I’m trying out new ways to record the UBass. Up until now I have used only the DI in my Headway Preamp into my Universal Audio Twin-Finity 710 (tube/solid state) preamp or my Fishman preamp into the same UA preamp. Recently I started to put a mic on the speaker cabinet (different ones depending on where I recorded). I then mixed that signal with the DI/line signal.
Now I’ll put a mic in front of the UBass to pick up on the acoustic sound coming directly from the UBass.
With this approach comes a couple of things to consider.
First of all; the UBass is really not that loud acoustically (this is of cause nothing new to those who have played the UBass). The ‘loudness’ can differ depending on if you use the stock strings or another of the available sets. (Read more about the different strings here and here). I haven’t yet tried other strings than the stock ones but will do that as soon as possible. This approach will probably work best in a controlled studio environment. On a live stage the ‘leakage’ from other instruments will probably make it hard to get a good and solid tone from the UBass since you have to compensate for the low volume coming from the the instrument acoustically. It might work with a super cardioid mic. (I’ll try this in a future lab!)
Ok. How should you do to record the acoustic sound from the UBass?
Well here are some suggestions based on my different ‘labs’.
I tried different condenser microphones. Large and small diaphragm. I also tried a ribbon microphone and a tube condenser to make it a nice ’roundup’. The tube condenser mic is visible in this photo. (This photo was taken during a session with Nelson Faria. Read more in this post.)
I chose to play the melody to the song ‘How insensitive’. (Jobim). (Right now I’m working on a recording project that might feature that song. So it was convenient to try this technique on that tune.)
As a background for the melody I’m using one of the over 100 CD’s by Jamey Aebersold. These are made for practicing melody, improvisation skills and bass lines (mostly walking bass) on mainly jazz tunes. But there are other genres represented like the Bossa Nova tune I used in the ‘lab’.
(This song is featured on vol. 98 Antonio Carlos Jobim – Bossa Nova).
These Aebersold CDs use a neat ‘minus-one’ feature. If you pan hard right you can remove the bass part. If you pan hard left you remove the piano/guitar (Some tunes are with guitar and others with piano).
I used this feature to make my recording a bit more authentic. Since you hardly ever play with two bass players (Ok, there are exceptions. Please check out live recordings and shows with Victor Wooten for an excellent exception!) I muted the regular bass part so the UBass melody was the only bass instrument. This will also let the listener focus in on the ubass melody/solo OR bass part.
The different microphones in the ‘labs’
Mic 1 (Oktava MK-012 in super cardioid and cardioid mode)
Mic 2 (Microtech Gefell M92S Tube)
Mic 3 (AKG C414 XLII in cardioid mode)
Mic 4 (Golden Age R1 Active Ribbon)
Mic 5 (Røde NT1-A)
In part 2 you will be able to listen to the different mics. Maybe you will be able to pick out a favourite mic/type that you think sounds best? Hopefully you will at least get the chance to hear a couple of different microphone types and how well (or not) they work in reproducing the acoustic tone of the UBass! Link to Part 2