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Help needed: How to isolate my DB in the studio?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by macmrkt, Apr 12, 2005.


  1. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Any help appreciated.

    My jazz trio is recording in a studio we built. I go direct from my carved DB's Bass Master Pro piezo pickup, to the DI out of an Acoustic Image head, then to the digital inputs of the recording system. The drummer, who's right next to me, has 8 mikes on his set, each going direct to the digital setup. The piano is electronic, and direct.

    We are really getting great sound (after 2 years of upgrading!) except for one glaring problem: lower notes on my DB get lost in the drummer's kick drum. Songs that have a lot of kick, are worse. We record 'live', so separate tracking is out.

    I know we can fix some of this with EQ, but there's no question that my DB is vibrating too much with each drum kick. We figure that either I'll have to play far away from the drummer, or we'll have to buy or build an isolation wall between us. Before we go further, I was wondering what ideas are out there...Thanks!
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    This doesn't sound right to me at all. If you're going direct there should be no problem with bleed and I'm guessing the issue IS in EQ or balance or something.

    The bass drum would be additive and actually enhance your note if you are hitting the note together. An example would be a drummer that lightly taps out four on the floor when the bass is walking (particularly when playing acoustically) can make the bass sound twice as big -- if the bass drum is not too loud and you and the drummer are tight.

    My suggestions would be to see how low offa the bass the bass drum is going. There's some possibilty that the mic on the bass drum is enhancing frequencies down into ELF range, which is burying the bass (and alerting the Chinese on playback), and also check out how much bass is bleeding into the drum mics, which would cause your sound to mushy and maybe (?) even out of phase at certain pitches and in certain ranges. Also check out how much ambient low end is in the mix altogether. This could bury your lower register as well.
     
  3. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Thanks Ray. I'll check on that. You may be right on everything. I was wondering about isolation too, because when I'm not playing, but just putting my hand on the DB, I feel the whole bass vibrate when he hits his kick drum. I assumed that's driving the piezo too. While it's not a problem to our ears in the room while we are practicing, there is a lot of mud in the low end on the recording. By the way, my amp is on behind me during recording, to act as a monitor. None or us are monitoring with headphones.
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    With that last tidbit, I'm speculating that you coming through the drum mics is more an issue than the other way around.
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    A couple of things to look into:

    What is the size and shape of the room you're recording in? Rooms with parallel walls are the worst if left untreated.

    Do you have any sound treatment on the walls/floors; further, and especially important, do you have any bass traps in the corners? If not, you should look into this. I could suggest how to build some relatively cheap sound absorber panels if you have eyes.

    How does the drummer tune his bass drum?
    If he tunes it low, you'll have more problems with confliciting space than if he tunes it high. The amount of dampening on the B.D. is especially important when it's tuned low.

    What kind of mics, pres and board are you using? If any of the above offer options for a high pass filter (basically, a bass rolloff starting at anywhere between 40 and 100hz, depending on the gear), you'd do well to experiment with those.

    I'm certainly no recording whiz, but I have a pretty decent DAW (see the end of my gear page if interested in basic details) in my music room, and the more I researched acoustics and recording issues, the more I learned that getting a good sound on the way in is really the key to any decent signal chain. There are some folks with some good knowledge of recording issues on this side of the board (Wil Davis and Larry come immediately to mind) who can also help with manipulating the signal once it's in the box. Good luck!
     
  6. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Chris -

    The room is a rectangle that's 11' x 32'. We play in half and the recording gear is in the other half - meaning we are in an 11' x 16' space, playing along the 16' wall. It's a wood floor and sheetrock room. There is no sound treatment yet - we're wondering where to begin. The overall sound is very natural, except for this low bass problem.

    The drummer (who studied with Elvin Jones), hits his set hard frequently. The bass drum has a real nice, but sustaining tone to it. Tuning of the bass drum is low - in fact my LDS 1x8 3way works so well in the trio because it's ultra dry tone keeps it from sympathetically ringing with the bass drum. I call it my 'tenor' amp. When I brought in an Accugroove Tri208, clearly a bass amp, it sounded killer in a duo with the piano player - and much preferred to the LDS. But when the drummer was added, the dualing bass drum/DB combo created a lot of low end mud in this space. This I guess, is the key point...what sound treatments to start with in the room for this particular problem.

    I'm not sure on the drum mics; we are still experimenting with them. I know there is a Sennheiser drum kit package plus an Audio Technica stereo overhead. 8 mics in total. All feed to a ProTools 8 channel rack to a PowerMac, expanded to 16 channels with a PreSonus Lightpipe expander. Mics go through a Focusrite preamp. There's a Mackie 16 channel board to run playback to Event 20/20's. The 'engineer' has good skills and ears, but freely admits he has less experience recording acoustic instruments as he has with electronic bands. He suggests bass traps and isolating the me from the drummer.

    Whadddayyyyya tink?
     
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    ummmm....one hesitates.

    But, I'm still having trouble reconciling studio with amp+pickup. Why not gobo and mic? And headphones and seperate mixes. If you're looking for "studio quality" sound playing like you're in a loud club is kind of counterproductive. I

    If you can't get seperation and volume and hearing is an issue, then why try to approach it like the issues don't exist? Just play live and stick a couple of mics in the room for an approximation of stereo affect. Get a sound in the room that you like and then do the best job you can of getting that on tape (or in the computer).
     
  8. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    That's a question that needs to be asked! How do small jazz combos typically record 'live' in the studio? Is it with headphones and the drums and piano in isolation? In our case, we could isolate the drums more, but never completely. Or do we try to get the room to the best possible sound? We did try stereo miking the room only, and while there were good aspects to it, we couldn't get the balance to sound like the better recordings we buy...with the multi-miking and multi-tracking, we are much closer, save for this low end problem.
     
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There are lots of ways to approach it, but it sounds like you're in a small room with no isolation. It's going to be hard to make that sound like, say, WANTON SPIRIT, which was recorded in a big room, with the piano isolated (blankets over the open lid), the drums isolated (behind a big set of gobos, basically their own room with no ceiling) and the bass isolated (in a seperate bass booth). There's a nice foto in the liner notes. There's a Phineas Newborn Jr rekkid with Elvin and Ray Brown where they're all in the same room and there's gobos around the bass and around the drums and around the piano. And it's lots bigger than 11 x 16.

    But pulling direct out of the bass AND using and amplifier, I dunno. If you ARE multi tracking you should be able to get seperate headphone mixes, but if you're all in the same room the bleed is gonna make it nearly impossible to really get what you want. Anytime I've recorded "all in the same room" it's pretty much been direct to stereo and WYSIWYG. You get a good group sound and try to get that on tape. But it does no good to EQ something in the bass mic if that's being picked up by at least two other mics in the room. Fricken nightmare.

    But I don't know nuthing bout no studio ****. DURRL, what you got?
     
  10. Peter Kaae

    Peter Kaae

    Oct 10, 2004
    Denmark
    I think you should look into the phase thing. In your recording software there must be a phase reverse button. You could try and reverse the phase on the bassdrum,,I have had the same problem once, and our engineer reversed the phase on the bassdrum, and that made the DB and bassdrum sound great together.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The first thing you need to do is to soundproof the walls and corners a little at a time until you've started to control the booming bass frequencies and cut down on the "flutter" of the mids and highs. I started with a 15 x 15 room with wood floors and plaster walls and ceiling. The recorded sound was like mammoth cave without the stalactites.

    After doing a lot of research and talking to a few real-life studio nerds, I found that the best insulation out there for sound absorption is a kind of compressed insulation called "Rock wool" or "mineral fiber". It comes in 2" thick panels that are usually 2' x 4', and you can either cover them in fabric and use them as is, or build "frames" for these panels. They go a LONG way toward cleaning up the room sound, especially in the low mids. I've got 10' tall frames of this stuff diagonally across each corner of the room, and an array of panel frames hanging from the ceiling, which helps a TON in cleaning up recordings. An area rug or two wouldn't hurt, either. Tell me when to stop....
     
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
  13. I'll tell you what I got
    Tell the drummer not to play four or even two on his bass drum. Unless it's a Samba or something.
    The mixes of the two timbres....your bass and his bass drum can be deadly.
    There use to be a couple old cats who could pull this off, but they were and are very few and far between. :eyebrow:
     
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I work as an engineer. For small group jazz I really prefer all in one room, no phones. Clients that I have recorded like this are giddy at the results. I still close mic everything and do a little baffling if necessary but I only use mics. No direct anything. That is a taste thing. Personally I don't like the GRP sound. That said, I have a guitar player friend who loves it.

    There are two problems with this approach though. First, the room you are recording in needs to sound good. I am lucky because the studio I work at used to be Ramsey Lewis'. Like others have said, phase cancelation, standing waves, and strange reverb are big issues. The quick fix to this is put something fuzzy in the corners. Second, drummers are so freakin loud these days. The reason why some many of those all jazz records were so cool was the drummer was in control.

    This approach produces a certain sound. A bit rougher around the edges (which I like) if you will but the vibe of the playing is way cooler.

    Last, as far as the bass cancelation issue. Make sure the bass drum and the bass exsist on different frequncy ranges. I generally find the growl of the bass to be in the 200-500 hz range. I find bringing this out tends to seperate it from the bass drum in most situations.
     
  15. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Thanks everyone for the replies! Keep 'em coming - we are pouring over the responses to see what we can and can't do.

    We play 'live' in the room. In our experimenting, we get a better sound with close miking and more tracks, then stereo miking the room (which was my inclination to begin with, until I was proved wrong.) We can't make the room bigger, or tone down the drummer much. But we will be reconfiguring our locations in the space and try to get a better 'natural' balance with the miking suggestions. We'll then try the eq tips.

    We will also be ordering mineral wool boards for the corners as Chris and hdiddy suggested. We'll do the two corners we face, first.

    Any other ideas are greatly appreciated. Again, the issue we have is in the bass region. Thanks very much...
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    The rockwool panels make great dividers between the instruments if you can build simple frames that allow them to stand. I haven't done this yet, but the studio I record in has a bunch of these, and they do a really nice job.
     
  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Reading some of the health warnings, I'd probably just invest in some cheap felt and a staple gun to keep the mineral dust from irritating your skin 'n stuff. I'd imagine if you made a nice frame that covering it with some cheap felt like a paint canvas could be done lickety split.

    Besides, it'll look nicer. Just make sure you choose some nice pastel colors. :)
     
  18. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    The only way i record in the studio is with a mic on each side of my bass about 6-8" from the bass. I have acheived very good results with this setup.
     
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    When I made my wall, ceiling and window panels, I used 1/4" plywood for the back and small 1" x 2" boards for the edges, then covered the whole thing in thin black fabric bought in bulk from a fabric store - looks and works great!
     
  20. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I made a bunch with regular fiberglass insolation, 2x4s, and some canvas. They work fine.