Capturing the Double Bass

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Gingerlude
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Capturing the Double Bass

Post by Gingerlude » Sun Mar 20, 2011 11:14 am

Hey there all, I'm new to tape op and glad I found it. I am wrapping a record in the next three weeks here and sending it off to mastering... As I am listening back to the songs, I am realizing that the capture of the upright bass is just not cutting it. This means I have about 12 overdubs to do along with the usual post-production.
The tracks aren't terrible (and maybe I have just listened to them to many times) but I want to know what I can do to get a more realistic sound out of the recordings.
The bass is nothing special--a decent laminate dealie--with Golihur bridge/fingerboard pickup. I'm running ProTools 8 with an mbox2 (2 recording channels). I have an MXL 4000 condenser mic, an MXL 603S condenser (cardoid), and SM57 & 58. I have a tube pre-amp but I usually just go straight to mbox2. Any advice or helpful strategies would be much appreciated. Thankyee!

ps - If you want to take a listen, I'd be happy to share on my dropbox acct. I don't have mp3's and the wave files are to big to post here. Let me know :)

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Post by E-money » Sun Mar 20, 2011 11:42 am

How did you track the bass the first time through?
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Post by Gingerlude » Sun Mar 20, 2011 11:52 am

Just the golihur two element pickup...

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Post by johnny7 » Sun Mar 20, 2011 12:29 pm

Standup bass pickups are okay for live situations, but not for recording imho.
Get you mics out and play around. I do a ton of rockabilly and western swing with standup bass, usually gut strings. Ribbon mics work down near the bridge best for me.
Sometimes I will also use a condenser up near the shoulder for additional colors, particularly if the cut has a lot of slapping.


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Post by standup » Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:01 pm

I'd probably start with the 603 and point it at the bass in a couple of places until you hear something that works. What I usually do is point the mic at the treble side F hole from about a foot away. The bass side may work, and you can also try pointing it more-or-less at the bridge. An engineer recorded my bass a long time ago with a KM184 at chest level pointed at the fingerboard, and on that day that's what worked.

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Post by jgimbel » Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:44 pm

Yeah the 603 is what I'd be trying. It's got a pretty wide cardioid pattern so you may be able to get a good picture of the bass, versus something with a really tight pattern where you're getting mostly the sound of just the strings or just the fingers or just the body, etc. I had an MXL4000 for a few years, and based on my experience with it, it wouldn't be my first choice. The 603 is a pretty natural sounding mic anyway with really good bass response for an SDC, I'd try that.
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Post by frans_13 » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:41 am

This is how I do it: get my isolation headphones on and listen to the mic while I position it. A lot of times the mic ends up roughly at the bridge with some distance to capture the lot. Isolation headphones take the trial-and-error guesswork out of the question. If there's slap going on, a second mic at the fretboard of maybe even some pickup signal with a severe low cut (and sometimes hicut) comes handy.

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Post by joninc » Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:37 am

fwiw - i recorded a bunch of cheap/laminate uprights and never started getting a good sound until i started taking the pickup to a sansamp. it totally filled in the midrange and added a lot of clarity to the picture where the mics where getting mostly rumbly deep lows or slappy fingernoise top end.
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:00 am

I just tracked upright this morning. I've tried all kinds of approaches in the past (everything from d12 on the F hole and a U87 up top to a EV 664 wrapped in a towel and wedged between the tailpeice and the body). This time I used a modded Octava 219 at chest level angled down towards the bridge and a few feet back from the bass. I went straight into the board, no eq, and then into an LA3A for some very light compression. Sounded great and it's sitting very well in the track.

It's worth saying that the arrangement plays a big roll in how good the upright will sound. It needs way more sonic space than an electric bass does and to my ears it's most important info is in the low mids. I find the low end on lots of uprights can be boomy and unfocussed. Woofy would be a good word for it (if it is in fact a word).
Let the kick handle the deep lows and make sure there's lots of room in the low mids for the upright.

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Post by Neal » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:15 am

Upright bass has been one of the most challenging things to make sound good in my experience. Jazz will require a different approach than a classical piece and will be different than a country/rockabilly thing. Depending on the player and the instrument, a small condenser towards the end of the fingerboard has worked; so has a large condenser by the bridge. A good ribbon by the f-hole can sound pretty sweet but it can get boomy real quick. Just a matter of experimentation. I know that's not a whole lotta help. If you had more inputs I'd say maybe try combining with the DI, but with 2 channels, 2 mics might be best if you can find the right spots. Since he's retracking just the bass, you could get away with being further back to capture the whole instrument. Most times that Ive recorded upright, it has been with a combo all playing in the same room, in which case bleed becomes a major factor/problem.

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Post by ott0bot » Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:46 pm

Great suggestion so far! I did this a couple years back at my home studio with an mbox when I had much more limited equipment. Definately combinding several different mics and a DI is best in my opinion...and since you are limited to 2....my suggestion would be as follows.

Find some decent think pieces of foam. Wrap enough of it around the MXL 4000 so that it fits snug into the bridge of the bass. Aim the mic at the body of the bass. This will be your body mic with the majority of your low end, and you really wont have any fret noise or room sound in that mic. You could go with the DI here too, but I've found that you don't keep as much of the low end and it sounds a little less natural. I used a AKG perception 200 on my recordings, and it worked nicely. I believe I used an ART Tube MP project series for the pre amp.

Then have the bass player move around the room and play his bass in several locations to find where in the room he sounds best. Keep in mind you'll want the back of the room mic as far away from the wall as possible. One you've found a good spot, aim that sdc towards the bass from around chest level. Put some head phones on a move it around when the track is solo'd, then add in the body mic and see if you need a little more distance on the sdc. This will be your room mic and will get your fret noise, slaps, and some decent higher freq harmonics. I used a Stuido Projects C4 with the cardiod capsule. I ended engaging the low pass on this mic just to keep the room noise under control.

On a future recording, when I had more inputs I added the DI as a kind of mid tone mic, and added the Massey Tape-Head plug for some saturation with added harmonics.

Blended together, and panned for phase, with some eq and light compression, I got a really nice realistic sound, but with aggresive enough tone keep it getting lost in the mix. I'll try to post link of one of the songs I did when I'm at home.

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Post by Scodiddly » Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:59 pm

There's a lot of air woofing in and out of those f-holes. I've found it best to point across the body instead of at it for that reason. The mic stuffed under the tailpiece works surprisingly well, as others have already suggested. Or maybe a fairly directional mic near the bottom of an f-hole, but pointed up and across the body instead of into the hole.

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Post by Gingerlude » Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:39 pm

I am overwhelmed (in a good way) at all the detailed advice from all of you! Tomorrow I will record some test tracks with most of these set ups and determine which will work best with the songs. I will update this thread with anything that comes up from my trial-and-error session tomorrow. Seriously, thanks to all for the headstart on this!

ps- some gear that I forgot to mention that could be useful... Fishman Platinum Pro EQ, K&K Plus Dual Channel Mixer (for the Golihur pickups), and a 2 channel tube pre amp.

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Post by Gingerlude » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:30 pm

"Wrap enough of it around the MXL 4000 so that it fits snug into the bridge of the bass. Aim the mic at the body of the bass."


OK, I have it in there snug... Omni setting seemed to make sense to me but I noticed in the above description you mention aiming it towards the body (suggesting cardioid or polar). Any comments?[/i]

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Post by ott0bot » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:44 pm

Gingerlude wrote:
"Wrap enough of it around the MXL 4000 so that it fits snug into the bridge of the bass. Aim the mic at the body of the bass."


OK, I have it in there snug... Omni setting seemed to make sense to me but I noticed in the above description you mention aiming it towards the body (suggesting cardioid or polar). Any comments?[/i]
cardiod is better. You want the body sound, and omni will get more room even though it'll muffled through the foam. Plus the proximity effect will increase the bass response, and get some more low frequencies up in that business.

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