The Key to getting a good rockabilly bass track is making sure you get the best acoustic bass and slap tones,and mixing them to the desired thump-tas tic effect. Unfortunately it ain't that easy. Recording acoustic bass can make you want to rip your ear drums out with a plastic spoon. Hopefully, these fine tips can saveyou from ten hours or more of getting crappy sounds.
You are unlikely to find an expensive,19th-century carved-top treasure inthe hands of a rockabilly cat. This is because most greasers generally spend their money on beer, tattoos,old junk cars, or bail money. Plywoodbasses such as old Kays, eastern European monstrosities, and the oddhigh-end King bass are most likely tobe brought through your studio door. Acoustically, these plywood beasts are rather dull sounding when compared to what your local jazzbop lucks, but who needs tone whenyou rock the pomp and tats so hard!
I recommend close-miking options, because there really isn’t awhole lot of volume being projected from the bass itself. You’ll also beable to grab a good portion of whatevertone the beast is putting out ifyou don’t let a lot of air standbetween the instrument and the mic. In addition, most Rockabilly actsprefer to play all together for thatauthentic vibe of the Eisenhower era, so close miking may somewhatdiminish the other instruments bleedingonto the bass track.
Place a large-diaphragm condenserset to its cardioid pattern about fiveinches from the f-hole, and a bit offcenter. This mic should cover thebass/body part of the sonic equation. To capture the slap, position a smalldiaphragmcondenser five to sixinches from the side of thefingerboard. This is the most basicsetup for pulling together a quicksound, and it allows some freedomwhen mixing, as you can get a decentbalance between the slap and bodysounds.
Wrap a cheap condenser mic set toits omni pattern in foam rubber, and wedge it between the bridge and the body of the bass. The capsule should be pointing up towards the neck. Ifluck is with you, the sound should bedetailed, yet still have plenty of body. I have found that inexpensive micsconsistently perform better in this setup—which is good news to themic-poor. If you don’t get enoughslap from the jammed-in-the-bridgemic, add a small-diaphragmcondenser in the finger board positionas detailed above.
Omnidirectional clip-on mics offergreat ways to pinpoint the sounds youare after. Cheaper models from RadioShack are designed to be clipped toan article of clothing, while moreexpensive models from the likes of Sennheiser have more versatile clipsand groovy little flexible goosenecks you can use to really dial in the mojo.The bridge, tailpiece, and f-holes are prime locations for the body sound,while clipping one to the end of the finger board will pick up the slap.
If you’ve achieved your sound withmic positioning alone—congratulations.For the rest of us unluckygeezers, some EQ may be in order.Here are some helpful hints:• Cu...