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Old January 15th, 2009, 02:54 PM   #1
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Recording an Upright Bass

I'll be scoring our film noir comedy series soon, and have rented an upright bass for the pilot, rather than create the track with samples. (I'm a guitarist and electric bass player, and I'm on a self-taught crash course.) This will let me perform with more expression, using slides, slaps and snaps, than one can get with a keyboard or mouse.

My challenge is now to record the dang thing. I've got a large diaphragm Rode condenser and a good recording space. Now I have to figure out where to place the mic. I'm thinking that one foot from the f-hole would be about right.

I've also got a Sennheiser bass drum mic that I plan to place at the same distance from the bass (to minimize phasing), but near where I pluck the strings. The BD mic is wickedly scooped, and will get low tones, plus the plucks and snaps of the strings. Considering this, I need the Rode to capture the mid tones cleanly. I can then mix to taste.

If anybody has experience recording jazz bass players, I'd be curious to learn your tricks!
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Old January 15th, 2009, 04:04 PM   #2
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Jon,

Put one finger in one ear.
Have the bass player play the tune.
Move your head around until you hear what you want to hear.
Put the mics there.
Use the Rode on the upper bout.
Try the kick drum mic on the lower bout.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old January 15th, 2009, 04:15 PM   #3
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Thanks Ty!

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Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
Put one finger in one ear.
Have the bass player play the tune.
Move your head around until you hear what you want to hear.
Dang. I'll need to remove my head, as I'm both the player and the engineer. ;)

However, I can probably do this with an ear plug while I pluck an open string. And I can do this with headphones and moving the mic(s), using the open string trick.

Thanks again for offering this common sense approach.
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Old January 15th, 2009, 04:23 PM   #4
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Great stuff Jon. I'd record a bunch of tests, slating each time you try something new. Even ask another player to come by while you listen.

I'd have thought closer than 12" for the RODE, which model is it?

And maybe rent a direct pickup for the bridge for the string sounds, mix to taste. Separate tracks for all of course and is it solo bass or have other instruments on top?

What size bass is it? For 3/4 we used mics which emphasised the bottom end to try and avoid 'em sounding like cellos. AKG D12E was good.

Cheers.
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Old January 15th, 2009, 06:03 PM   #5
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Hi Allan,

The bass will be mixed with drums, piano and a touch of trumpet for the main theme (a la Chinatown and LA Confidential.) It's a comedy, so I plan to use the bass as punctuation between scenes.

The mic is a Rode NT1A. Nothing special, but it should get the job done. The kick drum mic is the Sennheiser e902, which is scooped to death. It has lots of low bass capability, but also captures high mids and low treble very well in order to get the snap of the beater. My son and I have found that it can be secret sauce in many recordings - even on power guitar alongside an SM57. Rather than trying to EQ in stuff that's barely there, we mix in the kick and EQ the amount of treble or bass that we want to add. It makes the SM57 alone sound rather thin. (And the e902 alone sounds hollow.)

I'll definitely capture on different channels and mix in post.

I might look into a pickup, if needed, but I'm looking for a dirty "fingers on the strings" kind of a sound. And I don't need to keep it from sounding like a cello. The bow stays in the case. ;)
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Old January 15th, 2009, 07:20 PM   #6
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Sounds good, yep having a bass track that has good mid/treble available is essential once you get everything else in the mix together. We used to play our stuff on a crapola to check the bass ;0

Are you scoring to pix?

Cheers.
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Old January 15th, 2009, 07:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post
Are you scoring to pix?
Yes. We're producing the pilot for "The Murder of Dirk Snowglobe." If we can complete it by the end of the month, we will enter it in the Seattle International Film Festival as a short. We will then produce the web series, based on the pilot.

The theme will have a Thelonious Monk / Miles Davis sound that will mix into a hip hop vibe and maybe a touch of metal for the modern urban feel. Dramatic underscore will be orchestral, but restrained.

Jazz instruments are my rental bass, the White Grand from SampleTekk, Larry Seyer's Acoustic Drums and The Trumpet from Sample Modeling. Check out the video on this page to see/hear why I've chosen it: Sample Modeling - The Trumpet

For the hip hop sound, I know a performing artist who I hope will be able to contribute. If he says it's authentic, it's authentic. The unique part will be the blended transitions between be-bop and hip-hop.

For orchestral scoring, I've got a collection that I've built over a number of years, including VSL's Appassionata Strings.

I'll use Sonar as the sequencer, GigaStudio 4 as the main sampler, and I'll do the live recording and final mix in Vegas.

I just hope I get some locked edits soon. I might not get much sleep as the deadline approaches...
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Old January 16th, 2009, 09:52 AM   #8
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Sounds like a great project! Just remember the NT1-A has a pretty hot output and it can sound a little brighter than the published frequency graph would indicate. Hopefully you've got enough trim range in your mic inputs to handle both the hot Rode and the dynamic Sennheiser and you can find the sweet spot for both. You might need an attenuator on hand for the Rode if your mic input trim can't handle the close position and the heavily punctuated playing.
What are you using for the mic preamp?
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Old January 16th, 2009, 11:39 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jay Massengill View Post
What are you using for the mic preamp?
Hi Jay,

I'm recording through my Mackie 1402-VLZ Pro into an M-Audio Audiophile 192, which I'll run at 24 bits. I can pad the mic as needed to stay within the dynamic range. If things get too noisy, I have an outboard compressor that I can insert, though I'd prefer to manage the levels in post.

I recorded some drum rides last night, and walked some bass lines to it until my fingers were sore. I'm starting to get the feel of this beast! The challenge isn't that its fretless - I've played a fretless electric here and there over the past 25 years. The challenge is that the scale it so much larger than I'm used to, and it plays slower than an electric. The action is high and the strings far apart, so I have to play with more anticipation than I'm used to.

I can't wait to get some locked edits, so I can get down to business!
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