracomp Compressor, and a 10-band EQ (Boss EQ-200), and then into a Fender Rumble 100 amp. So many places to fiddle the tone and the volume, and there are so many possible permutations/combinations that my brain hurts! Yes, I know, “Just adjust until it sounds right!”, but is there any “formula” you pros would use that might involve, say, setting most controls to “neutral/0/null” and relying on one particular point in the chain to be the focal point for tone/volume? Or do I just endlessly fiddle and tweak? (The problem is made worse by the fact that I have multiple basses (but of course! :-), and multiple amps (extreme GAS at my house!).) …… Thanks for any wise/experienced words!


@alanjans I put this pretty basic guide together a while back.

How To Adjust Your Bass and Amp Sound - Gear - BassBuzz Forum

Let us know if this helps and if you have any other questions.


One thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to be using other amps when you play elsewhere, I’d try to keep amp EQ settings neutral so you don’t have to mess around which each amp you use.


I read the guide but what is still not clear is…
When you have multiple volume/gain knobs, what is better to have higher or lower FOR RECORDING.
I generally have my bass volume up all the way (no so for active basses though).
Pedals I get, unity gain is the goal.
So then there are the following:
Preamp Gain
Amp Gain
DAI Input Gain
DAW Input Fader
Is there a resource that addresses basic concepts for this?
I’m just winging it.

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For recording you want to shoot for an input level of between -12db to -6db, and then later bring that up in the DAW to where you want it to sit in the mix. How you get to that input level is up to you and what tone you are looking for in the bass. There is no formula for this - it’s all about what kind of tone you are looking for. Some things provide clean boosts (compressors, preamps, boost pedals) while others much less clean (overdrives, preamps with distortion, etc). The cleanest boost of all is the DAW, but if your input level is not high enough you will just be disproportionately amplifying noise in the DAW.

In general though your DAI is probably already optimized for this level - the level where the DAI just starts to clip is probably around -4 to -6dB input.

I usually record up around -6dB to -8dB.

You absolutely do not want to sit at over -4db or so on average while recording even if you don’t think you are clipping - you want plenty of headspace for transients.

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AH, I have been doing it backwards, targeting just under zero like -2 or -3 or to stay just under the backing track (wherever that is) and then bringing it DOWN in the mix.

Thanks @howard! Will start doing it the other way!


NP! It’s totally counterintuitive. Apparently most recording gear is optimized with their S/N sweet spot at around -6 to -12, to allow plenty of headspace for transients. I only learned this recently myself.

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Another thing that most DAWs provide as a common function is automatic track normalization - basically record the track, then select it and select to normalize it. This will bring the whole track up in volume until the peaks are at a reference point (usually -4db). This is useful for punching in multiple takes, to make sure their volumes are all a consistent level in the track (or across tracks if you do punchins like I do.)

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For settings -

Ignore all pedals and things in the chain.
The pedals should all work with the sound you like which you will get and dial in with only bass and amp.

There is no single setting that works for all songs and styles.
Set up for a good majority-of-the-time sound and set your amp sound to that.

The amp will not be tweaked during a live set (ideally).
The song-to-song adjustments should be done with your pickups and tone knobs on the bass.

The pedals then should be dialed in to the sounds you like on your bass and amp.

That’s my wise(maybe) and experienced (yes) advice!


@Gio I quoted you here for posterity… How To Adjust Your Bass and Amp Sound

@howard This is all good information.
Is there a master page of best practices with information like this?
Is putting together something like that even practical?

There’s a few threads on how to record. I don’t think this is captured anywhere other than odd posts here and there though.

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Let’s not forget the brilliant Leland Sklar effect…
Moving the plucking hand!
There’s another huge factor in the change-the-tone arsenal!!