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Monday, March 17, 2008

Tips For Recording Bass Guitar

Sound and Recording
B. Thomas Cooper

Believe it or not, the modern bass as we know it today has roots dating back to the 17th century. The first electric bass, however, was invented by Lloyd Loar during the 1920’s while the legendary luthier was working for the Gibson Guitar company. Pardon the pun but during the last half a century, the bass has become instrumental in the development of modern music.

Recording the bass however, depends greatly upon the setting, and likewise, the recording techniques applied can vary tremendously. Let's get started, shall we?

We will start with the acoustic bass, a mutant string instrument designed to be plucked with the fingers. There are no frets on an upright acoustic bass, as the instrument has much in common with it's cousin, the cello. This puppy is anything other than simple to 'mic. The preferred method requires attaching a contact condenser microphone either to the inside of the of the instrument, or to the bridge of the bass ( the part where the strings pass over the saddle of the instrument.)

An acoustic bass can also be recorded or captured' using ambient microphones placed at a distance from the instrument, creating a warmer sound with less attack. However, this method is subject to bleed over, or cross - talk from other instruments in the room, thus the need for a direct signal.

Jon Duff

The electric bass is an entirely different beast, and proper recording methods probably shouldn't even be covered in the same article. As such, I'll try to keep my explanation short and simple.

An electric bass is connected to an amplifier, preferably using a shielded cable to prevent signal interference. The amplifier is then mic'd' using an array of microphones, although, no more than two at a time, thank you. A direct line may also be employed in order to capture a clean signal. The engineer then has the option to use various combinations of the recorded instrument to create an acceptable sound. The same applies to live performance or recording situations. Take your time, and think through the process, as it is almost never as easy as some would like you to believe.

Woodwind & Brasswind

Having spent the better part of three decades recording, I am still surprised by the sheer volume of of unadulterated misconceptions about the process. For those readers serious about learning to record bass track, there are countless articles on the subject available online and perhaps even your local library. Learn all you can about your craft, and by all means, enjoy the process. After all, isn't that really what it's all about?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tips For Recording Vocals

Sound and Recording
B. Thomas Cooper

When it comes to recording vocals, misconceptions abound. So many talented singers, so little dependable information. We are all instantly capable of recognizing a strong vocal performance, but what goes into capturing that performance usually isn't so obvious.

sound and recording

It all starts with a good singer and a good song. From there, choose a reliable microphone. Many engineers prefer using large diaphragm condenser microphones, but I have no preference. After thirty years of intensive studio experience I have learned to rely on the vocalist, not the microphone. While working as a staff producer at the world famous Power Station Studios, I had at my disposal nearly every quality microphone imaginable. One quickly learns not every vocal should be captured with an expensive condenser or ribbon mic. Think hard about what it is you're trying to accomplish. Feel free to experiment.

Remember, good microphone technique and proper singing habits will profoundly effect your vocal performance. A microphone can only capture what you produce. Once the performance has been captured, it can be enhanced through various means, including reverb, compression, etc. but all the reverb in the world will not drown out a bad performance.

Singers tend to be a finicky lot, a fact I can personally attest to. Still, no two vocalists are alike. Do whatever it takes to make the singer comfortable and confident. A good headphone mix is crucial. If you can't hear what your doing, you stand little chance of doing it well. I can honestly say the Power Station had the best headphone systems I have ever experienced. It is little wonder to me why the studio produced so many hit records.

From here, things get somewhat slippery. A producer like Terry Date will not approach a vocal for the Deftones in the same manner Jim Steinman might approach a Meat Loaf recording. Even at the highest levels of the industry, approach can be radically different.

Woodwind & Brasswind

Depending on the vocalist, an engineer may determine it necessary to use a ‘pop screen’ or ‘wind screen’. The purpose of this device is to soften the ‘sibilance’ or hissing noises associated with singing. It might also prevent you from spitting into an expensive microphone. The distance one should sing from the microphone depends on a number of variables. Again, think it through, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Unless all indications suggest to the contrary, go with the flow. In other words, don't rock the boat. Become a part of the process. Learn all you can about recording, and keep an open mind. A strong vocal track can make or break an otherwise average recording. It is our goal to recognize the difference.

B. Thomas Cooper & Friends

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Notice of Public Appearance

Sound and Recording
B. Thomas Cooper

It appears we are about to get busy, ready or not. Of course, this is old hat by now, and it’s a well worn and comfortable fit. I foresee nothing but good.

We, by the way, are B. Thomas Cooper and Friends, which includes myself, Jon Duff, and Nick Gill. In fact, the three of us will be performing at Joe’s Grotto in Phoenix next Wednesday evening at 9:pm. (That’s March 12th, for those of you with calendars.) Following our set, I will make myself available for questions, etc. I’m sure the others will as well.

I realize only a small handful of my readers are located in the valley, but fret not, we intend to hit as many spots on the map as we can before we wrap this thing up. After all, we’ve only just begun.

The appearance at Joe’s Grotto will be in front of an intimate crowd, providing an excellent opportunity for recording the performance. Joe’s Grotto always has great sound and lighting. You are welcome to bring your cameras. We will be bringing ours. The set will only last about a half an hour, so I suggest you arrive early. Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to ask about Echo.





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