Playing in the nude

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by TroyK, Mar 11, 2014.


  1. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    My gig this Thursday will conclude one full month of ampless/micless playing for me. In fairness, it wasn't a packed calendar, but everything I had, i did au natural. art galleries, restaurants, bars - duo, trio, quartet, quintet.

    I've enjoyed it and am surprised that it worked as well as it did. It started with a new monthly gig for my trio. They had fired the last band for being too loud. When I looked at who the last band was, they were some fantastic local players, so, I showed up without an amp and just stuck with it for everything in between while I was at it. Last night, the same place, but this time it was packed and loud, so I was really laying into it.

    I noticed that it just makes me play different, lots of heavy time and it made me aware of the importance of technique. When I started loosing the pitch, rounding my fingers on the left hand, brought it back out. When the room got loud and there was no volume knob to turn, I dropped my right hand lower and made sure I was getting as much finger on the string as possible. It's a good exercise.

    For accompaniment, I like the sound and experience a lot better than I would with an amp. soloing is where I really had trouble. Low strings, in the low register had no trouble making themselves known, but there was no pretty stuff up high. That could just be revealing my lack of proper technique in upper registers or it could be the darker G string I prefer most of the time being too dark for this application or it could just have to do with frequency. I did find myself wishing for some Spirocores last night, but that's a crutch.

    So, Thursday is a duo gig in an art gallery and I think I'll go ampless, then go back to using one when appropriate, but I'm going to try to keep it turned way down, so that I can retain that feel of really laying into the bass, but just get a little support where I need it.

    Just thought I'd share. This may be my first "jazz technique forum" post. I don't feel like I'm who anyone should be learning from, but this is more about a shared experience and my learnings from it.

    Any one else tried this?
  2. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Jokingly, I could reply "all the old Cats", of course. But that's beside the point. Being about amplifying normally and dropping it for a period.

    I made a habit of at least rehearsing without amp, if it's in the classic jazz idiom (in other Words, not my regular band but other projects). I play ampless on gigs as weil, whenever possible. When I started doing it, I experienced similar things- revealing weaknesses in technique and most importantly intonation. Proper intonation is the best amp in the world, I read once, and that is true. Also, it helps having to economize in playing. It was great training and my amplified sound improved very much, because there simply was more sound ro amplify.
    Nowadays, I get lots of compliments for my sound (even on Jams, where I play other players' basses with all sorts of weird strings on them) and I attribute this largely to playing ampless whenever possible.

    all the best
    sidecar
  3. philvanv

    philvanv Gerbil Turds, Kitsap County Turd Core

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
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    and at the bottom it says thank you, and now you can **** off
    I did read the two post. Not what I thought. If anybody gets ideas my buddy did a show in Qubec, not naked and was banned for a long time. Now they are allowed to go back. Back to the thread...
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I had my first noamp gig this month and I dug it. Drummerless trio and we recorded the gig with mics and such. I still need to edit it. The room sound in that space was excellent so it was easy and everybody didn't have a problem hearing me.

    I've changed to a setup that allows me to play with higher string heights (more volume) though more tension. One of the things it's teaching me is that I have to be really clean and unsloppy with my right hand. The clarity of articulation really helps get that sound out there. To have that clarity, it also requires that I'm clear in my head what I'm going to play. If it's hazy the way it sounds in my head, it comes out messy.

    I really love it. I really love not having to carry an amp and if all my music is memorized, I can just show up with the bass and it's really liberating.
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  6. ToR-Tu-Ra

    ToR-Tu-Ra

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2005
    Location:
    Mexico City
    I try to do all my practising/gigging/busking without an amp. I don't always get to do it but well...

    Here's a good one for you:

    I play in a gipsy jazz quartet (violin, two guitars, and bass) we do this weekly gig at a small-ish restaurant and... EVERYBODY amp-ed.

    *SIGH*
  7. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Yes, as I was typing, I realized all "men of a certain age" did. Listening through my records, you can hear clear style differences from pre-amplification and post. Same with gut to steel strings. These things have changed how we play, arguably for the better, but I think we may have lost something too. I found myself playing a lot more like people who's style and sound I love, when I left the amp at home...which is a good thing.


    "Intonation is the best amplifier". Dig it.

    I listened to an old live recording of this same trio recently and just kept shouting at myself "stop over-playing". I was just filling a bunch of space with triplets and ******** that didn't make things more musical, but only were only there to call attention to myself. BLAH! Having to keep time and project without an amp helped my new goal of not doing that. Just play the bass.

    It may be time to go back to my Ehrlund when I need it and keep playing unamped for a while when it makes sense to. Having amplification tempts me into relying on amplification, which invites me back to old habits that I'll be well rid of.

    I'm a brilliant ad man. Made you look.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Fail. That's really sad - that's such a great style to play completely acoustic.

    One thing I failed to mention is that it's easier to bury your gaffes acoustically. If you accidentally flub the string but keep going, it doesn't come out loudly. Amplified, you hear everything, including the accidental pings and pops against the strings. I like to also through in a couple slaps and things now and then and the overall sound is a lot more balanced for that acoustically.
  9. Webskipper

    Webskipper Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Au Natural?

    A girlfriend took me to a nudist resort last Summer. They had a nude rock band.

    What a way to get over stage fright.
  10. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle,Wa.
    Troy, I think your experience sounds about right. It has always felt to me like just one more step towards understanding how the whole approach to playing the double bass in jazz developed. I feel like we start to understand and appreciate the reasons behind some classic note choices and rhythmic approaches that would slip right past us when playing amplified. I do end up amped for about 70% of my gigs but I try to play as many as possible without it. Although it has as much to due with not wanting to hassle with set up and tear down as it does with anything really altruistic.
  11. Webskipper

    Webskipper Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Which qualities do you look for in an Acoustic Bass?

    Which types of music do you generally play unplugged?
  12. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Soloing takes a while. If you don't do so already, soloing with the bow is a real joy acoustically... Once you get the hang of it. Arco solos take the weight off the right hand for a minute, and acoustically you don't have to deal with crappy pickup-amp sound. You're doing everything right, OP. keep it up!!!
  13. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    That's a complex and personal question. We'll all have a different answer or at least different shades of the same answer. My bass is my bass, there are better ones, but mine is home.

    I play jazz, occasionally Latin or some other side project. It's not so much about what I'm playing, but where and with whom that pushes me to leave the amp.

    And, Chris, this started with a condition of a booking that we not be louder than the restaurant owner wanted us to be, then it progressed through a combination of challenge and laziness. But it's been a good learning experience. It is nice wheeling (not one of our venues with a new parking space) with nothing, but my bass.


    Thanks for the encouragement, I appreciate it. I don't subject others to me with the stick of pain, but maybe it's time.
  14. philvanv

    philvanv Gerbil Turds, Kitsap County Turd Core

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
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    and at the bottom it says thank you, and now you can **** off
    Yea, I was thimking, not again.
  15. ToR-Tu-Ra

    ToR-Tu-Ra

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2005
    Location:
    Mexico City
    Makes you think the conception people had about music, musicallity and volume "back in the day", right?

    Seems that not only musicians, but the audience is expecting an amplified sound in almost any situation.

    We recently did this wedding gig with my "main" (now not so much) band: clarinet, accordion and bass, completely acoustic in a medium-ish hall, it felt really good and the audience liked it. Funny thing is we played another wedding a couple years back, in the exact same place and were asked to use the PA.

    A couple weeks ago we played at a book presentation with the gipsy jazz quartet (only this time with a sax instead of violin), a really nice sounding hall with tall cellings and wooden floors/walls. I brought the amp because I didn't know the place but when I saw the place, I took the bass out, played a couple notes and decided I didn't need the amp and left it in the car. Both guitarrists plugged theirs and I managed to keep up volumewise.

    Sometimes you just have to stand your ground and make others understand that it's not you who needs to turn up, it's them that gotta turn down.
  16. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Yes, indeed!

    Whenever the style/idiom is traditionally connected to acoustic playing (meaning all jazz up to the 70s), this will, ultimately, improve the bandsound. Improve in that sense that there will be this great feeling of "this sounds like it's supposed to". I mean, it's really not easy playing a good walking bass (speaking of the sound and the rhythmic function the decay curve has) on electric, and unless the amplified sound is really great, with raised volumes we as bassists get a more and more electric sound in terms of decay/compression. And thus, it will sound worse with increasing volume. All this IMO.

    And in situations or music where all that does not apply because there is no traditional expectation, and maybe like in my band the higher volume is great coming from a more rock oriented thing, I still aim for the absolutely most acoustic sound possible, only louder, and for that, being able to play strong and loud and still unforced (what you practice when playing w/o amp) comes in really handy.

    Best
    sidecar
  17. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Sidecar,


    YES.

    The bass with any pickup under the sun is going to have an unnatural decay, which doesn't leave room for things to swing. Groove is about space. The more the groove is filled out, the less it grooves. Prince always says the other person in his band is *silence.* I personally don't have the same problem with the mic as the pickup, but I also pull my strings like the bass owes me money.

    This is the problem I have with so many drummers- density of sound is antithetical to groove. Listen to John Bonham- you could drive a truck between his 8th notes. The rivet is my sworn enemy in jazz- it fills out all the space I need to make things funky. My ideal jazz ride goes "ping" then goes away. So few drummers get this. Sigh. :bawl:
  18. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Disclosures:
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Oh, no kidding! Modern cymbal sounds just make a wall of white noise that obscures everything else going on around them. :rollno:
  19. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    No. Just No.

    Makes me seem a little uptight, but some things just do not cut it. Nudist volleyball and nudist rock music falls in that category.

    Best
    Sidecar
  20. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2009
    Flea did it. Google for pics.

    :eek:
  21. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Here's the thing, though, people who were at the bar, who were talking with us afterward said "Wait, you weren't using an amp?"

    The sound projects out just fine, it just doesn't travel up to the player's ear. At least not all of it.

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