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Microphone on the Bass

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by spark500, Jun 7, 2004.


  1. spark500

    spark500

    May 7, 2004
    As a new bluegrass bass player, I am not geared up with a pickup yet, but occasionally play with a band using a free standing microphone on a stand.

    Any suggestions about mic placement and settings to get a clearer sound. It gets a little mushy.

    Any suggestions are appreciated.
     
  2. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    You shouldn't feel that you need to use a pickup - I use a mic exclusively - mostly for jazz.

    For a stand-mounted mic I'd suggest a few inches in front of the strings above the bridge. You can get more volume before feedback by putting the mic in front of an f-hole but the sound is usually boomy and not very natural sounding.
     
  3. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    I'll echo what Adrian says, and add that you can improve the sound by putting it a bit off axis. For example, putting it in front of the F hole but aiming it towards the bridge. Sometimes I put it below the F hole pointed slightly up and towards the body.

    Monte
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've seen a mic wrapped in foam rubber, the mic cable run through the after-string with the mic leaning on the body, aimed toward the fingerboard, between the feet of the bridge. Works pretty well.
     
  5. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Florida
    I am envious of you guys who can use mics instead of pickups. I have spent hours and many $$, but still go back to my trusty Realist, or lately, my Fishman Full Circle (awesome pickup).

    Anyway, I have been trying to get high-quality live recordings of my trio. The problem I can't solve is getting a good bass sound via a mic (recording direct from pickup is not good sound for my taste) while keeping a reasonable amount of isolation. I can clip on a Shure Beta 98 and put it just about anywhere close on the bass, but the proximity effect makes it muddy and un-natural (even with bass rolled off). Mic-ing the bridge just inside of the strings gives me the sound I want, but it's too far away from the bass and picks up as much drums and piano as it does bass. I've tried many mics (not the AMT, but other mics with similar or better specs). I know there are just limitations to live recording, but there has to be something else I can try.
    Any ideas?
     
  6. junglebike

    junglebike Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I have a similar problem with isolation -- I wonder if I just have a quiet bass? I use the Fishman Golden Trinity, and I'm staggered by how much background it picks up -- audience members coughing, etc.

    If I put the thing right up next to the bass, it sounds worse than my Full Circle. Best tone is mounted on the top of the bridge, facing the strings, maybe 2" above them.

    Folks who use mic-only -- would you guess that your bass just acoustically louder than mine?
     
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think a lot depends on your situtations and how much sound you get out of bass. I hear a lot of guys going mic-only here in NYC, and you usually can't hear a damn thing that they play.

    I was just out with the Three Irish Tenors and used only my AMT up just under the end of the fingerboard and about 1/8" from the face of the bass playing 1,500 -2,000 seat venues with a 7 piece borchestra (band/orch) with 9-ft Steinways, drums, three singers heavily amplified on stage (via monitors) and it worked great. The sound pressure where I was standing was such that it let me get away with it.
     
  8. For the recording, I would try putting up baffles between you and the sources leaking into the mic, and maybe try a more direction mic for more off axis rejections. Then at the board or after recording EQ out as much of the stuff that still bleeding in as you can without affecting the tone of your bass too much. You won't get rid of all the bleed if you're in the same room, but that could improve things hopefully if you're not already doing this.

    Re mic placement, I'll third the bridge option. The F hole will be more bass heavy/muddy, but you could try putting a mic up around the shoulder pointing sort of towards the body and a bit down the strings, that might give you a bit more midrange punch.
     
  9. spark500

    spark500

    May 7, 2004
    Thanks for the replies to my post. So I guess there is some methods to getting a clearer, "punchier" sound with a mic. I never thought about placing the mic near the shoulder. I am learning from your posts that placing the mic over the f hole is definetely not the place to put the mic.
     
  10. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Florida
    All good ideas, though the baffle thing is not really practical in a live-gig situation. I play jazz trio stuff in restaurants, bars, etc. and space is already an issue usually. The Holy Grail I seek is a pick up that sounds like a condenser microphone. I thought the Full Circle would be it, but no. It is an awesome p/u and and recording direct is not terrible, but it sounds like a fretless electric bass instead of an upright. Blending it with a mic signal is the best I can do so far. I wish I could get a time machine and be at the Village Vanguard during the Bill Evans / Scott LaFaro gigs there. I would love to have seen how they recorded that. If anyone knows anything about it, please let me know.
     
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The F Hole kinda works like a port on a speaker cabinet. The sound right at that source is flying out of the box a an amplified amplitude and is mostly highs and mids and incomplete low frequencies -- as far as I know, anyhow. It only part of the soup that is the complete sound out front. This mixes out front with the higher-horsepower low frequencies that eminate from the entire body of the bass. Any mic'ing that you do is going to have to involve some artifical amplification of low frequencies as the lower, fundamental tones can take up to about 27' to complete (on the four string monster, longer for the low B and C enable machines).

    Your biggest challence is sound pressure. On a tight stage the ambient sound can be easily as loud or louder than your bass, and add to that the reflective input you get from sound of other things hitting the surface of your bass and bouncing right into the mic. Turning your bass so that nothing is hitting you directly on the mic'ed surface of the bass can help, but only so much.
     
  12. Ah, sorry, I was thinking live off the floor recording in a studio rather than live recording from a show.
     
  13. How about micing over the end of the fingerboard? I've never done it with a bass, but with acoustic guitars I know that a lot of high frequencies fly off the end of the fretboard. Those could help clean up the sound. About 8 inches away can be good for a guitar, probably for bass too.

    Edit: Multiple mics could work too. Maybe one over an F hole, one at the end of the neck, and one near a shoulder or the bridge.

    Also, more than one mic at the neck might work. Three mics might not work for every live situation. My inclination, based on my experience micing other instruments, would be to try fingerboard first if I had only one mic.
     
  14. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Florida

    Excellent info. I will try to face my bass away from the other players. I had the same thought about the ambient noise. I guess there's not much else I can do. I still wonder how the pros record live gigs so well. When I listen to "Waltz for Debby", I am amazed at how present everything is. I can get almost-pro results on piano and drums, but not bass. At least on the piano, you can close the lid and more or less isolate the mic. Maybe I'll make a lid for my bass...

    Thanks for the help.
     
  15. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Florida

    The multiple mic idea is a thought. I generally lean towards using as few mics as possible to avoid phase problems, but I need to try something new. I also am limited to six tracks at once recording on my Tascam 788, so I need to place mics carefully. Thanks for the help.
     
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Some of my best live recordings have been using a single-point stereo recording mic (AudioTechnica AT-822 directly into an MD walkman) and careful mic-placement on stage -- out-in-the-room placement has no presence. This has a few caveats: If the band isn't balanced on stage it'll be tough (not impossible with careful placement), the singer/horn player faces too directly away from the mic (low volume and lack of presence), and you can't adjust bad balance or mic placement after the recording is done.

    That said, I have hundreds of hours of gigs and sessions on MD in my archives with many successes...
     
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Both SOME OTHER TIME and COOL BLUES (on the TB/DB Sampler) were recorded on minidisc with a single point stereo $75 Sony mic.

    Sure you're going to have some bleed, but (like Ray said) my first thought was that it sounds like somebody is too loud on the stand.
     
  18. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    I don't want to turn this into another AMT thread, but I do want to applaud great service when I encounter it. Marty Paglione is the designer/tech guy at AMT, and he is fantastic. I had to send my S25B back for a shorting problem, which he fixed. The great part is the time that he takes to explain the hows and whys of the product. He asks lots of questions, most likely because he wants to find out how to improve an already great mic. After replacing the cable on my mic, he proceeded to cut up the old one in one inch sections, just so he could find out where the problem was! I see Marty's attention to detail and quality as part of the purchase price of an AMT. Well worth it, in my case.
     
  19. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Mostly correct. In a ported speaker cabinet, the sound coming out of the port is meant to reinforce the lowest octave- where the response of the driver is falling off.

    But just like in a speaker cabinet, the wavefront coming out of the f-holes is not in phase with that being radiated off the top at every frequency. I haven't tested this, but I suspect this is why close miking near the f-hole can result in such odd frequency response- you get unpredictable compbination of enhancement and cancellation. Moving away from the bass, the sound from the top dominates.
     
  20. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Yeah -- that sound right! I had some techno-nerd explain this to me at one time or another, but my eyes glassed over about ten mintues into it :)