Acoustic Guitar and Stand-up Bass w/ bow in a Bathroom

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Acoustic Guitar and Stand-up Bass w/ bow in a Bathroom

Post by kingmetal » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:51 am

I've never recorded stand-up bass before, let alone a bowed stand-up bass - but a good friend of mine would like to re-record an impromptu live set he did in the ladies room of a venue that is very near and dear to both of our hearts and I'm pretty excited about it. Specifics:

Location: Public bathroom
Instruments: Acoustic Guitar / vocalist (same person), stand-up bass played with a bow

They're 1-take wonders, these two, so it's going to very much be a point-and-shoot operation going into a single ADAT black face out of my 01V96. I'm not even going to bother giving the musicians headphones. They want a LOT of room-tone.

My mic cabinet is pretty sparse, but I've got a pair of DPA 4061s that I think would do pretty well as direct-instrument mics, I've got some SUPER sensitive B&K omni measurement mics that are nice and flat and honest (I'm thinking room mics) and my friend sounds pretty decent through my AKG Perception 200 so I was thinking of using that for vox. My co-worker just offered me a pair of Oktava MC012s, which I'm pretty stoked about but I've never used before. Other than that I've got a Rode NT1A, a couple of SM57s, a Sennheiser E602 and some random cheapo condensers (MXL990s, things like that).

I'm looking for tips - my plan at this point is to just throw up a couple of room mics and try to direct mic all the instruments and the vox to give myself a little bit of control, but I think the sound that we're going for is more room than direct. I've never really done a primarily room-mix before, phase issues aside is there anything I should really be careful about?

What's the best way to mic the stand-up? I've got some rubber contact pads for my 4061s that I was thinking of using, but I've never used them before so I don't even know where to start or what to expect. ANY advice about tracking this session would be greatly appreciated and feel free to treat me like I don't have a clue what I'm doing, because I don't. This is going to be fun!

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Post by the finger genius » Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:02 pm

I'm a big fan of room mics, but in a bathroom, I think it could be very easy to go overboard on ambience. I'd make sure that you're close mics are usable on their own, and try a few things with the room mics until you find something that works.

Also, I'm assuming there's a pretty great story behind all this (wanting to record in the ladies room, etc....) What gives?
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Post by kingmetal » Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:28 pm

the finger genius wrote:I'm a big fan of room mics, but in a bathroom, I think it could be very easy to go overboard on ambience. I'd make sure that you're close mics are usable on their own, and try a few things with the room mics until you find something that works.

Also, I'm assuming there's a pretty great story behind all this (wanting to record in the ladies room, etc....) What gives?
Yeah I'm a little worried about the room mics being too roomy, so I'm going to try for kind of a "close room mic" set up first. I've got 8 tracks to use, so I'm thinking I may have a couple of pairs up and just use whatever sounds best in the end. These boys like to work fast, so I'm not going to be able to really tweak things a whole lot.

The story behind the bathroom, as I'm told, is that a skeezy producer / booking agent that my friend was attempting to work set up and started to promote a show at a bar in Petaluma, CA (where we're both from), but when my friend showed up to play the bar didn't know anything about a show and promptly booted him and his bassist out on the streets. The owner/operator of the Phoenix Theater, Tom Gaffey, noticed them wandering around with their instruments and told them they were welcome to play at the Phoenix to whomever wanted to show up while he was closing up and my friend decided to play a tiny show in the ladies' room (because, quite frankly, the men's room is an absolute disaster!). They happened to have a little stereo recorder with them and they recorded the whole set and they'd like to record a version with better gear and possibly get it released.

The ladies room at the Phoenix is semi-famous only because the men's room is in such a sorry state most of the time. I've used it many a time myself over the years.

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Post by Professor » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:50 pm

From what I've seen & heard, the most common mistake people tend to make with very reverberant spaces is that they immediately reach for the omni mics and tend to put them further away in the room than they should be placed.
I'm guessing the reason you're interested in using the bathroom is that it's very live, and because of the personal connection for the musicians, not because of it's character, smell, or other reasons. If that's the case, then consider something less live for any room mic pair, such as an XY pair, maybe a mono cardioid, or if you really want to use the omnis then pull them in closer. Remember that in general that with an omni and cardioid placed at the same location, the omni will sound like it is about 1.7x further from the sound source based on how much direct vs. reflected sound it captures. So if you're going to use them, don't push further away than you would for an XY pair... and you might even pull them in a little closer.

Now as for the close mics, I also have a set of the DPA 4061s, and I can't say that I usually reach for them for their tone. They are a mic of convenience in the studio and stealth on the stage. You might use yours more often as that is just my opinion - but I've found them to be plain, maybe a little bright, and very revealing up close to something like an acoustic guitar or upright bass. I have tried them on the bass and it's alright but can be a weird, and with a bow you will get a lot of surface noise of the bow pulling the strings. Either that Rode, AKG or Sennheiser might be a better choice to try first on the bass. Or better still, use one of those and the 4061 so that you can choose the best sounding mic when you mix down.
As for the guitar, it's always a good idea to start with your favorite mic and maybe add something else you don't know so that you can learn the sound of a new mic and have options when you mix.

Other than that, I think the best advice would be to keep the flushing to a minimum and don't get in there too soon after the Saturday night crowd.

-Jeremy

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Post by kingmetal » Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:46 pm

Professor wrote:From what I've seen & heard, the most common mistake people tend to make with very reverberant spaces is that they immediately reach for the omni mics and tend to put them further away in the room than they should be placed.
I'm guessing the reason you're interested in using the bathroom is that it's very live, and because of the personal connection for the musicians, not because of it's character, smell, or other reasons. If that's the case, then consider something less live for any room mic pair, such as an XY pair, maybe a mono cardioid, or if you really want to use the omnis then pull them in closer. Remember that in general that with an omni and cardioid placed at the same location, the omni will sound like it is about 1.7x further from the sound source based on how much direct vs. reflected sound it captures. So if you're going to use them, don't push further away than you would for an XY pair... and you might even pull them in a little closer.

Now as for the close mics, I also have a set of the DPA 4061s, and I can't say that I usually reach for them for their tone. They are a mic of convenience in the studio and stealth on the stage. You might use yours more often as that is just my opinion - but I've found them to be plain, maybe a little bright, and very revealing up close to something like an acoustic guitar or upright bass. I have tried them on the bass and it's alright but can be a weird, and with a bow you will get a lot of surface noise of the bow pulling the strings. Either that Rode, AKG or Sennheiser might be a better choice to try first on the bass. Or better still, use one of those and the 4061 so that you can choose the best sounding mic when you mix down.
As for the guitar, it's always a good idea to start with your favorite mic and maybe add something else you don't know so that you can learn the sound of a new mic and have options when you mix.

Other than that, I think the best advice would be to keep the flushing to a minimum and don't get in there too soon after the Saturday night crowd.

-Jeremy
This is a lot of really great advice and I really appreciate it! I haven't used the 4061s more than a couple of times and I'm really not much experienced with them. I like their honesty from what I've heard and that's what I'm hoping will come through but I will for sure try several mics on each instrument. I hadn't really considered the bow noise, that could be really bad (or really good). I'm hoping that I can just get away with just the littlest bit of the instrument mics in the mix, but I don't know if that will sound too weird or not. Any thoughts on placement for the 4061s? Have you used the boundary pads for them at all?

Having 8 tracks means that I'll at least have some options. I think my plan is going to be to throw up as many mics as I can and just only use what sounds good (might as well, right?). The sennheiser on the bass sounds like a great idea and I'll play around with some XY configurations with those B&K mics at home, that also sounds like a great idea. Thanks again for your input!!

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Post by Professor » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:08 pm

An XY pair with the B&K omnis won't work because omnis don't work for an XY pair - you need directional mics so you have a volume difference for what is on-axis to one mic and off-axis to the other. And as it happens, I was thinking of the e609 and not the e602. One of the really big drawbacks to purpose-built kick-drum mics is that they rarely sound good on kick drum and are often useless for anything else because they have a really strange and sever EQ curve built into the mic. Of course, after saying that I would also say that if you haven't tried it on acoustic bass, and if you don't have another mic available to try out, then stick it on there and see what you get.

As for the 4061s, if you haven't used them much, then put one on each instrument to hear what they can do. If the guitarist will let you use the stick-on holder then try that at about 2 o'clock on the tone hole where it will get the air coming from there, the fingers on the strings and a bit of the brightness coming down the fret board. And that should also keep it out of the way of the player's right hand.
For the bass, that little rubber block that is meant to clamp around two strings works really great for bass. Place it below the bridge and on the inside (between strings and instrument body) aiming the mic up towards the bridge. That will get a good balance of tone, reduce some of the scratchiness of the bow, and stay out of the way of the player.

Another really important thing to consider when you're trying to 'capture a space' (especially when it's a space as weird as a bathroom) is to take a lot of time placing the performers in the room. It might help to get them closer to one of the walls, or maybe push them into one of the corners. Make sure that you like the sound when you're standing in front of them and maybe experiment with switching who is on the left and who is on the right. If you can can position them to get a really great balance like what you would want to hear on a recording, then you should only need to stick a microphone when your head was in the room to capture a great sound. Think of an orchestra on stage - the best balance of sound is usually really close to where the conductor is standing because he has arranged the ensemble and adjusted their balance to the sound he wants - place the mics above his head and you're usually about 90% of the way there. Same thing for you in the bathroom, except you are the one who should be moving them around to create the best balance. Maybe it will work best to place them face to face with a single omni room mic in the middle, and a couple of close mics on each for tone & experimenting.

And yes, as long as you have 8 tracks on a linear machine, you might as well feed each of them a signal. Mostly that's because you're recording on location and won't be likely to want to lug out all the gear, setup a different way, and record again a week or two later. Also the worst that could happen is that you hear a sound that is terrible, catalog in your head not to use that mic on that instrument again, mute the track and move on. The best thing that could happen is that you capture something really great you didn't expect to get from that mic & instrument combination, then catalog that in your head, and blend the track into the final mix.

-Jeremy

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Post by kingmetal » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:01 pm

Wow I just had a head-slapping moment about the X-Y configuration - duh, of course that won't work! Thanks for setting me straight.

Yeah I actually tell people I have an e609 all the time by accident - I hate how the E series is named! So impossible to remember. I really haven't been impressed at all with the e604, but I'm going to throw it on the bass for sure. There's got to be SOME use for that thing! I don't track drums very often (can't even remember how / why I bought the damn thing) so I'm not even convinced it's a particularly good kick mic. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but at least it's got some low-end pickup.

I don't have that little rubber piece (my kit comes with two boundary layer pads instead of it) but sweetwater has them for $7 so I'll pick one up. Sounds worth it!

Your single omni with the players on either side of the mic idea sounds like it could be fun. I'm a little worried about moving the musicians around too much, but I will use my ears and and think of things in terms of my listening position. Maybe I should just wire up a binaural head clamp and just stand in the room...

What a trip that would be! maybe some other time (when I have more mics!). Too bad the head-transform would only really work for my head.

The mic on the guitar should be about 2 o' clock with the mic facing towards the sound-hole, yes? That's a good tip - I've never really felt comfotable putting mics on instruments but I think that's what those little 4061s are best at (although I swear they worked great once as drum overheads).

Once again, I really appreciate you taking the time to give me such detailed and extensive advice!

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Post by Professor » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:29 pm

Hmm, never tried my 4061 as overheads, but I suppose they would work. I tried sticking one inside the vent hole on a sealed bass drum once and it didn't work out at all. I do use them inside my 9-foot piano at the studio when I have to do a lid-closed recording because of other instruments in the room and they work very well when I get the placement right. It took some trial & error, but once I found the two spots I stopped using the magnet holders and stuck a couple of the sticky pads in there permanently.
Possibly the most humorous place those little mics ended up was in the wheel wells of my pickup truck (and two other cars) to capture sounds for a film soundtrack I worked on a while back. Magnetic holders at the top of the well, preamp bodies gaff-taped to the hood, and mic cables running into the cab to hit a Tascam HD-P2 recorder. That was lots of fun.

-J

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Post by kingmetal » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:37 pm

That sounds like a blast! Those little mics are just begging to get put someplace weird and I really need to start taking better advantage of them. I'm really interested to try the boundary pads that mine came with - although I can't imagine they sound anything like a real boundary mic.

I really must TALK less about recording and TRY more stuff.

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Post by JWL » Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:46 am

For the bass, try taking a mic (condensor or dynamic), rolling it up in a sheet of foam or something, and pressure-fitting the mic/foamball underneath the bridge, between the strings and the body of the bass. Experiment with placement and mic selection to get the best sound. Ideally, use a directional mic and point the null toward the guitarist/singer.

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Post by teleharmonium » Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:12 pm

I'm an upright bass player first. I always mic the bass on the treble side, on the upper bout, above and further away from the vertical center line of the bass compared to where the f hole is, maybe 4 inches from the bass. The player needs to stand reasonably still while playing for this to work well, obviously. I tend to angle myself away from the mic when I'm about to hit a big low note, and get closer for delicate parts, for a little bit of player controlled volume automation. For a bright sounding bass, you can try miking the lower part of the body.

Miking over the bridge can be good for bowed stuff if the player has good bow technique, but it tends to not provide enough bottom for pizz. I could see using a second mic over the bridge, but not only that mic. I haven't bothered in the past since I learned about the sweet spot. I have never liked stuffing a captive mic in the bridge or tailpiece, but some players do that exclusively. I do have a tiny condensor on a gooseneck clipped to my bridge, which is part of my pickup system for live use, but the FET LDCs kill it for recording.

Bear in mind that the top of the bass is like the speaker, and the f holes are like ports in the speaker cabinet, so you don't want to mic the f holes. The best results I have obtained were with a U47FET or a 4047. I have not tried a transformerless LDC yet on bass, nor a good tube mic, would like to. I've gotten decent results with dynamic mics sometimes and wouldn't cry about using an RE20 or a 421 or SM7 with a good pre.

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Post by ott0bot » Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:30 pm

JWL wrote:For the bass, try taking a mic (condensor or dynamic), rolling it up in a sheet of foam or something, and pressure-fitting the mic/foamball underneath the bridge, between the strings and the body of the bass. Experiment with placement and mic selection to get the best sound. Ideally, use a directional mic and point the null toward the guitarist/singer.
This works great with the akg perception 200 (which i know your planning on using for vocals) as the under bridge mic and a small diaphram condensor aimed near the middle of the fret board. I've used couple different ones and the studio projects c4(cardiod) and a sterling st319(hyper cardiod) had good results. You really get an amazing deep tone with the body mic then the higher tones with the small guy.

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Post by kingmetal » Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:58 pm

teleharmonium wrote:The player needs to stand reasonably still while playing for this to work well...
I've never met the player, but I think hes done some orchestral work before so I bet he'd behave. I will consider this mic technique.
teleharmonium wrote:Miking over the bridge can be good for bowed stuff if the player has good bow technique, but it tends to not provide enough bottom for pizz. I could see using a second mic over the bridge, but not only that mic.
This is really good to know. I know that my little DPA 4061 is going to go on the bridge for sure (just ordered the little bridge holder from Sweetwater!), but knowing that I may not get the low-end that I want is important to know since I REALLY want to make this thing sound big.

I'm assuming the LDC you're suggesting is cardiod?
teleharmonium wrote:Bear in mind that the top of the bass is like the speaker, and the f holes are like ports in the speaker cabinet, so you don't want to mic the f holes.
This is awesome and exactly what I need to know. While this is probably a no-brainer for most people (and I certainly know what ports do and whatnot) I had not been thinking about the instrument properly when considering how to mic it and this puts it in perspective. I'm not experienced enough to really be thinking about the instruments / sound sources as a whole yet. I'm still in that "learning to drive" phase where I've got tunnely vision and I'm way too worried about the frequency response of my mics and not thinking about how the physics of the instrument are actually working.
ott0bot wrote:This works great with the akg perception 200 (which i know your planning on using for vocals) as the under bridge mic and a small diaphram condensor aimed near the middle of the fret board. I've used couple different ones and the studio projects c4(cardiod) and a sterling st319(hyper cardiod) had good results. You really get an amazing deep tone with the body mic then the higher tones with the small guy.
Yay! Another Perception 200 user! Thanks for your first-hand account - I think you might have just convinced me to use the 200 as the body-mic for the bass. Good to know that in a pinch it will work well in the bridge - but I'm anxious to try my DPA 4061 in the bridge and I'll have the proper mounting hardware.

I really like the Perception 200 on my friend's voice though so I'm torn. My other option is a R0de NT1A which just does not work as well with my friend's voice. I'm sure I can work something out, and it certainly is reminding me that I need to get a hold of a nice vocal mic.

Thanks for the continued help everyone.

And now for an update: My friend would like to use his resonator instead of an acoustic guitar. I've never mic'd one of these before. The fun never stops! I'll probably have him bring it over and we'll try some things one it beforehand, but if anyone has an pro-tips I'd be grateful.

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Post by teleharmonium » Tue Feb 03, 2009 2:27 pm

kingmetal wrote:
I'm assuming the LDC you're suggesting is cardiod?
Yup. Good luck and please let us know how it goes.

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Post by bigtexasthriller » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:19 pm

Had some awesome results with a stand up bass, acoustic guitar and vox in a tile floor room by using just an NT2 on omni setting and finding the best place in the room and going live to one track...Basically let the great sounding room do most of the mixing....Probably had higher ceilings (12 feet) than you'll have and a bigger space, but I am a big fan of using as few microphones as possible....A gamble because you can't control it later, but you'll work harder to get a better sound in the first place.....Oh, and the dobro....if you mic that individually, remember that it's basically a speaker cone....you can think of it as a guitar cab and that might help.....
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