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Need some advice on recording a double bass. Anyone?
Old 11th February 2008
Lives for gear

Need some advice on recording a double bass. Anyone?

I am going to be recording this: Double bass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Since my time will be limited on setting it all up and recording the performerance, and since I have no experience in recording a double bass - I thought I would ask for some tips on Gearslutz.

Where is the "main" position I would place the microphone? Are there any common techniques to follow to get the best sound when recording a double bass?

I have alot of Blue microphones, I have the violet globe, AKG c414, some shure mics and the RODE M3, and some preamps that I can use for this. Anyone of these mics that you feel could be the best to use?

Im not expecting to do a pro recording on this one, mostly trying to pick up enough tips and info here, so that in the few hours I have - I can hopefully come out with something useful. ;-)

Any help or suggestions are highly appreciated..

Thanks in advance! :-)
Old 11th February 2008

Use a mic with good low frequency extension - and put it on a shock mount.

Then, try different positions. If you have a huge room, great - put the bass 10-15 feet from any wall and position the mic a foot away and listen. If you are in a small room, you'll just have to try moving around untill the bass response is decent.


Old 11th February 2008
Lives for gear

What style of music? Fingers or bow? Live performance? Other instruments present? Is the bass being amplified? My reason for all the questions is that live requires a different approach than studio since isolation is essentially impossible in a live situation, and a double bass doesn't put out a huge amount of acoustic energy. I know some upright players who swear by lavalier mics for live situations. In the studio, I have good luck with an LDC about 12-18" from the instrument, usually where the player plucks or bows, but every instrument is different, and if it's a growler and the player wants to capture the growl, concentrate on the neck more than the body. Pretend your ears are the mic as to helping determine placement. Omni can yield some nice tone, but cardioid may be necessary for rejecting other sources. Good luck with it, upright tends to be a challenge overall.
Old 12th February 2008
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celticrogues's Avatar

It would help to know what kind of music you were recording but I've gotten good results from an AT2020 (yes i know but it worked!) at about tailpiece height - about a foot away and aimed up at the bridge - this gave a cool pizzicato sound for some jazz work and a nice defined bow sound for some film score work.

Old 12th February 2008
Lives for gear
vernier's Avatar
From what I've read, some of the top-dog old-timers used a Western Electric 639A.
Old 12th February 2008
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asagaai's Avatar
[quote=perx;1830516]Where is the "main" position I would place the microphone? Are there any common techniques to follow to get the best sound when recording a double bass?

I have alot of Blue microphones, I have the violet globe, AKG c414, some shure mics and the RODE M3, and some preamps that I can use for this. Anyone of these mics that you feel could be the best to use?

Hi Perx-I have done a little double bass recording. Firstly, double bass is a soft dark instrument, so generally a hard bright mike I have found good to get a nice tone out of it. I mike that is dark with a large bottom can be too overpowering in the mix.

Generally, I use a LDC about 1 foot out from the the meat of the body between the sound holes, and try omni/ardoid. This picks up the meat.

Secondly, I generally like a little string strum, so I place a SDC and profile it in close to follow the neck upwards. This distance and difference in target focus avoids phasing with LDC. You then mix in this mike with the LDC to taste.

I generally use optical compressors on tracking with about 3 db reduction, not too fast a release, and I like a slow attack.

Your M3 should be good-as I suspect it will be bright. One of the best tracking of a double bass I did was using a rode NT 2000 as teh LDC, and a NT3 as the LDC. The NT3 is a horrid brittle piece, but on double bass it excells-ie bright mike with dark instrument.

I have tried various other better mikes, including Pearlman TM1 (tooo tooo much low) and beyer M160s, and I keep coming back to the rodes, because the double bass just sits right and does not need cutting and much eq. The M160s are nice on neck pointing up, but the NT3 cut the mix better.

Another thing, when the double bass player sets up, get him to play around varous spots in the room, he will know when he hits the spot-you want to avoid an area where muddy bass builds, you want to find the spot where the bass is nice and textured without the build up, but also as alive as possible.

Good luck

Old 12th February 2008
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Gerax's Avatar

I have done the major part of the recording for an independent classical label focusing on double bass (NBB Records).
A lot depends on the style, the player and the ensemble, but I found that a good starting point is to use an LD condenser mic (I favor Neumann U87, AKG C414 B-ULS, or my trusty BLUE Baby Bottle), and a clean, high headroom preamp (I had good success with Focusrite ISA428). Positioning depends a lot on the above mentioned factors, but I usually start by placing the mic 1' in front of the instrument, pointing at the f hole on the right side (looking the instrument). Then it's up to tweaking the angle untill you find the exact sweet spot; be careful not to get into the player's way, if hes using a bow. I have to say that for classical purposes this is not the only mic, as the overall sound of the instrument (or instruments) + room is captured by a stereo main pair, and that the close mic is the spot used to give focus and defiinition to that particular voice. In acoustic music I almost never track without the main stereo pair, even if afterwards, in mixing, I keep it low and use mainly spot mics (in case of a denser mix). For jazz it' usually 50/50.
Lately I've experimented with a DPA 4061, which, as tiny as it may seem has an excellent low end response, and is so small that can be fit on the soundboard of the bass without impeding movement or anything usually down the middle, looking up at the bridge. The sound is incredibly natural for such a close positioning. I had a string quartet I work with get one for each member and learn how to mount the mics on their instruments for live performances where they need sound reinforcement; I cannot follow them on each gig they do, at least this way I know the source is capture correctly.

Hope this helps

Old 12th February 2008
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leaper's Avatar

One thing to add, is that if the bass player will be playing live with a band they quite often migrate to the corners of rooms. They hear their own instrument better when it's resonating in a corner. If this is what it takes for a contrabass player to feel good..then okay. However, choice of mic and position might differ. I've had success with a single AKG 414, Coles 4038 (but careful with placing..figure of 8). Single mics are placed for a balanced sound between bridge and soundhole. Combinations of 414, Neumann 149 with RE 20...(RE 20 being the closest mic) can also work.
Wrapping a thick elastic band around the base of a LDC and bridge of bass you can suspend something like a TLM 103 or 414 between bridge and soundboard. This works nice in combination with another LDC placed about a foot away.
Many bass players have their own system that they use for amplification when playing live. My advice is to try it out first of all..sometimes they can sound great in combination with one of your mics.
Old 12th February 2008
Lives for gear
gainstages's Avatar
i once did a remote gig where i was told i'd be recording grand piano and a vocalist - it was a live opera performance. so i showed up and found out that i also had a string quartet - violin, viola, cello, and bass. with no time to run back to the studio i had to be creative. I used a cheap overhead spaced pair setup in stereo, then, I had a cheap audio technica kick drum mic that i placed on the ground in the center of the 1/2 circle that they were seated in, and aimed it in the direction of the bass and up.

when mixing i inverted the phase on the floor mic and blended it in with the overheads and it was unbelievable how good it sounded. it really really surprised me how good it sounded - i was lucky i had a couple extra mics in my bag that day, even if they were just cheapos...
Old 12th February 2008
Gear Maniac
geoff004's Avatar

Here are a couple things to try-

- get your best condenser and put it ~8-10 inches from the bridge. Maybe add a ribbon 1 foot from the nut at the top of the finger board - either a coles or a royer if you've got them.

- wrap a 57 in a towel and stuff it in between the bass and the part below the bridge (I don't know the technical term for this). It'll just wedge in there.

- sometimes pickups aren't so bad, especially when they're mixed with a mic.

Watch out for corners and standing waves.
Old 12th February 2008
Lives for gear

It would help to know what kind of music you were recording but I've gotten good results from an AT2020 (yes i know but it worked!)
My best upright sound so far has come from an AT3035. I tried a 2020, and it was useable, but if you have a 3035, put that up and see what you think next time.
Old 12th February 2008
Gear Nut
Matt Biermann's Avatar

I have done this before with great results (however it varies due to placement, which you just have to experiment with).

F hole, 2 feet back: Soundelux e49 through Demeter VTMP-2C,
Upper Strings, 1 foot back: Shure KSM 141 through API 3124

No compression or EQ into PT HD 3 system with Digi converters. Very smooth sounding classic stand up Jazz tone.

Oh, yeah, a great bass player like the one I recorded at the time (Kevin Hennessy) helps a bit.
Old 12th February 2008
In addition to all the great advice about mic selection and mic positioning, I have had good luck with a ribbon mic into a tube pre (ADL600), facing the F-hole about 18" away, and then a SDC pointed at the middle of the fingerboard to mix in a bit of higher end sound

The ribbon/tube pre combo is really gorgeous on the double bass I recorded for my band.
Old 13th February 2008
Lives for gear

thanks to all the great advice and tips so far in this thread! good stuff!

The first recording will be for a jazz song, and then 2 others for an exciting jazz/electro single.

Since I only have a vocal booth which doesnt fit the player and the double bass, Im going to have to record the performerance in an untreated room.

Fortunately I have an extra set of SE reflection filter to use with the main mic, which I was thinking to put in use for the close up mic. Then as suggested in this thread, put up a 2nd mic or a stereo setup to capture the room.

Maybe use blue baby, the AKG c414 or another blue as the main mic and then the m3 as the room mic? Anyone think thats a good thing to try?

Will be a lot of trial and error, but with all the good suggestions here... things will Most certainly go alot better! :-)

If anyone has any more tips.. feel free to post..

THANKS AGAIN to everyone! :-)
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