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petebassist

Recording the double bass

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The band I play with has been offered some free recording time in a studio, so I'm looking for some tips around recording my double bass, particularly around technique. When I practise pizzicato at home I notice things like finger noise more when moving up and down the strings, stuff that gets drowned out when I play live. Also, does anyone dampen bits of the bass for recording? Any pitfalls to avoid? I know this is probably a big topic, but any tips appreciated.

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53 minutes ago, petebassist said:

...some tips around recording my double bass, particularly around technique...

There'll be a difference between recording on your own and recording all together, but, essentially, if you've not got any experience of studio work, I'd recommend relying on the (hopefully vast...) experience of the sound engineer running the session. He will already know the studio room, the mics to choose and their placing, depending on the musical style you're looking for as a group. Finger noise won't be a problem; it's sometimes even added afterwards to make a recording a bit more 'roots'..! The mic positioning would deal with that, and it's the engi who'll know how to achieve the result wanted.
You'd be best served, I'd say, in having your bass parts down 'pat', and practised 'solo' if you're being tracked that way. The bass itself has to be in best form, of course, with no rattles or buzzes, and an acoustic tone suitable for the genre. Just relax, play your best and concentrate on the qualities that only you can provide; let the others each bring their own contribution, and have confidence.
Just my tuppence-worth; hope this helps. Have a blast...

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The best recording session I ever did on DB was a couple of years ago now. I was (and remain) far too inexperienced to modify my technique as between live and studio work, so I just played the bass. 

The professional sound engineer knew exactly what he was doing, and my playing has never sounded so good. 

He close-mic'd my Anton Zeller with a microphone which cost roughly twice as much as my bass. It all seemed to turn out alright.

 

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Just play. You'll play worse if you worry too much about technique. Let the engineer worry about miking. 

The only thing I can recommend is to be mindful of your breathing. I don't know how many acoustic instrument takes have been trashed by a sniffle or someone who holds their breath through one section only to breathe out really loudly once they've nailed the passage. It's really bad with acoustic guitar and violin, not as much with bass, but just be mindful that you aren't huffing and puffing, coughing and groaning behind your bass.

Most important though is to practice beforehand, know your parts, come prepared, be nice to the studio staff, have fun, and tune often! 

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2 hours ago, jposega said:

I don't know how many acoustic instrument takes have been trashed by a sniffle or someone who holds their breath through one section only to breathe out really loudly once they've nailed the passage.

:lol:

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When we recorded our album the engineer put about four different microphones near the bass in various positions and had a feed from the bridge piezo. He then used a mix of whatever sounded best. All I had to worry about was playing :)

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3 hours ago, Maude said:

When we recorded our album the engineer put about four different microphones near the bass in various positions and had a feed from the bridge piezo. He then used a mix of whatever sounded best. All I had to worry about was playing :)

This is good info. We usually mic the room, close mic the bass, stick a SM58 wrapped in foam in the bridge and take a feed from the piezo. Then they usually mix one or all of it to get the sound.

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In my very limited experience, it's not worth bothering with the feed from the pickup and you should always go with the mic(s). Pickups work live because they're easy to use and don't feedback. But in a recording situation a mic will always sound much better.

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Hello Pete,

as you quite rightly said, this is a huge area, likely to mildly upset the connoisseur by relating my experience.

I’m no Milt Hinton, but I have recorded in a fair few studios, so I have formed an opinion which I transiently consider sensible (I.e. I may change my mind next week). 

I started out by being very particular about mic placements and now I’m of the school of thought of “stick the best mic you have a foot-and-a-bit away from my bridge and I will try to play my socks off”. That seems to work for me at the moment. Depending on your personality trait, you may also augment your chances of success by bribing/threatening the engineer. I feel being friendly works best...

what I find very important is to keep your cans at a minimum volume on one ear only, so you can hear yourself playing “in the real world” which is essential for tone and intonation.

your problem really lies on the mixing afterwards, when the bass may keep being pushed further and further back...you may want to keep the threats for that phase....

all of this may well be a load of rubbish of course. Most of all, have fun!

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Re: mic choice, don’t be afraid to try an omni small diaphragm condenser (one in Happy Jack’s video looks to be an Earthworks one). Mic doesn’t need to be physically big to have a big and deep sound... maybe quite the opposite ;)

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