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Curious about Double Bass Volume

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by russpurdy, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. russpurdy

    russpurdy Supporting Member

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    Hey guys,

    I am curious about how much volume a double bass puts out typically.

    I have heard classical, jazz, and folk players playing acoustically and they seem to get a pretty decent amount of volume out of the bass. Enough to mix nicely with an acoustic guitar at least.

    Whenever I have noodled around on an upright I find them to be insanely quiet. Almost whisper quiet. Is this a technique issue? Cheaply built bass issue? Projection (more volume if I were in front of the instrument rather than standing behind/beside it)?

    Thanks!
  2. SidMau

    SidMau

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    You shouldn't even need to hear it, you should be able to feel the upright when playing it. Are you playing like a bass guitarist or a double bassist?
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Getting a big sound out of the instrument takes a much different physical approach than playing a bass guitar. "Noodling around" ain't gonna get you there. I most often play with a quartet (tenor, grand piano, me and drums) without amplification, but I've been working at getting a big projecting sound without a lot of tension for awhile. You could pick up my bass and not be able to get that level of sound out.

    Sure, some basses project better than others. But it's about physical approach. Someone who works on it is going to get a bigger sound out of WHATEVER bass than you are.
  4. tmntfan

    tmntfan

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    I'm Guess it is a technique problem.

    Think about it, the instrument is at least 5 times larger then an acoustic guitar, it will take 5 times as much power to get a decent sound.

    you can't play the upright with the same touch as electric. If you are really interested in it I would recommend finding a music store/studio and taking 1 lesson(~$30.00) to learn the proper way to stand and pluck an upright bass. it will improve your noodling.
  5. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

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    Disclosures:
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    A good bass with an effective setup doesn't require heroic effort to get a big sound. A lot of beginners try to overplay, just as many new singers try to over-sing. Lessons with a professional player can get you started so that you don't hurt yourself. Happy playing!
  6. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

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    "Whisper quiet"?!? I don't know exactly what is going on there; but if you are playing a 3/4 bass, playing audibly with acoustic guitars should not be an issue at all.
  7. bassist1962

    bassist1962

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    I have played unplugged with up to ten acoustic guitarist playing at the same time and was still asked to 'lighten up'. Take the advice given hear and learn to play with proper technique.
  8. Doug R

    Doug R

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    Another thing to remember is that those big bass notes swell and expand. Standing right over the bass doesn't sound nearly as good as being a few yards or more out in front of it.

    ...and don't be afraid to bang and slap on that baby too. Make some noise!
  9. jeffbonny

    jeffbonny _____________ Supporting Member

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    Go out of your way to get someone to show you in person. It's developing the power and touch to draw out what sound there is in any particular instrument...learning how to make friends with that bass in your hands. And don't confuse power for simply playing hard...with a subtle touch you can play a very powerful pianissimo. Check out youtubes of guys like Ray Brown, Milt Hinton, Scott Lafaro and anyone else who came up without amps. Having seen Ray Brown a bunch of times I was always floored by how he could fill a room with sound playing real quiet. Think about that.
  10. Champagne

    Champagne

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    Ben Stiller? Is that you!?!?!?:p
  11. russpurdy

    russpurdy Supporting Member

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    Thanks guys, I feel like I may have hit a touchy subject with some of the dyed in the wool double bass guys and I apologize if I did. I am coming from bass guitar by way of six string guitar and my opportunities to try a real double bass have been few. I was thinking it was my technique (or lack thereof) that was the culprit. It's a shame that it's such an. Investment to get into an upright as I'd love to work at it.
  12. jake3

    jake3

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    One important lesson that one of my upright bass teachers taught me was to lay my index finger more vertically along side the string and get the "meat" of the finger into it, as well as your whole arm really. I also bookmarked this video on right hand technique because I find it helpful to review from time to time:



    So yeah, basically, it's technique. But don't feel defensive about coming over from bass guitar. Two different instruments, both great.

    This is actually an interesting subject for me this week because on Saturday night I'm playing a gig where the jazz guitarist will be playing a hollow body Gibson through an amp, but I am planning to play unamplified. I know the venue and I think I can carry it with no amp.
  13. T-Bird

    T-Bird

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    Hi.

    Sure it will if You're lucky.

    Just depends on how far the "there" happens to be I guess.

    Has gotten me as far as I like :).


    IME it's mostly about the projection, even though technique plays a huge role as well.

    IMLE the make of the bass has surprisingly little to do with the volume, but the tone is a whole 'nother ballgame.

    You don't say :).

    Regards
    Sam
  14. bassist1962

    bassist1962

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    "Projection (more volume if I were in front of the instrument rather than standing behind/beside it)?"

    Yes, this is definitely a factor. If you are serious about playing double bass, get your technique together (there are plenty of decent videos the past few years to get you started, plus find a teacher for at least one lesson), practice facing a corner - the sound projects from the bass, and reflects off the walls, giving you more sound representative of what you would hear out front. You will be suprised at the difference in volume.
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Feel free to catch a snit, but the only "there" being referenced is getting to a big, projecting sound.
  16. RustyAxe

    RustyAxe

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    Technique for the most part. I see bass guitarists "pluck" the strings of an upright with their fingertips and get nothing out of the instrument. Proper technique allows even a dirt cheap plywood bass shaped object to keep up with a couple of guitars, a banjo, and a mandolin. Of course the instrument makes some bit of difference, as do strings, but the majority is technique.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    I don't think it's a touchy subject at all, it's just a matter of practical application. Think about running a marathon; if all you want to do is be in it, all you need to do is put your name on a sheet and pony up some cash. But if you ask "How do I finish with the front runners?", would you think that the folks who answered that just putting your name on a list and ponying up some cash wasn't going to put you with the front runners were "touchy"?

    There are a lot of us who started on bass guitar, including me, and any number who still double. For me, after doubling for about ten years, I just stopped hearing bass guitar as my "voice". But what got me started was having a strong desire to play double bass, so making the decision to buy one was pretty easy. If you don't have that sense of surety, but still have the desire, you might want to check out rental programs. A lot of them will apply the rent paid towards purchase if you decided that it's something you want to stick with. Downside is that generally the instruments offered can be pretty mediocre, lower end student instruments. If you get them through a luthier/shop, they will at least be set up well.

    Another alternative would be to buy a better quality instrument. If you decide that it's not for you, you can sell it and (unless there has been some egregious damage) be little more out of pocket than if you had paid for a rental.

    But in any of these cases, as someone who started WITHOUT a teacher and spent a number of years trying to undo many bad habits of physical approach, my recommendation would be to find a good teacher. There will be someone who plays in a nearby orchestra who, if they don't offer instruction themselves, will be able to recommend someone. Starting out with a solid left and right hand approach will put you in a better position to assess whether or not this is an instrument that you really want to move forward with. Even if it's NOT something you want to pursue with serious professional intent, this foundation will make keeping it around just to "noodle around on" a MUCH more enjoyable and musical experience.
  18. Matthijs

    Matthijs

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    There's not much to add after Ed's post. Except maybe that the a big part of the attraction of DB is the amount of effort that has to be put in before you can reap the rewards. In that sense DB is almost the oppposite of EB. Good volume and dynamics only come with time. A good teacher and a good instrument will help, but you need time too. Ed's marathon analogy goes a long way for DB.

    Just one other point I learnt from TB and hasn't been mentioned in this thread: Your perceived volume is also linked to good intonation.
  19. notabene

    notabene

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    Also… In-tune notes sound big and loud. Out-of-tune notes get lost.

    Steven
  20. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

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    No, I can hear them just fine.

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