Here at Online Bass Player, I’ve been recording bass guitar for over 8 years. I introduced double bass to the roster of instruments a few years ago. It’s a tricky beast to record – or at least trickier than bass guitar – but I have a setup that produces a fantastic and very useable double bass sound. It all starts with a world class instrument…
My Double Bass
The big breakthrough for my double bass recording setup was simple – amazing gear. I drove hundreds of miles and flew to Italy, not to mention spending ungodly sums of money all in the name of double bass. After trying around £100,000 worth of basses I found ‘the one’ (or did it find me??). I bought this from a very well respected luthier in the UK, Malcolm Healey. The bass has a fascinating history having been bought by a famous conductor for his family. It was made in the late 1800s in Germany and the age coupled with the fact that it has been played loads contributes to the rich and full tone.
There is something about big bass notes being played over and over again that resonates within the molecular structure of the wood over decades and decades that conditions the bass to sound incredible. This particular instrument is in a completely different league to any more budget basses I have ever played. I use Thomastik-Infeld Spirocores which I find have a weighty tone as well as being comfortable to play.
After the instrument, we move on to the way in which I capture the audio going into Logic…
The Recording Philosophy
With bass guitar, I send two signals – a DI and an amp track (either a real amp or some of the new, excellent amp simulators or overdrive). The idea being the client can use the DI or amp track on its own or blend the two together to taste. Amp plus DI is a pretty standard mixing technique when dealing with bass guitar. The aim of the game for me is to provide quality options for the client.
The double bass is a complex instrument with all kinds of frequencies present. When it comes to recording the double bass I send four signals. Different styles of music will require different approaches in the mix but I find that four signals cover most eventualities.
With double bass, there are so many great options for recording the instrument not to mention that your room and instrument and the player will dictate what these are. Since I’m in a small room I place the microphones fairly close to the best sounding areas of the bass. As it’s always me playing my bass which I know well, I can place the microphones optimally. Recording setups do change but at the time of writing, this is what I do…
My Four Recording Signals
I use a lovely sounding Neumann TLM 102 going into a Universal Audio Apollo 8 with the Neve 1073 preamp plugin. This signal sounds full, warm and captures more of the body and the wood of the instrument. I usually place it a few inches in front of the bridge.
I use the industry standard Neumann KM 184 going into the Apollo and Neve 1073 preamp. I place it pointing towards the fingerboard around where it meets the neck and that gives you more finger noise and high end. On its own it doesn’t sound great but blended with a fuller signal (one of the other sources I provide) a very articulate more full range sound can be achieved.
DPA 4099B Body Microphone
This microphone mounts onto the bridge of the bass and captures a close-mic’ed body sound. The sound is similar to the bridge but slightly less ‘airy’. I record all signals in phase with one another so they can be blended to taste. The options are there but most people probably go for a mix of this or the bridge microphone plus a little fingerboard sound from the KM 184. Once I send the signals, the client is free to mix them however they want.
DI – David Gage ‘The Realist’ Pickup
The great Steve Rodby once told me his secret to getting a great double bass recording. With pickups, he told me that it is all about ultra-high impedance. I’m no physicist but the piezo nature of these devices require a very high impedance to sound any good at all. Often they are recorded at low impedance and sound very tinny or boxy. Most people do not use the DI sound although in certain styles of music (for example Latin) it is part of the sound. A very tiny amount can also be blended in to provide just a touch of bottom end.
Here’s the final track in action from the session I used as examples above. Credit to Daniele Carmosino for composing this great track:
I don’t actually know what the mixing engineer used in terms of bass signals. I do know that I love what they did with the bass on this track! I record the signals without compression or EQ so that there is complete freedom when mixing the bass in with all the other musical elements. Another good example of this bass in action is on Al Lethbridge’s Mediterraneo album.
If you’d like me to put some double bass down for one of your tracks let me know. It’s all recorded remotely and delivered online. The process is extremely simple and my turnaround is fast and prices extremely competitive. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss getting a real, warm, professionally-played double bass line recorded for your next track!