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My first recording session on upright... suggestions?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Blackbird, May 15, 2001.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Well, the title says it all. This instructor at my job sent me a couple of CDs a while back with songs he'd he wrote and asked me to play them on a recording session. Well, the session is this coming weekend, and while I think I can get through the tunes just fine, I don't have all any studio experience, except for a session I did in Brazil nine years ago. My upright has a BassMax pickup (Thanks, Bob G.) and I'll be playing it through an L.R. Baggs preamp.

    Does anyone have any pointers in terms of causing a good impresion with the studio folk? I have no clue what it will be like when the recording light goes on - I should also mention, they're throwing me in with these other guys without rehearsal, so it's live without a net. Thanks for all pointers.

    Will C.:cool:
  2. I asked this very same question a few weeks back and got some good answers,Don will tell you to just take your bass and let the engineer figure out how to get it in the mix,which is exactly how it went.The guy we used set everyone up with their own mics and away we went.It sounded good straight off to us but we have still to hear the mixed version.I did take mr K&K pickup and preamp just in case but never used it.Phone ahead maybe to get a clear idea of any stuff you need to take.We played and heard ourselves acoustically during the recording which is not that good(different levels etc)but you should be wearing headphones so you can adjust your level in the mix to suit yourself.
    good luck and post the results,i would be interested in what you made of the experience.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    Do whatever they say :)

    Ask to be miked if possible. Use the pickup only if they insist, there is no pickup out there that will sound as good as a WELL MIKED bass (emphasis on well miked, eh?).

    If miked, mark the floor with masking tape where your endpin will go. That's to help you stay in the same position relative to the mike.

    If you have the luxury of using TWO mikes, have one aimed at your fingerboard to pick up the sound of the strings on the board.
  4. If you're not doing it now, I suggest you do some practicing with a metronome. They'll be playing a click track through your headphones, and you want to be used to playing with that sound in your head.

    The engineer recorded me with a mic and tube pre-amp that cost $3.5K. Ain't no pickup in the world that'll match that.
  5. Ah, but did you end up with a $3.5K sound? eh?


    - Wil
  6. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    I have recorded a couple of times on upright, and have had some success with close micing and with a pickup. I used one of those Audio Technica clip on mics designed for brass and had it facing the belly of the bass under the bridge. We were doing some country folk rock stuff at the time. I would recommend staying away from the f holes with the mic because things get boomy there. If there are drums in the room, I think it is best to forget using a microphone whatsoever unless they are super quiet or otherwise well isolated. This can be a shame because the real beauty of an acoustic instrument is in the air that moves around it, not just the wood.

    I also spoke with Marshal Wilborn and Mark Shatz last summer about this topic…gosh I hope I spelled them ok. They both recommended using one expensive large diaphragm mic on a boom facing the strings less than a foot away from the bridge. You can then move it up to get more treble stuff and down to get more bottom.

    Like the on the electric, it helps if you can play in a somewhat predictable manner. If you used the total potential dynamic range and raucous playing, they will most likely put a lot of compression on your signal. You might want to show them your loudest and softest notes and tell them that’s your range when they are leveling if they don't ask you to do this themselves.

    Another approach is, if the room right sounds good, try playing to the wall or in a corner at different distances. One of the better upright guys in town uses this approach with success. This you can try at home. Heck you can try a few of these ideas at home ahead of time if you have a recorder. A lot depends on the room you record in and the music, so try to be flexible and create options for the engineer.

    Make sure your bass is in good working order, and you have extra strings. Also it doesn’t hurt to bring whatever you have in your basement as far as pre-amps, cords, and DI's.Offer them up if you think they might help, but don't push too hard. Bring a tuner and plug it into your pickup even if you record via mic. Bring your mini tool kit.

    One last thing I found valuable was to bring a decent pair of head phones that you feel comfortable in and an extension cord for them. The gear on the studio floor tends to get beat up and if you don't like your headphones it will be harder to do your job well.

    Stay loose and try to have fun. If you can have rapport musically and personally with the people you work with, chances are the end product will turn out fine.

    good luck
  7. I gotta say tho, everyone says that there are some basses (usually the cheaper ones eh) that sound pretty durn good through a pickup, and I have found it a good idea to record a track off the pickup and a track through the mic at the same time. You can always trash the pickup track, but depending on the music, it might sound really good mixed in a bit, possibly adding needed definition. Again, it TOTALLY depends on your bass and the tunage, so all I am saying is possibly bring your pickup and preamp just in case, if its not a hassle. I am used to doing my own recording, so I usually have control over that stuff. Your engineer might think its a ludicrous concept, I dunno.

    I guess it comes down to this: Do you have a DAMN good sounding bass? Do you love the acoustic tone of it? If so, forget the advice above, leave the pickup at home, and let the engineer whip out one of those really expensive mics and perfectly reproduce the sound of that puppy. Engineers always say that half the key to a good recording is having good sounding, well maintained and tuned instruments (and amps for electric stuff) as a starting point.
  8. More like $30K
  9. The studios I've recorded in put the drummer in a separate room.
    I still say it's the engineer's job to have and use all the equipment necessary. Anything less, and you're dealing with amateurs.
  10. Don, that's a pretty closed minded way to look at it. I know many musicians who are audio engineers in their own right (including myself I daresay) and I have successfully conducted my own recording sessions or had the help of an engineer in the past. You CAN work with these people as peers, if you want to and its established at the beginning. If you want to let them be the pros and handle everything, that is fine, and is the typical way for a session to be handled, but it is NOT the only way and does NOT mean you are "dealing with amateurs". Give me a break.
  11. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    But go back and read the beginning of the thread. I would expect an engineer at a studio to know a hell of a lot more about the recording process than me and any musician I know who doesn't moonlight as an engineer. I'd expect him to have all the necessary equipment to do the recording. I'd expect him to know how to deal with most common instruments that come his way (db included), and to be able to figure out how to react to something exotic that might appear based on his past experience.

    Anything less than that, and the engineer shouldn't be considered a pro. That's what Don was saying and I agree.

  12. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    One other thing: Given that the stated intent was to record all tracks live, with complete band takes, I would guess that sonic isolation is less of an issue there.

    I'll actually go a step further: I think that the platonic ideal recording would be to record all musicians simultaneously, recording everyone straight to 2 tracks (or perhaps a bit more if were doing surround). This is generally how classical recordings are done (fly a pair of condensers over the orchestra) and more than a few jazz recordings. I actually think that it's more important for jazz because of the essential nature of interaction between the players.

    -dh (ducking the inevitable replies)
  13. I aplogize if I misunderstood you Don, I am having a bad day, my company looks like its about to go down the toilet. I shouldn't take it out on you. I read between the lines and thought you were saying that if you had a specific piece of gear or knowledge that you would like to try, that you shouldn't even think about it because the engineer always knows best, no matter what. I guess that's not really what you were driving at, sorry.

    I still think that it shouldn't be assumed that a musician has to be completely excluded from the process - it is the musician's job to come to the studio with a well set up, good sounding instrument. If I am playing electric bass, I have a built in set of pickups and would INSIST on using my preamp unless the engineer could prove me otherwise. Likewise, with DB you should have a specific idea of what it takes to make your bass sound good. That's just common sense, and is required to play a gig or rehearse. Now, of course the engineer will know better than you the best way to use his or her usually better equipment to achieve these ends, and I never suggested they shouldn't have ample equipment or knowledge to deal with any situation. I am just saying that ultimately this is your playing and your bass, and the engineer is there to produce the tone you or the bandleader wants. Now a producer is another story. Stay away from those guys.
  14. A recording studio is the most unnatural playing environment that exists. I cannot presume to know better than the guy running things. So we do a few sound checks, everybody puts in their two cents, and the engineer listens to everybody and adjusts accordingly. The equipment today makes my head spin. On another thread I told how I played a real clam on my last note (5 key changes, bad headphones) and the guy simply corrected my pitch from his computer. And I'll thank you not to ask "Only ONE clam...?"
  15. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
  16. Another factor is the fact that not many engineers have had a lot of experience with DB, some none at all. I did a session with an engineer who had awards for albums he'd done, but he had no idea about DB, and was asking me how I wanted to record it! Based on this, I think it's a good idea for every DB player to maybe do a bit of study on the subject.
  17. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Do you have the recording I speak of? Who needs post production if it sounds right in the first place!

  18. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    SIX WEEKS! I was thinking that the core musicians might know the music ahead of time. The Cowboy Junkies did it in a weekend. I guess a lot has to do with the arrangements and musicianship and available practice time.


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