What to expect:
The Mastering Engineer (M.E.) will listen to all your stereo songs and let you know of any issues that he hears and feels he cannot correct without remixing. If you have any concerns this is the time to speak up.
The M.E. is going to listen to the song as a whole and thru equalization, compression, noise reduction, sound stage manipulation and limiting give you a cohesive great sounding experience. This is not the process to bring the background vocals down in the mix. Typically the M.E. is making fairly small adjustments to bring out the sonic best. In this process the M.E. will also make sure that all the songs have a similar volume and tone.
Once he is done, take your project home and listen to it through all kinds of playback systems and make sure you are happy with what has been done. It’s pretty standard that if there are any minor adjustments to be made these will be done at no additional charge. If you are unsure what mastering can do for your material, most ME’s will master one song for free so you can see what can be done for you.
Before you even start recording, plan on recording at the highest sampling rate that make sense for you. For todays popular styles, 24 bit x 88.2k sampling rate is the way to go. There is no reason to go any higher in sampling rate as you will get diminishing returns based on the type of music and gear most of you will be recording. You need very high quality gear to record at 176.4k or above.
Acoustic material will benefit greatly at the higher sampling rates. Rock-n-roll, not so much. When you mixdown, do not dither or resample your mix files. Leave them for the M.E.. If at all possible do not mix to standard CD audio, 16 x 44.1. And never to an MP3. Do not use buss compression or limiting. You can use these to monitor with, but do not bounce your files with these processes on. Put your hi-res files on a usb stick or on a DVD.
In discussing electric bass recording techniques I failed to mention the acoustic bass. Also known as the bass violin, the acoustic bass is used quite a bit in jazz, country and bluegrass genres.
In the studio put the bass in a separate isolated room if at all possible, with the exception of acoustic country and bluegrass styles. For a jazz group while it is advantageous to keep all the players together there usually is too much bleed from the drums and piano.
You can get a great sound by using two mics. A large diaphragm condenser aimed at the lower body of the instrument below the “f” hole and a small diaphragm condenser aimed above the “f” hole sort of at the fingerboard. Both of these mics are about 12 -18 inches away from the instrument.
Roll a little of the high frequencies off on the bottom microphone and just a smidgen of the low frequencies off on the top microphone. Record on separate tracks and blend to taste in mixdown.
If recording a bluegrass group or one with no piano or drums you can get away with having the bass musician with everyone else in one larger room. You can also use gobos (go betweens) to help isolate the sounds while still keeping the group together in one area.
What are your favorite acoustic bass recording tips?
First off, the quality of sound in the headphones will not be even close to what you will hear in the control room. Headphone use is designed for you to hear the other players so that you will all play in time together. Do not be concerned about how the tones sound in the phones. If you hear any weirdness in the control room at playback, then mention it to the engineer. You do need to hear yourself and others.
Make sure you have the mix that you want. It can help you perform better and maybe even inspire you to greater creativity. For guitarists, if you are in the same room as your amp try an open ear phone. This will let you hear more of you amp acoustically.
Bass players, use a closed phone with good bass response so you can hear the bass better. Drummers, the same as bass. Closed headphones will help you hear the bass and drums better and will keep the click from bleeding into the mics.
Vocalists, the use of headphones is very tricky for you. Singers usually sing sharp or flat when using both ear pads. To help remedy this situation take one side of the ear pads off. But be careful, you don’t want the sound from the headphones going into the vocal mic. So, watch your levels.
One last item of note, most studios today only have 2 to 3 mixes for headphones so you may need to share a mix another player. Drums and bass go together well, keys and guitars go together well also. If you are doing vocals live, try to keep them on their own mix.