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5-String Clarity Issues

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by rmwebb, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. rmwebb


    Oct 14, 2012
    At a church where I play, they are having a heck of a time dialing in and mixing in my bass with the kick. They have the kick at a level through their subs that allows the audience to "feel the thump in their chest". How I have been eqing my bass has caused them trouble with how I play which is to follow the kick patterns most of the time. They say they can't find a way to hear the clarity of my playing, especially when I'm playing lower notes on my b string. I tried adding more bridge pick up, less bass freq, and more high and mids, and reducing the attack on my compressor, but they are still having clarity issues. Could it be because I am playing too many e-string capable notes on the fifth b string fret area? I've been left to figure out how to tweak my Eq to accommodate their issue but am not sure what else to do. My compressor is a mark bass Compressore.

    My bass is a Brawley 35" KB24MOL 5 string with Brawley Gold Crowne humbucking active pickups and a Bartolini Mark I preamp. All I know about their sub set-up is they are running two 21" subs with two 16" subs. They said they are sending me through both the mains and the subs which themselves are located under the "stage" (platform). I do not want to sacrifice my style fundamentals of matching the kick patterns when not doing other set ups and twittling around.

    Lastly, I know trying to troubleshoot an issue without actually sitting in the space to hear the issues is extremely difficult. Having said that, I am confident that even an educated guess from players of your experience level and expertise will be far more helpful than what I've read in my research of this issue and the help their sound engineer is giving me which is not very much in itself in the way of how to help in my own set up.
  2. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    You need to man up and stop using your B string all the time.

    I have a really tight b on my Conklin bass and if i was told they were having trouble dialing it, and i was playing with an ensemble like you listed, i would do what it took to make the music work.

    Having a personal style doesn't mean playing on the b string. Try moving notes up an octave. Do you know how much i use my E string on my upright when i play jazz? Not as much as you would think. Explore the rest of your bass! I use my B when its necessary and when it works, not all the time.
  3. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Two thoughts immediately occur:

    1) If by "follow" the kick drum you mean "play simultaneously with" the kick drum, then I would say that a certain amount of fusing with the sound of the kick - and vice versa - is not only unavoidable, but preferable. In such a scenario, I've always thought of the bass guitar as the tonal & harmonic dimension of the kick drum ...and the kick drum as the punch & attack of the bass guitar.

    2) If most of your playing is way down low on the "B" string, it may be that your sound crew is expecting a degree of clarity from those notes that is unrealistic. IME, those notes are all about great authority and great power...but not necessarily great clarity (at least not as compared with many notes played a couple octaves further up). Unless you're prepared to go all-out in your search for low-down clarity (i.e. get a Modulus Quantum bass, string it up with bright & cutting exposed-core stainless steel strings, and play exclusively with a pick), your sound crew may need to adjust their expectations somewhat.

    Caveat: At the end of the day, all any of us can do - in lieu of a very good, very detailed audio recording - is to speculate on just how lacking in clarity your sound really is...since none of us have actually heard it. :meh:

  4. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
  5. I'd be personally concerned about the guy behind the board, the low B string is pretty common in modern music across all genres. I play a Schecter Stiletto Custom-6 through a GK MB200 head, always sounded nice and articulate when I got out into the house at all the shows I've played, and I spend most of my time on the B string. I'm also competing against two guitars tuned to B-standard, a keyboard player who is all over the place (but really awesome about it), and electronic drums; I doubt a church band has that much heaviness going on.

    Since I have no idea about the sound person, I would see if they could pull me out of the 21" subs since that's just a lot of speaker to move. Also, you may want to see if they can side-chain you into a slow Chorus effect and run that at least 10dB below your main signal, actually works really well at improving the clarity of the bass.

  6. rmwebb


    Oct 14, 2012
    I guess I should clarify that these issues are only when I'm in my low end. Sorry if my post suggested that, that end was the only area that I played in. I'm all over my bass, but generally need to stick to rhythmic and chordal support roles considering worship music loses some of its function when the audience is distracted by too much rip-roaring bass work. So, to respond Violen, I do move things in and out of that register often.... Or in your words, I manned up many years ago. Our sonic hopes in the band, however, is having lots of low end support. I'm just not sure if we can have both worlds of kick extension with perfect clarity in the bass freq with their current set up.
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    If I had to guess, I would say that it is more about where THEY have the crossover set for the mains and less about what you are doing. During a rehearsal or before church, have them experiment with that. If your low mids are coming through 21" and 16" speakers, then it will be pretty muddy. If they dial down the frequency cutoff so that more of your range is hitting the mid drivers it will probably clean up a lot. Two 21"'s and two 16"s is a lot for a church unless it holds about 1000+ people. And even then it's probably a little bit of overkill. But if they have the crossover set in a way that they think is "taking full advantage" of those big speakers, then more than half your bass will never see the mid drivers and it will be mud from the word go. Good luck.
  8. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Thank you for your clarification.

    Perhaps the room is just eating those frequencies? Do you know if the church has ever had it attenuated or its modes checked?
  9. Fliptrique


    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses, Taurus Amplification
    How often do you change your strings?
  10. rimbaud

    rimbaud Banned

    Nov 17, 2011
    I think you really should replace the pup's and the preamp: both are Bartolini's low end manufactured for Cortek, I had those on a korean Tobias 5 string, it went better when all the electronics have been changed.

    ... my 2 cents
  11. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    Get a Fender P with flats and a tortoise pickguard!

    Just kidding. I would check the frequency crossover between the 21" and 16" as suggested above. 21" aren't designed to play crystal clear, they are there to be "felt".
  12. lars_k


    Oct 28, 2012
    Nashville, TN
    disable the compressor, you may be hitting it harder in the low range and that is choking your sound. As a general rule, I would recommend never using a compressor live; if the house needs it, they can apply it there. It just takes control away from your fingers.:)
  13. Samsound


    Sep 28, 2010
    +1 to the subs crossover and schooling the FOH engineer. I usually play bass at my church, but today was one of the days I get to do FOH. I'd been gone for a month and first thing I noticed was our new wiring scheme has the subs running direct off an AUX with kick, bass, and keys fed to it with no crossover. It sounded like ass. After pulling out the keys and using a channel strip EQ to carve as much out as possible above 80 Hz, it sounded so much cleaner and punchier.
  14. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    maybe they've just got "soundman's disease", where the kick (being the first channel they check) gets all the low end and volume of the PA, leaving none for the rest of the band, especially you.
    huh? 16" subs? what the heck are those?
  15. DuraMorte


    Mar 3, 2011
    I was just about to say that. XD
  16. Try a different bass. If it's the same it's prob not YOUR bass.

    After that I'd look at:
    1. Check bass is IN-phase with kick.
    2. raise Crossover set point for bass.
    3. mic placement for the kick. Move it away from the mouth of the front skin about 2" and it might fix everything.
    4. tune the kick drum to a slightly higher note, making it 'tighter'/less flubby and removing rumble.
    5. Assuming PA is properly tuned to room, EQ bass & kick: HPF bass and boost kick at 60Hz, and boost bass at 125Hz, 400Hz and 1.6kHz if needed.
    6. Compression. Let FOH control it with multiband comp, and maybe sidechain comp.
  17. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    a HHHHUUUUUUUGGGGGEEEE '+1' to that!
  18. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Dial in you midrange frequencies. That will give you overtones on the B and growl.

    Also maybe the sound man is boosting too much 20, 30 and 40hz.
  19. gmarcus

    gmarcus Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2003
    +1. On most recordings the bass is eq'd to sit higher than the bass drum. This means they cut off the fundamental of the lower notes, but your ear will fill it in. Really deep bass guitar frequencies generate a lot of mud in a band context. The bass drum generates the thump and the 2nd + harmonics from the bass give it definition. If bass guitar and bass drum are generating the fundamental then slight differences in frequency mix to form weird beating patterns or mud. If the sound man doesn't get it you can fix it yourself with an fdeck HPF as suggested earlier in the thread. Good luck my friend!
  20. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    I know I posted this berfore, but one of the best things I added to my rig is a variable high pass filter (Seee Fdeck HPF series 3). In boomy rooms it is invaluable. For church, I have mine set to roll off everything under 50-60 hz. I find that rolling off those low frequencies and turning up a bit cures all. I have used all kinds of active and passive DI boxes (with and without EQ) and tweaked endlessly over the last 12 years to get a controlled, present sound in there. Now I run my bass into the HPF, HPF into amp, and take a Pre-EQ DI from the back of the amp.