Amplification without a speaker!

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Adrian Cho, May 22, 2004.

  1. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    My understanding is that back in the 50s and 60s and even before, that amplification was not used with basses at all. I have seen photos and footage of guys playing with microphones during this period but I think they were for recording and not sound reinforcement. I'm pretty sure that at least in the 40s that guys typically played with no assistance at all. Of course the style of playing was very different then too. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure that I've seen footage of guys playing with big bands where the bassist was elevated on a small platform possibly to provide the band with the visual effect of the guy keeping the time on the strings with the exaggered right arm movements (perhaps because of slapping) but I'm wondering also whether the platform would serve as a resonator to amplify the bass. I'm looking at doing some big band playing and despite the size of the band, they are not all that loud and play with a more subdued sound than a modern big band might. I thought about the idea of trying to be "authentic" and playing without the amp which seems to be a little out of place in this environment. I already play on gut strings so I have some of the sound. Regardless of whether it was something they did back then, I have thought about making a small elevated platform that would raise me up and also serve to amplify the bass a bit.


  2. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Funny guy.

    So apparently it turns out that there is something called a "cello box" or "cello platform box" although I can't seem to find any information about it on the web. It is similar to what I'm talking about and used even by modern day solo cellists for enhancing the sound of the instrument. The only link I could find about it was this somewhat amusing one describing the dangers of what happens if you build such a box without ports: explodes.pdf
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't know if the ports would really do much, but I could be wrong.

    If you can get away with it, taking the rubber foot off your endpin and getting a solid connection with the floor always helps. Also try to get your back near the wall. A lot of sound comes off the back of the bass, and if you're out in the middle of the room you lose all that sound.

    Boxes, mic, amps, pickups -- they are all amplification. Something to consider.
  4. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I saw one of these cello boxes not too long ago in our local Performing Arts Center. It belonged to the principal cellist in the Symphony, and he's apparently very particular about it. It was leaned up against a wall in the backstage area, and I really wanted to get my bass up on it. Looked like a really cool idea. Kinda of like a platform with a big horn underneath it.
  5. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    The bass/endpin/floor connections deserve some attention, maybe going back to wood (and non-ajustable) would help. Keep going Adrian, pretty soon we'll all go to our luthiers to have new tone wood endpins cut to our specs !

    darn good way to recycle ol' broomsticks :D
  6. I once played completely acoustically for several weeks in a cafe where all amplification was prohibited because of local zoning regulations for the residential neighborhood. The stage was a hollow platform about 8 inches (20 cm) high. Setting a sharp endpin directly on the platform produced a lot of sound, mostly on the low end where it was needed. The room was fairly bright anyway so the highs also were audible. So, no amp was fine for that room but, remember, there's no EQ on the platform so you take what you can get.

  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    epends on the pictures, but yeah, most of the mics you are seeing are there for radio broadcasts.

    I've used a mic only for some big band performances, mostly because they were micing the sections as well. If they are going the whole traditional route with absolutely NO sound reinforcement, hey more power to them. Higher action, gut strings, good physical approach and NO Stan kenton tunes....
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    So I got curious about these cello platform box things... googled around a little bit and here's what I found:
    * Click on "Sound Podium by Celligence" on the left.

    I like the photo of them serving beverages on it. :)

    It runs, oh, about $500+. Howzabout hauling 'onna dese suckers to your next gig?
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Come to think of it, I could get an pneumatic end-pin combined and then put footswitched air jacks for the podium as well. Oh yeah... neon ground effects under in the open areas under podium, how could I forget that. Not only would I look straight trippin, but I'd be hard for police radar to detect! :cool: The possibilities are endless!!! :bassist:

    Now to figure how to get some spinning chromed rims on it... ;)
  10. My steady part time gig is with a 14+ piece big band, comprised of five saxes, two or three 'bones, three or four trumpets and four piece rhythm section. Band leader is a trumpet player in his mid 70's who spent time on the road in the late '40's through early '60's with Woody Herman, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, Ray Anthony, Buddy Rich and others. He remembers bass players just starting to use crude amplification in the late '50's. One guy used some sort of contact mike that looked like an earphone, plugged into a small amp. Louder, crappy sounding bass...

    One of the many beauties of a big band is its huge dynamic range. Many of the other (older) guys in our band have been playing this stuff for decades and really understand it, and can achieve those dynamics while maintaining a good blend. But when everybody's blowin' fff, an unamplified bass disappears. I had one situation where my pickup died mid- set, and it was almost impossible to get the job done, even on the quieter ballads with a female vocalist. Had questions next break from the front line too- "What happened to the bass?"

    I'd suggest taking an amp. Better to have it and not need it than vice versa. You can always turn down. I remember playing a Kay bass with Golden Spirals and high action- lots of pounding, little finesse. I wouldn't want to go back to that.

    For old chestnuts where I want to approximate that old gut string sound, where possible I move up a fourth and down a string (does that make sense?) to get a more staccato, thumpy sound.

    Big band music is beautiful. It's a whole different sound from small group jazz. I love it.
  11. From the Celligence podium webpage- Quote:
    "An increase of 3 db corresponds to a doubling of the sound level."

    Nonsense. In electrical amplifier terms, a doubling of the output power results in a 3 db increase in sound pressure level. The human ear is hard pressed to detect an increase in level of less than 3 db.

    I'm sure the hollow box is resonant and adds to the perceived sound level. I also think there's huge potential there for titanic wolf tones.
  12. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Heck yeah, for $500 and a little bit more I could get myself a used AI Contra that would put out tons more than any box could. Not to mention it'd prob weigh less too. Maybe if I owned a multi-million dollar recording studio I'd get one for recording with a mic or something. But for now, the poppin' & breakin' mods to a platform is alot more entertaining. :D
  14. bwulf


    May 15, 2004
    Eureka, CA
    I played with an 18 piece big band in the late 60s. We used a riser for the rhythm section which was basically a big box. I had an end pin with a sharp point that would poke into the riser which was uncarpeted. The strings (gut and piano wire it seemed like) decayed so fast that there wasn't any time for a wolf tone.
    Before the gig, I would put about 10 layers of Nu-skin (liquid bandage) on my pizz fingers and try to get through the night without a blister or splitting my fingers open.
    Fortunately, it was a college band and they didn't play that loud yet.
    Lower action, better strings and amplification are much more fun.
    Now when I play with a big band and they want db, I try to talk them out of it. It's just not fun to play loud with a db. All the tone, the nuance, the formation of the sound is all lost at higher volumes. Once the speaker becomes louder that the bass, you're playing the speaker.
    I am still searching for that perfect sound though. The never ending quest.