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Amplified Double Bass Jazz Tone - Help!

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by bbirozy, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. bbirozy


    Sep 11, 2018
    Hey all,

    For my high school jazz band, I can't seem to get the tone I want from my amplified upright bass.

    Regarding the volume-related shenanigans: My amp has a Gain knob, a Master knob, and the pickup on the upright also has a volume knob.
    - Our school makes us use portable Realist Sound Clip pickups because they use the same basses for our orchestras. They take about 30 seconds to put on/take off, and they're convenient little buggers. The SoundClip

    The amp I use also has the standard 4 knobs for EQ'ing, (Bass, Low mid, High mid, and Treble).

    My jazz director (who is a trumpet player?) made me play with the Bass turned to about 8 o'clock, Low mid at 12, High mid at 1, and treble at 2.
    This ended up sounding horrible in my opinion. The tone was way too gritty and dirty. I am looking for a much cleaner tone that sounds more organic, like a very loud upright bass rather than an amplified upright bass.

    After some research and trial and error, I put my gain very low and the volume knob on my pickup very low, while keeping the master higher to compensate. I also kept the bass around 10, with the low mid at 12, the high mid at 1, but I turned the treble down to about 10.
    This has all helped me get a much cleaner tone, but it still isn't how I want it to be. I am definitely not a professional when it comes to this, and there's not much online on how to get a good amplified double bass jazz tone. Any help is welcome!

    Thank you!
  2. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    What kind of amp do you use at school? Generally what I like to do when looking for a good tone setting is putting all the EQ knobs at noon and adjusting from there. If it doesn’t have the proper impedance match for a piezo that could also be to blame. I just got a new Acoustic Image Clarus head and I actually like my Realist again since the input can handle a piezo.
    Piezo pickups are a compromise in general though and will never give you the mythical My Bass Only Louder. There’s ways to smooth it out though. But if you want My Bass Only Louder, a mic is the answer. I’ve always found that piezos are bass heavy, so they benefit from a slightly lower bass setting and then a little boost to the mids and highs.
    unbrokenchain and Ric Vice like this.
  3. bbirozy


    Sep 11, 2018
    Changing the pickup isn't really an option, unless I bring my own bass to school with my own pickup, which would not be favorable.
    Regarding the school-provided amp, its a Fender Rumble 500 combo. Fender Rumble 500 2x10" 500-Watt Bass Combo
  4. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    The sound clip is a good idea that just doesn't work in the real world. Try to get your school bass fitted with a Realist copper pickup. It will work fine with the Rumble 500 (Input at 12:00, all buttons off. Back off the bass to 11:00, boost hi mid to 1:00, and let your ears tell you the rest) and has no effect whatsoever on the instrument's acoustic sound. Tilt the amp back a bit (https://www.musiciansfriend.com/acc...GNpw1fVxVfd2eLrz-dvAAfGFDw51juoRoCT_wQAvD_BwE) or get it up off the floor 6" or so.
  5. bbirozy


    Sep 11, 2018
    Thanks for the tips, I'll try these settings. Like I said before, changing the pickup probably isn't an option. We've already been placing the amp about a foot off the ground using a chair.
  6. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    "Our school makes us use portable Realist Sound Clip pickups because they use the same basses for our orchestras.

    This is silly. I've done a lot of orchestra playing with a pickup (Realist Lifeline, Fishman FC, and Realist copper) on my bass. None of them change the sound in any way. The Soundclip (IME) is a good idea that simply doesn't work.
  7. Bisounourse


    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    I use a SoundClip. Granted it is not the best in the world, then again, I limited myself to that piece of gear and obliged myself to work with it, and I must say; I have gotten compliments on my tone.

    I use it as following:
    - Soundclip on bass, gain to around halfway and start from there (usually I will put it a bit less, seldom a bit more); straight into amp (I use a GK MB-200, but have used other amps as well, from Ampeg, Markbass, Aguilar, EBS, to even a Hartke B-60).
    - Gain on amp about halfway, or a bit less
    - Master/Volume: as loud as you want to play
    - Then start EQ'ing to get the sound you want. What I usually do: cut the Bass (around 10 o'clock), use Lo Mids to give 'body' to your sound, Hi Mids and Treble to taste (I usually leave them at around 12 o'clock, sometimes a bit less, sometimes a bit more, it depends).
    - Fiddle a bit and you should be good to go.
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO @salcott is being extremely diplomatic.

    The Realist Soundclip is the absolute worst pickup I have ever heard. As long as you are limited to the Soundclip consider good tone a lost cause as it is absolutely horrible, and there is probably nothing you can do to fix it.

    A friend of mine bought a Soundclip and we worked with it for a few days. We tried different positions on the bridge, we changed how much pressure was used to clip it in place, we adjusted the weights on the pickup, etc. We also used EQ to try and compensate, and he bought a Fishman Pro EQ preamp which has 10K input to ensure impedance was not the problem. None of it helped. No matter what we did, the Sound clip only produced a muffled boomy mess :vomit:.

    He sold the Soundclip and bought an Ehrlund EAP and got fabulous results. Obviously the problem was not his bass or any of his other gear.
    salcott likes this.
  9. An Ehrlund EAP, AKG C411 with B29L, Ischell or the Japanese MSP contact mic are easily removable as well (using putty). One has to find a good position to pick from the top but in general below the bridge close to the bass bar but not on the bass bar works.
    The Soundclip was intended for the bassist that needs to borrow other basses on tour, but even for this purpose nobody likes it.
  10. Bisounourse


    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    Well well, now you're being not so extremely diplomatic :laugh:
    There is a lot that is better, but with some patience, perseverance and endurance you are able to make it work.
    Wasnex likes this.
  11. I think you're doing the right thing trying to find your sound on your own, not heeding your band leader's advice too much. You could also consider changing the placement of the amp. It has a huge impact on sound in most rooms. For example, if the sound is too bassy, lift the amp on a chair or put it somewhere else than in a corner. Or, if you can't hear the details, put the amp further (or closer) to you. Generally, within reasonable limit, you want to aim the speaker at your head. This will make the amp knobs most suitable to tweaking. Generally, within reasonable limit, you don't want to aim the speaker at the bass body. This will make the bass most suitable to feedback, and will amplify all the 'pre-feedback' unwanted noises. Look around TB for cab placement threads, it's worth studying.
  12. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    I wonder how motivated the BL is to help. How's the bass sound to the BL?

    The soundclip is not a cheap pickup. A K&K Big Twin with a decent used preamp to buffer it would be about the same price. This sounds like something that's problem for you but which may not be a big problem for your BL.
  13. I think key is using one pickup for all basses. So it should be something removable that can easily put on any bass at school. That excludes bridge wing pickups (every bass has a different distance there), bridge leg pickups (either a hole needs to be drilled, the adjuster is not easily exchangeable or the lower strings need to put down to exchange a Lifeline).
    The BP100 would do, but maybe not for long if the bridges have different thickness and not the nicest sound on most basses.
    Contact mics work, but a good position needs to be found (but could be marked) for each instrument and it can also work for other instruments like cello violin and some more.
    jeffthebassist and Selim like this.
  14. Selim

    Selim Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    New York City
    Although not the ultimate in bass pickups, these are inexpensive, very quick and easy to install/uninstall and sound “pretty” good.

    We all want to sound our best at all times, but this is high school band we’re talking about, and the great majority of high schools do not have the funds to provide the top shelf gear that professionals use.

    Also — the OP is describing a “way too gritty and dirty” sound — that sounds like too much gain— maybe focus on gain/volume structure? He’s dealing with gain &volume on Rumble + volume control on the pickup itself. I’ve never used a Realist, but wouldn’t you give full output from the pickup and then establish proper gain at the amp next, then turn up the amp to desired loudness? Then EQ?
    Ric Vice and matthewbrown like this.
  15. Bisounourse


    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    Is that a Barcus Berry clamp?
  16. Martin Spure

    Martin Spure

    Feb 4, 2020
    25 years ago I used the Barcus Barry clamp + pre, which is similar in construction (and possibly) sound to the Realist Clip on. And I agree with other comments in this thread, that it is very hard to get a decent tone from these 'clamp on' pickups.

    If it's key for the school to have pickups that are easily removed and can be used on different basses, this might be a viable alternative:

    Pick-Up - Contrabbassi elettrici MK

    I believe it was mentioned in the 'Italian Eub' thread, the price for the above mentioned pickup is somewhere around 100 eu's (post #14 in this thread: Italian EUB)

    I haven't tried this pickup, but judging from the video clip on their website, I believe it sounds decent for both pizz and arco, and with some eq'ing it's probably easier to get a decent tone from it. (I do think the video clip on the website sounds much better than the clip provided in post #14 in the above mentioned thread)

    Just me 2 cents ;)
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
    Wasnex likes this.
  17. Selim

    Selim Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    New York City
    Yes. About $75 I think.
  18. Grant the Canuk

    Grant the Canuk Supporting Member

    I had a sound clip for about a year before I broke down and had adjusters installed in my bridge to allow for a FC. My experience with the SC was that you must dampen the contacts with rubber. I used a layer of rubber from a bicycle innertube. Possition the clip as close to the body as possible, and tight. Use as little gain as possible, cut all of your highs, high mids, and most of your low mids to taste, that's where your going to get some tone. Boost lows, that's where youll get your girth. If you can get your hands on a preamp with high impedance that will make a huge difference. I was using an LR bags which was not perfect but a good compromise of cost/benefit at the time. I wish that I would have had my Fdeck HPF back then, it would have been perfect for that setup.

    Good luck finding your tone, it's a journey!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  19. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I'm by far the least experienced with amps and pickups of anyone speaking here, so I'll agree with just about everyone that has brought up valid points here... But I will mention two generic things that may be worth considering for the OP...

    1) The "jazz director" and "Our school" seem to have certain guidelines that they intend you to live within, and the degree of compliance you exhibit -- or the spirit of the non-compliance that you exhibit -- may have a bearing on grades for you. No matter how illogical those guidelines are from a sound standpoint, if these guidelines are important to the people who are teaching and grading you, you may want to heed them. I'm not saying it's right, but sometimes you have to make decisions looking to your future. Now, talking with those people about what is going on might improve the situation, so it may be worth a little communication with them before you make your decisions.

    2) A person playing an instrument never knows exactly how they sound in the audience. You can make good guesses based on how things sound around you, but sometimes the sound among the audience -- ~90% of whom are musical civilians who don't typically care about the detailed sensitivities that we all think about -- is not as bad as we might think it is. It may be worth while considering that as you talk to your "jazz director" and "Our school". It is also possible that the people making these decisions have a certain sound in mind, which may not be the sound that you have in mind.

    I wish the OP the best as these decisions are made.
  20. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    I have a bass in the shop I just fit a Realist Lifeline to for an area High School. The teacher asked me to put a Fishman BP 100 on it which is common on school basses in the area. I told him I would do it but the result would be nasal, honky, thin.....and it would probably feedback during his spring concert.
    Point? School teachers don’t give this stuff much thought. Between curriculum, keeping kids interested, parents, paperwork etc, we can understand that.

    Jazz band often gets the bass the orchestra teacher can spare but that’s another battle.
    dhergert and Ric Vice like this.

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