Q. How do I record a double bass alongside other instruments?

Published in SOS September 2011
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Sound Advice : Recording

Having been a bass player for years, I've recently come into possession of an acoustic double bass. I seem to be getting a decent enough sound out of it that I think I'm ready to use it with my band. We're going to be recording soon, but will all be playing together in the studio. How can I record the bass alongside other musicians, reducing as much spill as possible?

The 'modern' method of recording a double bass in the studio is to 'bug' it, often with a pickup fitted on the instrument's bridge. Any 'character' lost in the sound is then usually EQ'd back in. However, the 'vintage' way would have been to use careful mic and instrument placement, in conjunction with carefully placed acoustic treatment, to provide a degree of separation.The 'modern' method of recording a double bass in the studio is to 'bug' it, often with a pickup fitted on the instrument's bridge. Any 'character' lost in the sound is then usually EQ'd back in. However, the 'vintage' way would have been to use careful mic and instrument placement, in conjunction with carefully placed acoustic treatment, to provide a degree of separation.

Bradley Culshaw via email

SOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: The obvious 'modern' solution is to fit a 'bug' — a bridge pickup or an internal mic — to the bass, which will provide a pretty high degree of separation. The sound character might not be entirely 'natural', but a little EQ should deal with that. The 'vintage' alternative is to use acoustic screens or gobos in the studio and thoughtful instrument and mic layout, with the aim of minimising spill and helping to provide some sound shadowing for mics, especially the double-bass mic, thus reducing the spill and providing a workable degree of separation from the other instruments playing in the studio. This is a well‑proven historic technique, and the remaining spill generally helps to gel the mix together and provide a great 'live' character to the mix. Of course, such spill makes it almost impossible to overdub replacement parts, but that's what practice and an unlimited number of takes are for!  .


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