I’d Rather Record

I could not do any session work last night even though I have quite a backlog of work. I am working on final mixes for a live recording event that I did late last year. I am working through another set of final mixes for a project which has been running on now for almost 18 months. I am also in the midst of basics for another project and I still insist on being active on live sound as well as guitar/bass performance.

I love doing all this work. I hate the dentist.

Let me rephrase that. My dentist is a wonderful human being. I just hate the whole process of going to the dentist. I had a filling that went loose and it fractured nearly half a back molar. My own fault really. I had been experiencing some pain and discomfort with that tooth for a while. I just didn’t see the need to go to the dentist right away. So time passed. Funny thing though… I had booked an appointment to check out the pain and before I could get there the filling and most of the tooth gave way.

I spent three hours last night in the dentist’s chair. Thank goodness for nitrous oxide.

Going, going, gone

A pretty busy week ahead in the studio. I am trying to get one project completed. Some projects have a natural start and end. Other projects never really end… they just stop. I think this project falls into that category but it has not stopped yet. Losing momentum in a project is really tough. I have been working on this one project since September of 2002 and things got stalled for a period of about six months. The producer and artist are both tremendous people. I really enjoy working with them. We are doing a few retakes tomorrow night. They are bringing in an upright bassist for the session. I may try a few different techniques

How to record upright bass

Get a mic, get a pre, patch and press record. I must admit that I often take the easy path with electric bass. I usually patch the instrument through a high quality DI, add a bit of compression, and straight to tape. Sometimes I will patch into a 1272 outboard. The results are predictable although much of the magic really comes from the bass player. A good player is clean and consistent and produces much of the sonic textures from the fingers. As a recordist I try to stay out of the way and let the player work the magic. A poor player… well that often requires major surgery. Fortunately we don’t get too many poor players in the studio.

Upright bass is different and much of the hard work around this instrument depends on a variety of factors: bow versus fingers, dry versus ambient, style, presence. There are many different sound areas and I always find it an interesting challenge to discover the sweet spot. There is a bow area, bridge, soundboard and soundhole. Plucked jazz bassists present the greatest challenge.

The traditional approach is to use a large capsule condenser like a U87 or U49 set about 2″ – 4″ from the bridge with another condenser aimed at the sound hole. I have used a number of different mics with varying degrees of success at the sound hole but more often than not I am looking to capture more warmth and lower frequencies with this microphone. I have worked with a few jazz bassists that do have electric pickups on their acoustic bass and I will always take a feed just in case it comes in handy later on. There is often good presence from the electric pickups.

I might use some limited eq and compression on tracking although my preference is to get a good sound from microphone selection and placement first. It is not unusual for me to consider a low end rolloff around 80Hz and maybe cut low mids around 200Hz.

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