How to mic a double bass

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Guidelines for miking the double bass with DPA Microphones.
This article will give you some guidelines on close miking a double bass (upright bass, acoustic bass or contra bass). It will discuss the best type of microphone for the job, suitable placement options and mounting tips.

Please remember, great sound is subjective and the miking methods described in this article are suggestions only. Try these methods out, but make sure to listen and choose the best solution for your specific situation.

Close miking an instrument is often considered to be a compromise to the instrument’s true acoustic sound. An instrument’s sound is usually designed to be experienced at a distance so that all the different elements of the sound are naturally blended into a perfect harmony. Yet often, mounting a microphone directly on the instrument is the most practical solution.

Finding and placing the microphone in the instrument’s sweet spot – or your preferred location, can be a challenge. Keeping it there can be even more challenging, especially if the instrument is moved. For this reason, close-miking requires a dependable mounting solution.

The instrument

The double bass’ lowest note is the E1, which is equivalent to 41Hz. To capture the low notes you need to choose a microphone that is capable of handling low frequencies. The overtones and the fine details of the double bass also require the microphone to handle high frequencies and have a high level of accuracy as well.

Microphone positioning

The spot under the bridge, between the strings and the deck, is a good position to mount a microphone. This position represents most of the elements of the bass sound we want to capture – low end as well as ‘bite’ when the strings are plucked or bowed.

If you prefer more volume, positioning the mic closer to, or pointing at, the F-hole, is ideal. For more information, read the Mounting the microphone section below.

Types of microphones

Omnidirectional (pressure) microphones have the great advantage of picking up sound evenly from all directions (although some “omnidirectional” microphones are slightly directional at the highest frequencies). Using an omnidirectional microphone is appropriate when you want to pick up the full sound of the instrument and you can maneuver it (using a gooseneck) a short distance away from the instrument.

There are many sound sources on the double bass. Due to its size there are several good spots to pick from. Using an omnidirectional microphone – like the d:dicate™ 4006ES Omnidirectional Microphone or the d:screet™ SC4061 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphone – allow you to pick any one place, close to or, by using a gooseneck, at a short distance from the instrument. Using an omnidirectional microphone ensures the sound will not lack low-frequency due to the proximity effect as when using directional microphones. Proximity effect is an increase in bass or low-frequency response when a sound source is close to a directional microphone.

Using a directional microphone like the d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphone or the d:dicate™ 4011ES Cardioid Microphone has the advantage of being able to focus on the sound of the key instrument, isolating it from surrounding sound sources, such as other instruments onstage or the PA system. On the other hand, directional microphones suffer from the proximity effect and therefore require more adjustment to find the preferred position. Moving the microphone close to the instrument will increase the low-end response, which might be desirable.

Bear in mind that the double bass reacts as a huge reflective surface. The incoming sound from other sources (instruments, PA system) might reflect off it and enter the microphone from the front even if the microphone is pointing away from the source.

Tip: If the bass player prefers to stand close to the drummer, point the directional microphone away from the drum kit. This will minimize the bleed from the drum sound reflection off the bass.

Mounting the microphone

All of the above-mentioned microphones can be placed either on a microphone stand or directly on the bass using the appropriate microphone mount.

A great close-miking mount is the BC4099 Clip for Bass, which is sturdy and made to stay in place in almost any position. It fits over or under the strings and can be adjusted to reach across two to four or even between two strings due to its flexible design. The clip works together with a number of our goosenecks allowing you to not only place the microphones according to your taste but also taking the application and the surrounding noise into consideration. The goosenecks are extremely flexible and can be slightly bent in order to position the microphone as needed.

Tip: If you prefer more volume from the Double Bass, positioning the mic closer to, or pointing at, the F-hole, is ideal. This can be done by bending the gooseneck horizontally toward the F-hole.

The BC4099 Clip for Bass works with the GSM4000 Gooseneck Shock Mount, the GM1600 Gooseneck Mount for d:screet™ and the d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphone.

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