Acoustic Bass

The acoustic bass (string bass, double bass, upright bass) puts out frequencies as low as 41Hz, so use a mic with a good low-frequency response such as a large-diaphragm condenser mic or ribbon mic. As always, closer miking improves isolation, while distant miking tends to sound more natural but can pick up too much room sound. Try one of these techniques:

  • 4 to 8 inches in front of the bridge, a few inches above the bridge.
  • 4 to 6 inches under the bridge, a few inches from the strings. This mic will pick up a deep sound with good definition. Mix in a second mic near the fingers to capture the plucking sounds. Cut the lows and boost 2kHz on the finger mic for extra clarity.
  • Mix a pickup with a mic, or use a pickup alone and EQ it to sound good.


Some miking techniques for the acoustic bass

Here are some methods that isolate the bass and let the player move around. They work well for PA:

  • Wrap a mini omni condenser mic in a foam windscreen and mount it in the bridge aiming up.
  • Tape a mini omni mic to the bridge, or wedge it into a slot in the bridge.
  • Wrap a regular cardioid mic in foam padding (except the front grille) and squeeze it behind the bridge or tailpiece.
  • For best isolation, try a direct feed from a pickup. This method adds clarity and deep bass, but probably will need some EQ. You might mix the pickup with a microphone.

Saxophone

A sax miked very near the bell sounds bright, breathy, and rather harsh. Mike it there for best isolation. To get a warm, natural sound, mike the sax about 1–1/2 feet away, halfway down the wind column (see below).


A natural-sounding mic placement for sax

Horns

“Horns” in studio parlance refers to the brass instruments: trumpets, cornets, trombones, baritones, french horns, and tubas.

All the brass radiate strong highs straight out from the bell, but do not project them to the sides. A mic close to and in front of the bell picks up a bright, edgy tone. To mellow out the tone, either use a ribbon mic or place a flat-response microphone off-axis of the bell. The sound on-axis to the bell has a lot of spiky high harmonics which might overload some condenser mics. That’s another reason to mike off-axis.


Miking for trumpet tone control (top view)

Mike the trumpet with a dynamic or ribbon mic to take the edge off the sound. Use a condenser mic if you want a lot of sizzle. Mike about 1 foot away for a tight sound; mike several feet away (in a room with live acoustics) for a fuller, more dramatic sound.

You can pick up two or more horns with one microphone. Several players can be grouped around a single omni mic, a single figure-eight mic, or in front of a stereo pair of mics.

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Bruce Bartlett is a recording engineer, audio journalist, and microphone engineer (www.bartlettaudio.com). His latest books are” Practical Recording Techniques 6th Ed.” and “Recording Music On Location”.