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Note Decay

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by DalmerM, Jun 1, 2005.


  1. DalmerM

    DalmerM

    Oct 15, 2002
    North Carolina
    My question concerns a recent recording session. The problem was that my (plywood) bass fiddle sustains plucked notes to long. I use steel strings and they are fairly new (less than 6 months). The engineer complained that the long sustain was mudding up the recording. I did the bass line over, this time with me muting the strings with my left hand after each note. This he complained this resulted in the notes being to short. I finially come up with the idea to weave a strip of foam rubber between the strings to dampen the vibration. He was happy. I didn't like the sound at all. However once all the other instruments and vocals were mixed together I could see why he wanted the fast decay on each bass note. So my question is, what might be the best way to have a quick decay on each string (other than hand technique and a better double bass), but still retain good tone and volume?

    My second question discovered during this same recording session was that we noticed the A string was much lower in overall volume than the G and D strings. I tried to compensate by playing harder on the A string, but there was still a very noticable difference in volume. Is there a string setup, brand or something else I can do to balance the volume between the strings better?

    Thanks
    Mitchell
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Gut strings are how I was able to cut down on sustain. Quite frankly, when I'm forced to play a steel stringed bass now, it sounds too boomy and ringy. Also, you can wrap your legs around the body to dampen it and keep it from putting out annoying overtones. Getting a better bass might actually increase sustain. All depends on the bass itself. I'd bet money that the sound your engineer was looking for was a gut-strung bass. If you play a lot of roots music, it's the way to go.

    2nd question...how were you amplifying it? Does your bass sound balanced acoustically? Name the pickup(s) and amp and any effects you may have been running. Can't tell you anything unless we know that. Generally, in the studio, upright bass is mic'ed with one by the F-hole for bass response and one by the neck to pick up slaps and high end response. If you used a pickup that was out of whack or not properly installed, that could be a culprit.
     
  3. Ben Joella

    Ben Joella

    May 31, 2004
    Boca Raton, FL
    Just a thought...

    If this is a slower tempo tune in question, you may have had enough time to touch the string with your right hand plucking finger gently in front of where you were stopping the string with your left hand. You can adjust to taste, but this will shorten decay without changing the tone of your bass.
     
  4. DalmerM

    DalmerM

    Oct 15, 2002
    North Carolina
    This is a not an expensive bass. I have thought about using nylon strings on it, but don't think I want to go with real gut strings. Do you think I should try to combine the nylon with the steel A & E, just change them all or what? I have also though about using some kind of large rubber washer under each string across the bridge like I have seen on some violins to dampen the sound?

    As far as the recording, he first tried his (pencil) mic wrapped in foam rubber stuck under my bridge. Which I thought a little odd for a studio mic placement. Although I have seen it used often on stage under the bridge or tailpiece. Then he tried the same mic (don't know the brand or model) on a stand in front of the F hole, but I guess did not like the sound and went back to the original set up he used with it between the bridge feet. I don't have a pickup on the bass so this was all being recorded with the one mic.

    Now that you mention the 2 mic set up. That does seem like a better way to record such a large voice box like a double bass. Although small, this studio and engineer has done many professional acoustic groups in the past and I assumed he knew more about how best to mic double basses in his studio than me. I guess that goes back to that old saying about the word "assume."

    Anyway, thanks for all the advice and anymore that may be forthcoming.

    Mitchell
     
  5. I think it may be more to do with technique in that I'd expect your problem with low strings very lightly stroked. Apologies if this is off-beam, I don't mean to insult. I wouldn't expect a ply bass to be super-sustaining although some are very good indeed. You get more decay the more effort that goes in paradoxically as the note decays faster from its higher starting energy peak. A string struck very gently will continue to vibrate for a very long time indeed by virtue of a very slow decay from its start. In other words, you get more sustain the quieter you play. This will also make any slight inbalance in the strings more obvious - but inbalance in strings can be due more to the bass than the string maker. Just a thought.
     
  6. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    Have you ever had this problem live, in rehearsal or practice, or has this just been in this studio?

    Bass is one of the hardest instruments to record with a mic; both DB and BG through a amp. Especially in a small room because of wave lengths of the lower notes will bounce of the walls and celling [the lower this is the worse the problem], and come back into the mic and the bass or speaker. One trick we do is to put a bass trap behind the mics that way there is no bounce-back.

    For the most thumpy sound I have got was with a EV RE20 [but any good mic that can be used one vocals and drums will work] placed 2 feet or so from the bass FF.
     
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Mitchell, I think before you try anything expensive, you should visit www.traditionmusic.com and buy a $15 set of Barefoot Larry's Hillbilly Slap Strings. He makes them out of weed eater line of different sizes, and you will not find another string on the market closer to gut sound than these. I found them an excellent barometer of whether I would like gut strings. Some guys are liking them so much they're sticking with them. They're lower in tension than guts and have a smoother feel, but they're fairly close to the same thickness, the sound is nearly identical, and at least you wont be out a couple hundred bucks if you don't like them. Some people mix them with steels or wrapped gut strings. Right now I've got 3 guts and a LaBella wound gut E I bought on Ebay for $20, and it's a pretty close match but I'll probably be replacing it with a Pirastro Oliv E because it's a flatwound as opposed to the LaBella being roundwound. Of course, an Oliv E is like $105, so it helps to have a birthday coming up in a couple weeks and a wife with no idea what to get me.

    As far as your problem, if it's tough getting balanced string response with just a mic, check and see if it's not balanced acoustically. If it's not, it could be that you have a dead string or some other problem with the bass. Mics usually just pick up what they hear. Although there could be some phase cancellation going on. I've been in situations where I can't hear a certain note because there's some acoustic-to-electric convergence that causes that note to get phased out. Moving to another location or moving mics around helps sometimes. You could also try blending the pickup when you get one with a mic sound. Try different stuff until it works or until you run out of money.
     
  8. DalmerM

    DalmerM

    Oct 15, 2002
    North Carolina
    Thanks for the idea. I have ordered a set of those Kelvar/nylon strings.

    I've never noticed the problem before, but with the steel strings that are on the bass now, I liked the acoustic ring that they had and was quite satisfied with the overall volume the bass produced. But then, I am not a bass player, just someone who can play simple stuff on a bass when needed. My main instruments are 5 string banjo and guitar, but I really get a kick out of "trying" to play double bass from time to time. I had never realized that the ring or sustain my bass carried would muddy up the sound for the other instruments until hearing it in the studio. I'm afraid I may lose some volume with the Kelvar/nylon strings, but it may be worth the trade off for a better tone. ???? Worth a try anyway.

    Mitchell
     
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    It really doesn't lose any volume with the weed eater strings. At least my bass didn't. I thought it made my bass sound tighter and more focused, and any volume lost was more than made up for by the increased focus on the fundamental as opposed to all the harmonics bouncing around with steels.

    Then again, I never really complain about the sound bassists get with steels either. I've just decided that they're probably not for me. Maybe later on I'll get a second bass and string it with steels, but that'll be very far down the road.

    BTW, used the LaBella on a gig tonight and it's coming off. Nice sustain but not enough attack.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Or just lift the stopping left hand finger.