Skip to main content

Hi there! What a great forum!

I'm a total beginner when it comes to recording so I need some advise. I'm looking on making a video DVD recording of myself playing for an upcoming audition. I'm a classical double bassist (bowed) so I need a microphone that would work well for a low pitched bowed bass instrument, I'm also not looking to break the bank.

I take it that a camcorder will have a good video function but terrible audio quality. Perhaps using a Logitech webcam to pick up the video and a USB microphone would work to pick up the audio? Zoom just released the Q3 but the video quality looks quite bad.

Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thank you very kindly,



BobRogers Mon, 12/14/2009 - 16:11

I know several music professors who grade auditions. They all want to believe that they ignore tone in taped auditions. (I'm sure you have heard this already. They certainly want to believe it. Whether they do or not is another story.) If you are trying to sell yourself on tone (as opposed to other technical ability) I'd make the effort to do a live audition. Otherwise I think that a good camcorder with an reasonable outboard mic will be fine. If you already own these, you are good to go. They can also be rented in many places. In addition, most recording studios will make you a very well produced DVD for less that the cost of a good mic.

JoeH Mon, 12/14/2009 - 17:47

Yes, I'd have to agree with Bob; if you're really looking to audition for a bass position at a school or orchestra, you might be better served to just go rent some studio time and let the pro's handle it.

Do you want to be an engineer or a bassist? For now, I'd suggest letting the pro's handle this important step for you, and buying the mic/recording gear later on, when your'e not under pressure to get it right. (Don't you have your hands full enough with the audition?)

Any decent LD mic will do, so will a smaller diaphragm if placed carefully. A good instrument and good room is more important than the actual mic, ditto for your playing skills. It's always this in order of importance: Performer, instrument, mic, placement and room. In that order. Trust me on that, no matter what anyone tells you.

I could do a great job on your sound with a $200 MXL mic if you had a good sound and a good instrument. If you sucked, not even my $1600 Neuman KMi 84's or DPA 4006/4023's are going to help at all.

Good luck, however you go.

TheJackAttack Mon, 12/14/2009 - 19:00

Any decent LD mic will do, so will a smaller diaphragm if placed carefully. A good instrument and good room is more important than the actual mic, ditto for your playing skills. It's always this in order of importance: Performer, instrument, mic, placement and room. In that order. Trust me on that, no matter what anyone tells you.

I could do a great job on your sound with a $200 MXL mic if you had a good sound and a good instrument. If you sucked, not even my $1600 Neuman KMi 84's or DPA 4006/4023's are going to help at all.

+1. Emphasis is mine. Sound quality is one of the most important things. Everyone and their dog will get all the notes. After 26 years trying not too look to closely at conductors and having sat on both sides of the audition screen, my advice is to remember the three T's. Play in Tune, in proper Time, with a great Tone. 99% of all auditionees are eliminated from one or more of these three items.

Hire someone else to make sure it gets on the DVD properly.

Calvin Mon, 12/14/2009 - 19:27

Hi all, thank you very much for the prompt replies, you sure know what you're talking about. I actually never considered getting it done by a professional because I was worried that it would be hundreds of dollars, and I wasn't sure if any audio-engineer or studio would have a camcorder (ie, I thought that these places were strict audio only).

However, I'd still like to know if there are any recording unit's that would work well for a classical (bowed) double bass, considering that I'd like to be able to tape myself often and then critique it to help improve my playing.

Thanks again for all the help.

PS: The audition is for my MMUS degree at a conservatory in the U.S. A live audition is definitely preferable but I can't make the live audition date nor is it very accessible to get to with my instrument :)

dvdhawk Mon, 12/14/2009 - 20:40

1. Never believe anyone who tells you they won't judge you on audio or video quality of a recorded audition or demo.... they absolutely will. Whether it's a conscious act or not, the experience of hearing / seeing your performance piece will be judged and compared to other applicants. I've often wondered if people in that position aren't deliberately filtering out those who didn't care enough to do a good job.

2. The on-board mics available with any of the more popular pro / semi-pro (Sony VX-2000, Sony VX-2100, Sony PD-150, Canon GL-1, Canon XL-1) would all be very decent. I'd try to rent, beg, or borrow a good quality video camera that will have a mic as good or better than the on-board mic of the Zoom. And all of those camcorders have external mic capability with the right accessories.

Good DIY video is all about good lighting, so finding a room that has good light AND is true to the sound of your instrument, may take some thought.

3. Again you might be surprised at how reasonable the price for a professional session might be. They charge by the hour, so assuming you're well-prepared you should be done fairly quickly.

Good luck.

Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 12/15/2009 - 03:57

In my previous job at the local college I use to hear a lot of sent in auditions. Some were well done, a majority were done by laying the microphone on the piano and having the TV on in the background. The audition tape could have been from a new Van Cliburn but it was hard to hear how good they were with the microphone rattling on the piano and the TV on in the background.

We do recordings now, both audio and video, for students seek graduate placement and they are done in the college's concert hall with the best video equipment and with the best audio recording equipment and they come out very professional sounding and look great. A far cry from the "olde" days. It is a different world and what others here have said is very true - the quality of the recording does matter BIG TIME even if the person listening to the recording does not want to admit it.

To the OP - get someone who knows what they are doing and I am sure you will be happy with the results.

Best of luck on your audition.

BobRogers Tue, 12/15/2009 - 05:35

I agree with John that a had-held flash recorder is a great practice tool. If you mount it on a camera tripod and position it correctly you can get very good recording quality with the internal microphones. The Zoom seems to be the front runner right now. But new models are coming out regularly.

Since this is an audition for a graduate degree, I would definitely get a studio to record you. I would expect a certain degree of professionalism at this level and would not make the allowances that I would for an audition disk by a high school student.

You could do everything yourself, but the equipment would cost more than the studio time and the time you would have to invest in learning to do it right is better spent practicing.

Just curious - what kind of bass and bow do you have?

JoeH Tue, 12/15/2009 - 05:56

I always tell folks who are considering DIY's and such, for grants and auditions: Go ahead, take your chances with trying to do it all, but remember, your competition is using ME, or someone like me to do theirs.

The only variable should be your playing, the technical side can be a given, if you have a professional handling it for you. THen all you need worry about is yourself.

"Having said that" (Curb your Enthusiasm Finale), if you do go with a good camcorder, just make sure the auto-level/auto-gain function is off when recording. Or, use somthing like the zoom and run line level out of the zoom and into the aux audio inputs of your camera. (If it has that capability.)

Third option would be to record with a zoom-like audio device separately, and mix/match the audio with the picture later in post, using Sony Vegas or Final Cut, or i-Movie, etc. Good solid sync is critical, however; if they have any suspicion that it's been edited or dubbed, you're toast.

Calvin Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:38

BobRogers wrote:
Just curious - what kind of bass and bow do you have?

My Bass is a custom made instrument that was completed in September 2008. It was made by luthier Donald Gorman who lives on the East Coast of Canada. It's a full sized instrument with very deep ribs but the top ribs are very thin and the upper bouts are smaller making it easy to play. The wood is of the highest quality as well. I've included photos here:

In terms of bows, I use two. Both French (overhand) models. One by Zdislaw Prochownik from Winnipeg, the other by Bernard Walke which has sterling silver parts and Snakewood and was made in Ottawa.

So, all Canadian gear.


Calvin Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:42

TheJackAttack wrote:

The one on the left is a very non invasive installation and is the one my wife had done a couple of years ago.

Ya, I don't use an extension, regardless of the design. I don't like them at all and I find that the added mass mutes the instrument or makes it heavier than it needs to be. If I need to play the low notes I use a five-string instrument.

So, some audio engineers have video equipment as well?

TheJackAttack Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:55

Yes some audio engineers have video equipment.

Nice. That's the way-two instruments. Some folks don't like to maintain two instruments or don't have the cash. My wife dragged her feet for years and years until we found this particular extension. We brass players often have more than one instrument-and they're more durable anyway ;-)

Anyway, I threw it out there for general info. And if you end up teaching in a university the knowledge will be quite useful since 99% of school students only have one instrument and no means to drop another 15-20k. 8-)

RemyRAD Wed, 12/16/2009 - 00:03

Here is the other secret that most everybody has not told you.

Whether you have a good camcorder or not, most of us would not rely upon any of the microphone preamp's in any camcorder to capture anything other than noise. Most of us would record the bass separately from the camcorder picture. We would use the camcorder audio for synchronization purposes to synchronize our audio to the video leaving out the original camcorder audio. That's because most camcorders have AVC a.k.a. automatic volume control which is horrendous sounding. The better ones have limiters which really aren't much better. When you audition for anything you need to put your best foot forward. Your custom-made bass cost you a pretty penny. You need to invest in your recording in any similar professional manner. You are not cutting corners on your instrument. Why would you cut corners on your presentation? Most of us have professional camcorders these days since you're type of audition is some of our bread and butter. I've done plenty. My video auditions go beyond the average. They appear to be more of a professional video production then an audition. Something good enough that you could actually sell or give to your friends & family members proudly. You don't purchase a Lamborghini and then look for the cheapest gas station and put regular in it.

You need to spend a couple of hundred dollars and get the job done right your future is at stake.

No future in recordings
Mx. Remy Ann David

Cucco Tue, 01/05/2010 - 07:12

One more piece of advice added to the already great advice so far -

Contact your teacher or some of the symphony players in your local orchestra (I see on some of your other Internet profiles that you're in NE Canada and Boston - obviously, there are plenty of pro's in the Boston area to choose from). Find out who they're using for their recordings.

The last thing you want is some blow-hard who doesn't know your bass from a Fender P-Bass.

Personally, I've been finding myself doing a LOT of audition recordings lately - many with video (obviously being done to verify a single take).

Usually, for audio only, it's about $300. For audio and high-def video (2 angles if desired, 1 angle standard - usually 1 angle is required for auditions) for $450-$500. That gets you about 2-3 hours of recording (which is usually more than enough for a good audition CD/DVD).

It may sound a little expensive, but a good mic will set you back at least 2x that much, not to mention all of the other associated gear. Considering it could mean a full grant/assistanceship at a Grad school, it's usually worth the cash!

Of course, looking at the calendar, you probably needed to have all of this done last week. Hopefully your results are good.

Please check back with us and let us know how it goes and where you get in!


PS -
That is a beautiful instrument!