Lo-Fi recording tips.....please?

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by Jay Corwin, Sep 8, 2017.


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  1. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    So I've been asked to an online recording collaboration. A buddy who lives in Texas has sent me a tune sans bass, and I'm attempting to record a track to email back. I don't pretend to be slick with recording setups. All of my recording experience has been as a player, while others set up the gear, press the buttons, and adjust the faders.

    I have decent mics, some AT condensers, 57's etc. I've been running an AT-3035 through an ART Tube pre (the cheapo one), the into a Tascam handheld. I don't have any other mixers or preamps that I can use unless I use a DI from a bass preamp, which I don't want to do. The room isn't the best - very reflective. My biggest problem is that I'm picking up every bit of string noise, shifting, etc. Part of that is due to the Innovation strings, as they are noisy in that way.

    The thing is, I never hear any of this stuff live or in the mix of the last couple of records I made. I've never heard it on full string band recordings I've made with just two condensers and the band playing live. Am I just being paranoid because I'm listening to only the bass track on playback? Is it normal to hear a bunch of that stuff?

    Shoot me any ideas you might have to improve the scenario, or if you think it's not a big deal.
     
  2. Harry Monkley

    Harry Monkley

    Jan 16, 2016
    The individual tracks often get EQ'd fairly extensively to make them fit together in the final mix, EQ may or may not solve the problem, but by all means load your raw stem into a DAW and experiment reductive EQ measures including using a low pass filter. How much surgical EQ gets used will depend a lot on how dense the final mix is and the style of music, but as a rule of thumb, it it a good idea to get as close as possible to the desired sound when recording rather than relying on fixing the results after the fact. Using a condenser is going to pick up lots of high frequency information, and might be accentuating the unwanted sounds in this case.

    I would recommend that you try the following;
    take a 57(or other handheld dynamic) and wrap the handle with enough cloth to allow you to wedge it behind the tailpeice pointing towards the neck. I weave a shoelace through my afterlengths to prevent them ringing YMMV.

    If you like the sound, you can also experiment with the method of suspending the capsule between the bridge legs with elastic bands with the back of the mic between the A&D afterlengths.
    For self engineering mounting the mic directly on the bass is really helpful for consistency. If you use a mic on a stand, small variations in distance from the mic affect both signal level, and frequency balance (due to proximity effect).

    I'm not claiming that this is the absolute best way to record double bass, but if it sounds good with your bass/mic then it is good. If you don't like the results, you won't have wasted much time or energy. If in doubt, email your friend a version recorded with the 57 and a version recorded with the condenser and ask which one he likes.
     
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  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've been flirting with the recording rabbit hole for years. In the end, what I've learned is that as with bass amplification, there's a signal chain and it is hierarchical. Go to any recording forum and on the surface people are posting about mics and preamps and A/D converters and plugins and which ones will give you the magic. But the master engineers are basically talking about three things that make great recordings sound great:
    - The source: a great musician on a great sounding instrument playing/singing beautifully
    - The room: each room has its own sound, and it matters. Understanding the room's role is crucial
    - Mic placement: where to put the listener's ear

    Other than that and getting a good basic level onto the track, everything else is secondary. Give me a great player in a nice room on cheap gear over a mediocre player on the world's most expensive boutique recording equipment 100 days out of 100.

    Obviously, we can't become different players when we address this scenario, but we can control the other two points of the triangle. They are incredibly related. The most natural sounds I've ever recorded have been acoustic playing in a nice sounding room with mics that cost about $100 each. Here's one example from a project recorded in the music room of my home - some of the cuts were recorded just straight into an Edirol stereo recorder (like a Zoom H2), and on others it was two cheap small diaphragm condensers in the sweet sounding part of the room placed far enough away to capture both instruments. About as low-fi as you can get. Here's another, in a great sounding room at the university using a $200 stereo X/Y mic with a built-in battery (i.e. - inexpensive field mic), and this one was recorded on a plywood bass because it happened spontaneously and it's what was at hand. In both cases, the room added a lot.

    In the studio, the scenario is different. We usually get placed in a super dry booth and the bass is mic'd close to the top, so it's like the sound of putting your ear really close to the bass and the room sound is more of a non-factor. In this kind of setup, you are more likely to encounter the sound you are describing in the OP. Truth told, I love recording, but I hate headphone mixes. They are always too hot (loud), unnatural, and out of balance compared to acoustic sound. The large diaphragm mics pick up every sound from where they sit with no room reflections or "air " to mitigate the string and finger noise, and especially at this stage, I never find the sound very natural. I never get a good feel for this sound until I hear it in the mix, and even then it's tricky because the mix waxes and wanes, exposing parts of the sound I don't like sometimes.

    I've written too much already, but if you'd like I can post some basic EQ and plugin settings that I normally use to clean up this sort of "studio sound" in a vacuum.
     
  4. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    This what I'm going with. It's getting the job done. My condensers just wouldn't work well in my room, and limited setup.

    A 57 wrapped in auralex. IMG_20170908_194810_143.jpg
     
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  5. Jmilitsc

    Jmilitsc Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2013
    Fairfield County, CT
    referencing the original post, your condensers might be placed too close to the bass and too high (like hand height). You might be better off placing the mic a couple feet away pointing slightly upward toward the g-string side of the bridge. That'd reduce the string noise getting picked up, and you can experiment with different mic placements for the best overall tone you're going for.

    To then reduce room ambience you can baffle with sheets or blankets on the walls or other similar approaches. This is tunable too by finding the most reflective surfaces to cover (mirror/window).

    Along with other previous advice above, I'd do these things and focus on the instrument and room first to get the most natural sound, before wrapping up a close mic in foam.
     
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  6. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Thank you for advice all. The 57 thing in the picture will work for now. I'm not going to treat the room or invest in new gear yet. This is a one off track right now. If it grows into something bigger I might spend some money on it.
     
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  7. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    I've had good luck with a 57 on a stand about 6-8 inches away, slightly below and to the G string side of the bridge aimed towards the E side f hole. This placement (for my bass) was based on the engineer crawling around listening while I played. It's a bit more lively and natural sounding compared to the "wrapped in foam and wedged behind the tailpiece" but still all the thick, gooey, dynamic goodness.
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The 57 in that position will get a specific sound, and from your original post it might not be a sound you are crazy about. Keep in mind that the 57 is a cardioid pattern mic, and the center of its "ear" is pointed away form the top of the bass in that position:

    cardioid-polar-pattern-300x300.jpg
    Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 3.14.15 PM.png

    If you've ever sung into a cardioid mic on stage, think about how in a live setting you really need to get on axis with the front of it to get the optimal sound. The same will apply to the bass and the top. Then there's proximity effect, where you get more low frequencies closer to the source; from your description in the OP - "My biggest problem is that I'm picking up every bit of string noise, shifting, etc......Is it normal to hear a bunch of that stuff?" - it sounds as though might be happier using the 57 pointed directly at the top to get more lows and and "thump" and less string noise.

    I understand that the thought of treating a room is daunting, but as an experiment you could try hanging a blanket on a couple of chair backs surrounding the mic and point it at the top. I've done this many times with a short floor stand for the mic and 3 chairs facing outward with the blanket hanging down over their backs. It doesn't completely treat the room, but it can do a good job of minimizing and absorbing reflections and allow you to experiment basically for free to find out what mic placement works best for your bass/technique/etc.

    Good luck!
     
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  9. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Again thank you everyone for the input. I've gotten more information than I anticipated. I've recorded two albums, both with very different setups. Needless to say, I'm still learning. This is the first time I've tried doing the whole bit myself.

    My recording device and interface are not high quality, which I completely understand. It's also worth mentioning that I'm not doing solo work. This particular track is acoustic rock type of stuff. It's more important for me to find a good range to sit in the mix, and have pretty level volume across that range (as much as the bass will accommodate.

    I've also found that I'm setting the gain on my mic preamp in a similar way that I do for pickups and amplification. The gain is set such that it's just barely picking up the quiet end of my dynamics so I can drive the volume with my right hand. It's been a great learning experience.
     
  10. JohnDavisNYC

    JohnDavisNYC

    Jan 11, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar, D'Addario
    while I am definitely not a fan of pickups, since you say it's a rock kind of thing, take a DI... as an engineer and bassist, I am usually vehemently opposed to using a pickup in the studio, but there are times when it can be a life saver... if we are talking about a situation where a 57 wrapped in foam is the best option, I'd say grab the DI too....

    John
     
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  11. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Acoustic rock that is, without drums. You could even call it folk if you wanted. It's an acoustic track on a project that is mostly electric, bluesy rock guitar stuff. I'm not playing on the electric driven stuff. The track I'm working on is acoustic guitar(s), violin, upright bass, and vocals.

    I will say this of my experience with DI's. In my last studio experience, I was mic'd to the high heavens. I think there were three or four mics on me. They also took a DI from my pickup, which I tried to steer them clear from. However it was not my band, I was being paid, and I tend not to push the issue in a scenario like that. They pulled my pickup through the what was probably a really high end preamp in the control room. It sounded like crap. I had that feed turned off in my headphones.

    The last album I recorded was done at someone's home. All we used was a 57 on a stick. It worked just fine. I'm much more apt to shoot for the sound I hear on old analog recordings with gut strings. That's really the tone I fell in love with when I started out.

    In this go round of recording at home, I've also tried DI'ing (with a proper preamp). To my ears it just sounds too much like amplified bass. Fine if I'm onstage, but not for recording. Remember I talking lo-fi stuff here. Single channel, single track, no punching in, etc. It's not like I can mix two signals. I'm also not one to be over-particular, wanting to hear every nuance of my bass on a recording. It's not a bass solo, and there is a certain amount of detail that will buried in a mix anyway (just like a live mix).

    So I'm rolling with the 57 stuffed in the tailpiece for now. It's picking up what I want, and losing a lot of the noise that I don't want. It'll get the job done, and this is just a one off email collaboration. Who knows what will come of it. If it builds into something more steady, then I will reassess the situation.

    As long as I play well, the rest will take care of itself.
     
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  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    There is a different approach to using an SM-57 which I find much more satisfactory. Check here.

    Good luck and have fun!
     
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  13. bassfran

    bassfran Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2012
    Chicago
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    Bingo.
     
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  14. Seanto

    Seanto

    Dec 29, 2005
    USA
    I'm no recording expert, but i can't help but think that providing more distance between the mic and the bass will get rid of some of the finger noise and artifacts. In fact, that's how i always imagined recording the double bass would be, primarily a mic a number of feet in front of the bass. Maybe others with more experience can validate this.

    Another idea is setting up two mics in different places and mixing the sound together. Like one up close and another a few feet out.

    While i don't mind some finger noise and string clank, i can see it being a problem for recordings of a certain style, like folk/bluegrass/americana.

    I agree on no pickup. your current setup should sound better than a pickup!
     
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  15. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I've said a couple of times now that I don't have the capability currently. This is is going to be one mic, one track, warts and all.
     
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  16. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Reviving this thread as my recording abilities have transitioned to just above lo-fi, to portable multi-tracking. I picked up a Tascam digital 8-track, which has a surprisingly high number of features. I'm learning on the fly out of necessity after a friend asked me to put together some music for an independent film he's working on.

    I started experimenting recording the bass with multiple mics on individual tracks running concurrently to get ideas on how to best record at least the bass. I'll also be recording drums, violin, and possibly other acoustic instruments. But for now, I'm cutting my teeth recording bass tracks at home. So at least I've graduated from a 57 stuffed in the tail piece.

    My mic options are 57, AT3035, AT2035, and an MXL 990. I've gotten some good results by tracking with a 57 fixed on the h-clamp pointed at the treble side f-hole, and a condenser out in front. The qualities of the condensers that I complained about earlier actually work nicely mixed in with the 57. The 57 itself is boomy (which @Chris Fitzgerald spoke to), and punchy. I can EQ the excessive boominess down using the recorders track EQ. Then I can mix in more/less focus with one of the condenser mics. I'm certain that all of this will go straight out-tha window when I start trying to mix other instruments!
     
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  17. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    How about an update? I about to undertake a similar project and wondering where you've landed.
     
  18. duvets can be quite effective in reducing some of the extra resonance of your room. your back to the duvet (i.e. the mic points towards the duvet.
     

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  19. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Sure. I've made leaps and bounds here, but still I'd like to stress that my setup is still more of a "quality demo" thing.

    The band that I work with the most has been sending me demos. I import those into a digital 8-track, and then start to lay down my bass parts. I rough mix it, then send it back. We bounce ideas around this way because they are either on tour, or an hour and half from my place at any given time. We are going into the studio in January to record the next album.

    One big change I made was to invest in some acoustic foam panels and bass traps. It's helped a lot. My bass doesn't turn the whole room into an earthquake anymore. There's almost no slap-back in the room now.

    I'm still using a '57, but I have it on an H-clamp. It's positioned close to the treble side f-hole. This goes without saying, but it's an improvement over stuffing it in the tail piece. You can get very different responses from the mic with subtle changes in the distance from bass. It does provide a really nice punch though. I'm running it through one of those cheap ART tube preamps (all I can currently afford). It doesn't do much for the tone, but it provides gain to play with for days. It's an improvement over plugging it straight into the tascam. I hope to be able to get a nicer mic preamp in the future. When I have time, I also run a condenser on a separate track to mix them later. My house isn't great for using LDC's though. One because my practice space has a large window facing a highway, and two....well my dogs only seem to bark when I'm trying to record. If the beagle isn't sleeping on my lap, then the whole world gets to hear about it!

    The tascam unit I'm using is pretty powerful for such a portable piece. Not that I would try to record the next Dark Side of the Moon with it or anything, but it really has all you need to make decent demos. The menus are pretty easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. Mixing and mastering is a whole different ball of wax. There are a lot of options. When I mix down I usually cut some of the sub 100hz stuff off my bass tracks. Anything that's going to make small speakers fart out I trim a bit.

    So I've been evolving quite a bit from my initial posts. There are some other mics on my xmas list I'm hoping to get. I'm also keeping my eyes open for a decent preamp. It's hard for me to justify spending a lot of dough on one right now given what I'm using it for. The on thing that I'll say about this whole experience thus far is that I think I'll be the best prepared I've ever been to go into the studio. I always practice well, but tracking all of my ideas before hand, then being critical of what I'm doing has given me the chance to vary lines and try different stuff out. It's a new perspective. The flip side is that I can tinker excessively, and sometimes your initial ideas are still good ones.

    What hasn't changed is that I still shoot for one good, complete track without much processing.
     
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  20. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
     
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