Alligator clips on strings? Wuh?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Sonorous, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    I was looking through an issue of Bass Guitar Magazine. It had an article about Chris Wood in it. I read through the article, and saw a picture of him with his violin bass. He had an alligator clip right above the neck pickups on the D and G strings (one clip on each string). I looked all through the text for why they were there, but couldn't find anything.

    Any ideas?
  2. doesn't bill laswell do that too?
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Closest thing I've heard of to what you're describing is a wolf-tone eliminator on a DB...never heard of someone using any clip dealie on a BG, though.
  4. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    What do you mean by a wolf-tone?

    He does play DB quite often, so maybe he just copied it.
  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    A wolf-tone is the opposite of a deadspot -- it's a note (or in-between note) where the volume gets a huge kick in the tuckus and there's a whole slew of rangy overtones. Most common on DB and cello, as far as I know, and usually the clips go between the tailpiece and bridge.
  6. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
    What's an alligator clip?
  7. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    I saw the same thing but I didn't think too much about it at the time. I'm not sure. Perhaps it's a John Cage thing. "Prepared Bass"

  8. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    There are better pictures if you do a google image search, I chose that one because it was a good size reference.

    Well I guess that isn't the same thing then, because these were right about the neck pickup. Not that you didn't notice I already said that, I'm just repeating myself for no reason.
  9. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    Yeah, I guess thats the only thing it could be. I figured it was something like that, but wanted to know what exactly the result was if anyone else had tried it.
  10. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    You might know it as a roach clip. Same thing. Maybe they put them on the strings to get kind of a bass sitar sound.
  11. Jmann


    Apr 29, 2003
    Lexington, Ky
    you beat me too it. i was wondering about those myself when i was looking at that issue. i was thinking "shouldnt those pe closter to his mouth?"
  12. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    TB regular Max Valentino uses this technique as well (in fact he had an awesome recording on-line of one of his ccompositions using this effect...damned if I can remember where though)..It's as a previous poster said the same principal as John Cages "prepared piano", as I understand it the clips are placed over harmonic node points and give a kind of Dulcimar type quality to the sound.
  13. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Intriguing! I wonder how this would react to fretting notes (and hence changing the locations of the harmonic nodes.) Might have to try that!
  14. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Is there anywhere on TB or the internet where I could find out more about this?
  15. Wicked pic of Chris Wood chilling with a Cirrus
  16. Steuart Liebig does this VERY WELL with great taste. ;)

  17. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    yep...I sure do use that technique, and have been for quite a few years. I guess I have gotten so good at it that Michael Manring lists me as an inspiration(and an expert at "prepared bass") in the notes of his latest CD where he also plays some "prepared bass".

    So that is the trick..."prepared bass". I got the idea from John Cage, who applied the same technique to a piano to obtain a percussive sound to be used in a dance piece he had been commisioned to 1931!

    The are no real rules to doing this, as placing diffeirng sized clips (and any kind of clip will work; paper clips; aligator clips, hairpins....) at different points on the bass produce different tones. I tend to use Radio Shack clips with the rubber ends as they can bounce off other strings to create "sympathetic" rhythms. I tend to place them at harmonic points along the speaking length of the string; at different harmonic nodes different overtones are produced.

    I first set out to create a "faux gamelan" sound and found the metallic, percussive overtones this technique brought out to work perfectly (the previously mentioned piece of mine, "Djam Karet (Time Is Rubber)", from my CD "A Caravan Of Dreams" is based around both a gamelan rhythm played on prepared bass as well as an Indonesian scale for the the melody and harmonic sequence...), but I have since gone on to incorporate this technique into many different types of music. "preparing" the instrument can be done at any spot on the string; I have applied devices above the nut, over the frets, over the body, near the bridge.... each gives a different sound and effect (as does the make up of the "preparation device".). And depending on the location of the "preparation" fretted notes have differing effects. I like to use this technique on fretless bass and use my looping devices to create rhythmic beds to which I can then layer other sounds. I have also applied clips to only one or two strings and then played lines as would be normal allowing those "clipped" tones to suddenly appear into the line.

    Yes, Steuart Leibig does this very does Chris Wood, Michael Manring, Bill Laswell, Percy Jones...and in the gtr world Derek Bailey, Adrian Belew, Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith and others.

    Of course, the trick really is to take something which might seem to be both silly and a novelty and make something musical (and wholly not a novelty...yet perhaps still silly) with it.

    Over the past few years, I have tended to move more toward "manual" effects (effects generated manually; with my hands--which include various forms of harmonics, nail rakes, pinches and slaps, semi-mutes and playing positions...and the application of extraneous "devices" to the instrument) as opposed to electronic effects. Using alligator clips and paper clips is just one of these techniques.

  18. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    Hey, thanks for the great explanation Max. Sounds like it could be pretty interesting. I think I'll have to try it out.
  19. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    I thought the term referred to a particular Irish patriot! ;)
  20. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    BWAHAHAHAHA!!!...nice one Bob