A friend of mine who plays bass said to me “Is that all you’re going to say on recording bass”? 😉 So here’s more… if the project is personal to you, think about the style of playing for the song you are playing to. Laid back? Aggressive? Finger? Pick?
1 – 2 – 3 finger(s)? Fretted? Fretless? Flat wound strings? Round wound strings?
All of this helps determine the sound of the bass itself. How about a 4 string versus a 5 or 6 string bass. Ever hear a “stick” bass? If you have the right recording space, set up a bass cabinet and use a dynamic or better yet a large diaphragm condenser mic to capture the sound of the cabinet and mix that in with the DI when you mix. You’ll get some great tones this way.
I say the right space because the low frequencies of the Bass will go everywhere there is a mic. If you are recording other instruments at the same time keep the cabinet in its own room. Here is a big tip to remember when recording with a mic and a DI. When you go to mix you will need to alter the Phase/time of one of the signals to the other. This is because the time relationship between the DI and the Mic is not in sync. The easiest way to do this is to move (slip) the mic track to be inline with the DI track in mixing/editing. Then listen to the kick/bass relationship to make sure all is good.
What are your favorite methods for getting a good bass tone?
First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough, get your guitar in the best condition possible. Make sure it is set up properly, is in tune with itself, that it’s tuned correctly and have strings that are very new. Put new strings on several days before recording to give them time to stretch and relax to the instrument.
Check your tuning after every take.
Make sure your amp/cabinet is in good condition. New power tubes, good cords. Extra batteries, if you use them, for your pedals/boxes.
Electric 6 string:
It’s all about the tone. The Shure Sm 57 is still the best all-around mic to use. The newer ribbons are good too. The Sennheiser E609 is another great choice.
Mic the cabinet, try different locations on all the speakers. It’s amazing how different the sound is from speaker to speaker. Plugin simulations are okay but the real thing is always best. Split the guitar signal and record one track straight into the recorder. Try a room mic, sometimes it works sometimes not.
mono: a nice pencil condenser aimed between the sound hole and the fret board is a good starting point. If too brite move towards the body below the sound hole. If the guitar has a bridge pickup use that as well.
Stereo: the xy technique works very well in this situation. Or a mic aimed at the lower body and one aimed at the neck.
If you can, use a DI and mic the cabinet using a large diaphragm condenser or dynamic.
Apply a bit of compression to control level differences between strings.
What are your favorite techniques for recording various guitars?
Oboe, Bassoon, english horn, clarinet, saxophone, recorder.
All the above can be mic’d pretty much the same as the sound emanates from the whole instrument. A ribbon works quite well on these instruments as the sound can have an edge to it that the ribbon can tame down. A condenser mic can work just as well. Place in front of the instrument about 2′ aimed towards the middle of the instrument.
Flutes, Piccolo: because the sound comes from the whole of the instrument mic-ing just the end or the mouth area will not give you the proper sound. Use a omni condenser placed above the instrument about 2′.
What are you favorite techniques for recording woodwinds?
Trumpet, bugle, cornet, and flugelhorn work well with a large diaphragm dynamic mic placed about 2′ in front of the bell.
Trombone, bass trombone, and baritone work well with a large diaphragm condenser mic placed about 2′ from the bell.
Tuba, sousaphone, and euphonium work well a large diaphragm dynamic or condenser.
These lower frequency instruments need to be mic’d farther away in order for the sound wave to develop. Mic too close and you will not get a good balance the lower frequencies.
French horn or horn (as it is called today) is a very different animal. So much of the sound is controlled by placement of the hand in the bell. The sound is very mellow not much attack. Use a large diaphragm condenser placed about 18” in front of the bell.
What are your favorite techniques for recording brass?
Usually a string “date” involves 2 or 3 violins, viola, cello & violin bass. A nice medium size room works really well with the players arranged in a semi circle. Mic the instruments individually using high quality condenser mics. Mic the violins and viola from overhead, the cello and bass about 18” in front of the “F” hole. If you don’t have enough mics for the instruments you can also use a stereo pair and mic it like an ensemble. Pay attention to balance and move the players forward and backward, in relation to the microphone, to achieve the desired balance between the different instruments.
Solo instruments: Violin, Viola, mic from overhead using either a small condenser or a ribbon about 18” above the bridge area. Most of the sound comes from the body, like an acoustic guitar. Watch out for bowing angles from the player.
Cello, use a large diaphragm condenser about 18” from one of the “F” holes. Aiming the mic towards the lower body will give you more of a mellow sound, while aiming towards the bridge/fingerboard will give you more of an aggressive/bitey sound.
Violin bass/double bass/acoustic bass, is very similar to the cello. For live sound or recordings using a bridge pickup or a hyper cardioid dynamic mic will keep feedback at a minimum.
These tips will also work quite well with other string instruments as well. Zither, mandolin, auto harp and the like.
What are your favorite string recording techniques?