This is a guest post by Mike Sorensen of Acoustic Fields
We live in the year 2012 AD and yet we are still light years away from perfecting the recording process.
As Donald Rumsfeld once said: “There are known knowns and there are known unknowns.”
OK, so he was talking about the Iraq war in a very mangled way (as was his style), but there is a certain truth to his statement. Especially when looked through the prism of the bass recording process.
It aggravates me no end to think of the great recordings that could have been made had the technology been up to scratch. From Booty Collins to Victor Wooten, we owe it to bass players of the present and future to capture the unique essence of their craft.
The correct recording process is invaluable to capturing the specific styles and sounds of these players.
Carles Benavent is the bass player for Chick Corea’s Flamenco Heart band. He is a bass guitar player with passion. He says that, “Flamenco music is coming from the pain inside, so it is very artistic and emotive.” He copied Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as a child and then began making solos which lead him to his unique bass playing style. In the February edition of Bass Player Magazine there is an article about him and his style of playing.
In the article it states, “Benavent established a virtuoso style that expands on flamenco’s fluid right hand picking and chording techniques- a distinctive fusion of his Spanish roots and his jazz-rock leanings. His current bass, the semi-acoustic Barcelona V-5 string he designed with luthier Jersey Drozd, is strung with a high C, which enables him to closely shadow the guitar with a piccolo sound, aided by the bite-sensitive balance of the instrument’s neck and bridge pick ups.”
Rhonda Smith has played bass for Prince and is currently on tour with Jeff Beck. She is also working on her own album. She is famous for a technique termed double thumbing. In the article entitled “Bass Notes”, she talks about that particular technique and how she does it. She states, “I probably would be better off if my thumb was curved like a real bass player’s thumb, but mine is very straight. So I’ve developed what I call a “top and bottom” approach, where I strike down on the top of the string with the tip of my thumb, and then I strike the bottom of the string on the way back up from underneath.”
She explains further, “Then I might incorporate some muted hammer-on notes with my left hand. From there I might add more action by plucking a higher string with my index finger-sometimes I use my first two fingers. And sometimes I’ll thumb up and down on a string while I keep the plucking going on a higher string. Sometimes I’ll even add a flamenco-like lick of all of my right hand fingers on the G-string for a flurry of notes.”
Mark Hoppus goes after special bass sounds when he is recording. Mark says, “For me, tracking bass is all about the mids. I have to have a good foundation of low end, with nothing choppy or farty, and just enough highs that it has bite without being sizzling. A lot of times a play a combination of bass and rhythm guitar, so my bass has to fill in the low mids and upper lows.”
Are we meeting these bass players with the proper level of low-frequency-control in our listening rooms? Does your room allow for all of these individual bass techniques to be heard clearly?Do we have all the room resonances under control, so they don’t smear or blur our bass presentation and we can hear “double thumbing?”
Is our room large enough, so we can hear the lowest note on the bass guitar in its entirety, without a bump in that particular frequency. Can we hear and understand the different styles these bass players have taken so long to develop. I hope so. We owe ourselves and the musicians at least that much.
About the author
Mike Sorensen is an audiophile and the author of AcousticFields.com soundproofing & audio blog. He has spent the past 30 years working as an audio engineer to refine the sound diffusion process so all listeners can listen to the music without hearing the room.
Image by: Sean Molin Photography