Recording the Bass Clarinet

Last week I recorded a “single” album of the Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 by J. S. Bach.  I arranged the music for solo bass clarinet, recorded, edited, mastered, and uploaded everything. I tried to work on one track per day, and for the most part that’s how it worked out to be- 7 movements in 7 days. I have received many questions on where and how I recorded this track, so I thought I would talk about that here.


Here are my tools that I used to record the Bach “Bass Clarinet” Suite No. 1 (forgive me Mr. Bach and all cellists).

Location: my room

ZOOM iQ5 lightning port microphone facing the opposite of me (the wall)

iPhone5 (you have to download a free app called Handy Recorder)

GripTight Gorillapod Stand for Smartphones

a towel over a chair in front of the music stand to absorb the key sounds

GarageBand 6.0.5

iMovie (for uploading on YouTube)

Buffet Crampon “low c” 1193 bass clarinet

Vandoren Optimum bass clarinet ligature (for the last two tracks)

Vandoren Masters bass clarinet ligature (for the rest of the tracks)

Vandoren B50 bass clarinet mouthpiece

Vandoren V12 2.5 bass clarinet reeds

Now the step-by-step:

  1. Set up.
  2. Record takes.
  3. Listen to takes, delete unwanted tracks.
  4. Upload good take to SoundCloud (an option on HandyRecorder by ZOOM)
  5. Download to GarageBand on my laptop, edit out the beginning and the end of the track (moving noises or coughing before and after playing).
  6. I decided to then put every track/ movement into one GarageBand file so I can edit them together closely, and then put them all on one track, since it isn’t too long and it’s easier for audiences to navigate especially on YouTube.
  7. Add reverb during the mastering process.
  8. Using iMovie, I synced the covert art to the track.
  9. Upload to YouTube.

ZOOM Devices vs ZOOM Add-On Microphones

I have been using ZOOM devices for almost 7 years now, and I think their biggest downfall in their portable recording devices have been navigating quickly between tracks on their screens. SO SLOW. So a year ago when I saw that they had come out with iPhone/iPad add on mics, I bought the iQ5 and the iQ6. I finally find the iQ5 works better for the bass clarinet. Navigating between tracks on the smart devices are much faster this way, and you can now upload the tracks to your computer wireless. The future.

Room for Improvement

Aside from my playing, of course my recording skills can be better in basically all areas. However, the recording was successful enough that about half of the people that listened to the track asked me how I recorded the track. I will stubbornly take that as a good sign.

Now I think the biggest issue in the recording is perhaps the key noises (chunk clunk clunk vomp click), as pointed out by some listeners. Well, first of all, compared to the noise I was hearing in real life, I think it’s actually pretty ok. Second, it is a freaking bass clarinet, and the keys can only be so soft  (except if you’re playing a spell-bound instrument like the Tosca bass clarinet… which I do not have). But still, maybe next time I will use a blanket instead of a towel.

 For the most part, everything went smoothly. However I live just outside of my (now previous) internet provider’s good signal region, so long story short the video to YouTube two and a half days to upload. Granted my computer is getting pretty slow now too, but for sure if you are doing uploading work you want a good internet connection. But not to worry, we just changed the provider yesterday, and now the internet connection and speed are infinitely better.

Equipment-wise I think my new B50 worked pretty well in the recording. It has a very even sound throughout all registers, and is not too stuffy when recorded. The last two tracks were recorded on Optimum ligatures, and the rest were on Masters ligature. The reason I changed was because I felt while the Optimum was powerful in sound, it was perhaps too powerful and not sensitive enough for this kind of recording. Masters ligature was better in this area, but it is actually bit too thin and unsupportive (doesn’t hold the sound and large volumes of air well) for my taste and can crack the sound quite easily.

Benefits of Home Recording

Altogether, I spent $0 USD and this was a fun project from which I learned so much. I did everything at my own pace, with my own deadline, with my own equipment. I was also in a safe environment away from listeners. Anyway, hope you enjoy the recording!


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