The switch to upright
Not sure which category to post this in, but at least a couple of my questions pertain to amplification, please feel free to move the thread if necessary or to link me to any relevant threads:
I am an electric bassist and guitarist. Recently I have acquired a Hofner fully carved bass, I believe it is Czech made but don't know the year, the sticker in the bass identifying it has been damaged. My guess is 1920's-30's.
This bass was in pretty rough shape and had been neglected for some time. I have it at a luthier now for setup and bridge work and controlling some of the cracks. I get it back today. I bought some new thomastik spirocore mediums which it will be strung with.
The bass has no case and no pickup, so:
Question 1: How much of a case do I need to invest in for this bass. Any recommendations?
Question 2: Pickup/mic. I will be playing traditional music (bluegrass/fiddle tunes) as well as world music (african and latin with a drummer). What pickups would you recommend for a fully carved bass with those styles/volume levels in mind? Do I need a preamp beyond the amplifier preamp?
Question 3: I will want to be able to amplify this at volume levels from acoustic music(just to add presence) to moderately loud world project. I currently have an alembic f1x/qsc/plx1202/fearlful 15/6 for my electric setup, I also have a trace elliot combo. Will that all be useless for double bass? Should I be looking at an entirely new rig for upright or can I use some of the gear I have? All this is on a budget of course as the costs of double bass ownership rapidly add up.
I know I have other questions, but would be interested in peoples thoughts on the transition from electric to upright, things I should keep in mind, or info about my bass or fully carved basses in general, I have been reading here extensively and appreciate all the knowledge.
Thanks in Advance,
Get a good teacher. Pronto. Technique is something that needs to be there before you start going through (and rejecting) gear.
Finding "your sound" and then making it work amplified takes a long time. There is no fix-all, or piece of equipment that works with every bass/bassist. Expect to spend a lot of time and money. I lot of bass guitarists seem to think that taking up the double bass is a causal proposition. Then they want to cut corners--buying cheap equipment or forgoing a teacher. My advice would be to realize on the outset that the instrument is very hard to learn, and very expensive relative to the bass guitar. You could easily spend $1000 just finding the strings you like.
That being said, once you get a decent right-hand technique, I recommend starting with a Fishman Full Circle, and yes, you will need a pre-amp. All piezo pickups require proper impedance matching to work well with the double bass (1-10 million ohms). Spirocore (medium or light) should be the first string you try. Leave them on at least a year before you think about trying something else.
Good luck! There's a vast amount of shared experience here on TalkBass, and you'll do well to listen to the consensus...
Absolutely. I just contacted a pro I know to see about my technique. Thanks for the motivation to do it. I have been watching videos about right hand technique and tone production, but I'm sure the teacher will be invaluable. I assume, since I am a moderately competent musician that I could benefit from checking out a few different teachers to get a variety of insights on technique. Do you agree?
I guess my first step is a decent case so I can at least bring it out in the Maine winter for lessons.
I've owned 5 or 6 cases. My favorite was the Mooradian Standard model. Super-well built, moderately priced, light but offers good protection.
I wish I still had it...
fEARFUL will work for upright
The fearful will work very well compared to most bass amps for upright because of its generally flat response, but get yourself an fdeck pre if you don't already have one. You will always have feedback problems but the subsonics are simultaneously the worst offenders and completely unnecessary. You will particularly benefit from the fdeck since the fearful has so much more low end extension than other cabinets and you're not going below an E on upright.
The fdeck pre will also give you the right impedance for the piezo, so 2 birds with one stone. You probably want a piezo because it's too hard to amplify a mic without feeding back while pickups sound too much like an EB, although guys who play really loud do use pickups instead of piezos. Even with a piezo, you won't be able to stand in front of your amp or you'll feed back. There are entire threads on feedback control; most involve staying out of the way of your own amp and muting the afterlength somehow. Back to the piezo: a lot of people like the K&K for what you'll be doing - check out gollihur.com. There is always something in the classifieds here.
If you have a Sansamp BDDI, that will also match the impedance of the piezos correctly and can give you more note definition if that's what you're looking for. I don't know if the WTDI has the right impedance but it is one of the few other EB pres that work well with URB. I have not had good results from the Sadowsky, VT or Tone Hammer on URB.
Make sure you find a scope of your head online so you know what "flat" is. That and the fearful will really help you get the "my bass, only louder" sound people are looking for and you can adjust from there as you like.
I inherited a fully carved bass several years ago. Oddity is that it was the instrument I learned to play bass on, but hadn't played it in 25 years when I took possession of it. Got a K&K bass max and just ran it through my MXR M80 into my Ampeg BA115 (everything set at flat) and haven't had a problem. Get a teacher and definitely expect to put in some hours of practice time to become even half as good as you are on the bass guitar. Also get the Simandl book(s) and Ray Brown's Bass method.
What do you mean by "muting the afterlength"?
GrowlerBox: Thanks I had checked out a couple of the Chris Fitzgerald videos, quality stuff. But I think I'm going to find the guy in the first video and get some private lessons!
So... I got back the bass and it sounds amazing and plays wonderfully. I'm already loving the sound I'm getting out of it. I've got the Evolving Bassist and should be getting the copy of Simandl shortly. So Ray Brown, any other resources I should check out? Also I have contacted a teacher so should be having a lesson soon.
You got yourself a pretty nice bass. Get a Mooradian Deluxe bag if you can, and if you can't, borrow the extra 160 bucks rather than getting the standard bag. I owned a deluxe that was like 10 years old until I sold it with a bass. I got a standard bag for the new bass and regretted the difference, sold the standard bag here on talkbass and got the deluxe. The double bass is way bigger and more fragile than the electric bass, you'll need all the protection you can get and feel comfortable carrying it.
Congrats on your new baby, and get stuck in!
I made the jump to double bass about 14 months ago after playing electric for almost 20 years. It's been a great ride and congrats to you for doing it!
The remark about spiro strings is spot on. I went through obligatos, guts, garbo velvets and animas before ending up with the spiros. They just work, plain and simple. I am thankful I've been able to experience all the different strings I have, but the money I spent on them I could've been stockpiling for buying a nicer bass.
Second, I've got a Realist on my bass (Engelhardt EM-1) and I dig it, but I would love to put my Full Circle back on it. The only reason I haven't is because I had a new bridge installed and the FC is now thread down and it just doesn't sound as good as thread up does. The FC works and in hindsight was the best pickup to go with when starting out. It's easy, sounds great and will keep on ticking. Don't think about your amplified tone, create and refine a gorgeous sound unplugged. Odds are wherever you play there will be a sound guy between you and the audience that will destroy whatever natural acoustic tone you had when you sent him the signal. I don't even want to know what my DB sounds like out in the audience because I'm sure I'd probably be let down.
Books... I personally can't read sheet music that well. I've got Rufus's book, Ray Brown's and Simandl. They are all great, but Simandl has been a great book for me. It scared me at first, but since I've been working out of it more and more, it's excellent. I started with the first section of Rufus since it focused so much on basic technique and then moved on to Simandl and Ray as I felt that Rufus got a little too advanced for my terrible sight reading skills too quickly. If you can read, though, it'll be awesome!
Beyond that, TEACHER!! Glad to hear you're starting with one right out of the gate. I waited a few months, and although the couple people I've worked with said I'm doing great, I know I would've advanced much more quickly and proficiently with a teacher being lined up from the get-go.
Take your time. If you get frustrated because you can't play in tune, put it down and come back to it after you readjust your thinking for a few minutes. It'll do wonders. Play the stupidest, easiest tunes you can while you're new and focus on playing in tune and getting a great tone out of those fingers of yours. I still can't play quite as well fast as I can on my electric, but it'll come before you know it and you'll amaze yourself each and every day with what you can all of a sudden pull off. That's half the fun!!
Enjoy, because you will! I literally haven't played my electric on a gig since we did the Rock and Roll Marathon back in October. It's amazing how quickly I lost interest in electric once I got a grasp of the brown beauty. You'll get frustrated, pissed, angry... But you'll also be ecstatic at all you'll accomplish on it, trust me. Best of luck!!
Afterlength/feedback/direct with fearful
The afterlength is the part of the string between the bridge and tailpiece.
A lot of the feedback "howl" comes from the afterlength.
This thread shows a damper on the afterlength:
Muting the afterlength, and everything else you do to control feedback, will have an effect on your tone. It's all about tradeoffs. Here are some of the more comprehensive feedback threads:
Get a bag that fits your bass and has ample protection. I like the Messina http://messinacovers.net/index.html but there are several good options.
Regarding amplification, the main thing is to learn to get a good sound out of the bass. Next, choose a pickup. Read as many pickup threads as you can to get a comparison. In the end, you just have to choose one and use it for some time to know how it fits your bass and playing situations. With a piezo pickup, the input impedance on your amp should be at least 1meg. You might want to get the Fdeck HPF unit.
The most important factor in the amplified tone is you so work with a good teacher on getting the best sound you can. Don't look for improvements down the signal chain because your amplifier will only amplify what you put into it. It takes time so be patient. I wouldn't recommend looking at equipment for a year or so because you need time to develop your sound and you'll be chasing the unknown. No sense throwing money away.
It's a money pit so keep it all in perspective. Good luck.
Thanks so much for all the responses, it is much appreciated. I am doing everything I can to improve my personal acoustic sound. I had a great practice session today with the open string etudes in the Rufus Reid book.
I will however be playing this bass with people sooner rather than later, so while I appreciate the need to focus on developing my sound, I will also need to amplify soon, so even if I don't get my ultimate amplified sound immediately I need to start with something.
Also, I have been playing my bass a lot since I got it back yesterday and it seems as though the A string is lower in volume and harmonic content. Can anybody suggest the reason for that?
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