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Any tips to brighten (add more treble to) my upright bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by orbit2021, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. orbit2021


    Mar 12, 2009
    Spokane, WA
    Hi guys, first post here, yay!

    So I just bought this 1920 german fully carved flatback double bass and im just in LOVE with it...so much meaty tone and it just projects like CRAZY.

    However the tone is a bit dark for my taste and Im wondering if there is any ways to brighten up the tone?

    the strings, i dont know the brand, but they are jazz strings (ie thinner than orchestral).

    the fingerboard is ebony...im using a realist pickup, and although its not QUITE as noticable when im playing acoustic, since i just put the realist on today i was thinking 'hey, i WOULD like a little more treble" after hearing the bass through my amp, but realized there is a slight lack of treble acoustically also.

    im looking for my vibrato to just have a little more bite/edge. i know its hard to relate sounds to words since everything is subjective and everyone uses words differently but we try, eh?

    i heard something about shaving the bridge thinner being a good way to add treble?

    i guess that is the simplest way to put it, i'd like more treble from my double bass tone.

    Thanks for any info you guys can provide!
  2. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Adding a bit of treble to the amplified sound is a snap but you clearly want to brighten up the acoustic sound. It would be helpful to know exactly what strings are on your bass. That could be the ticket right there. Beyond that, any modifications that would affect the tonal balance (bridge, sound-post, etc.) should really be performed by a qualified luthier. Did you buy the bass from a shop? If not, have you taken it to a luthier for a "check-up?"
  3. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Spirocores are pretty bright, try those. The Realist is typically dark on many basses. You could try an Underwood or other in the wing type PU for a brighter, more full range amplified sound. The Marvin wire tailpiece brightened up my bass a bit, but I would try the other things first.

    A sound post adjustment might help, too.
  4. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    Thinner doesn't necessarily mean jazz string. Both jazz and orchestra strings come from thin to thick. First, you should change to new Spirocores. These are the default jazz strings. I'm not saying the best jazz string---this is up to personal taste. Sound post adjustment is next.
    A 1920 German bass should not be too dark for jazz. It's likely the strings, then maybe the sound post. I've seen VERY dark sounding basses with a special narrow bridge that did brighten things up. Joel Quarington and Dave Young in Toronto both have these bridges on basses. Another thing that works is ebony inserts beneath the strings. Both of these solutions are a bit extreme, and the results may be subtle.
  5. D McCartney

    D McCartney crosswind downwind bass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Tacoma WA
    Your luthier might be able to do something with the soundpost if brighter strings don't help. Or perhaps a synthetic tailpiece?
  6. orbit2021


    Mar 12, 2009
    Spokane, WA
    Okay I found out that the strings are helicore hybrids.

    There is a guy at the violin shop locally here that is (according to the lady i bought the bass from) very well versed in dealing with basses and he said that the strings i have are the strings he would recommend for me and what i was describing, and it was his opinion that spirocores arent going to brighten my tone up. so i'd like to hear opinions on that opinion for sure.

    he was suggesting that we move my sound post and see if that brightens the tone up a bit...

    also, mr mccartney, the tailpiece is ebony according to the luthier that appraised it about 3 years ago.

    ive been an electric bass player for almost 13 years now and i have always found that strings make the biggest difference in how bright my tone is (aside from changing PICKUPS lol) so it seems like the choice of string would be the biggest thing.

    in response to mike arnopol, i wouldnt call the bass having a real DARK tone, just darker than i prefer. to me, a brighter tone will make slides and vibrato more prominent and edgy, and thus allow me to exhibit more character/expression with less work.

    thanks for all the advice thus far.
  7. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    D'Addario's blow. Sorry. I never liked them. I tried the Hybrids for a while (mostly because they are cheaper than Spiros) but just gave up. I never had luck with them lasting for more than 6 months. The set of Spiros (Stark E, Mittel A,D,G) are pushing 2 years (maybe more) and still sounding great. Maybe even getting better.
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Helicore Hybrids are pretty bright, but I would try spirocore as they are better quality all around and a bit brighter IMO, about as good as it gets for a bright jazz pizz string.

    A lighter tailpiece than your heavy ebony might help, also.
  9. rdwhit


    Mar 18, 2006
    Louisville ky
    go spiro, that might be all you need to do imho
  10. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    ANY new string 'cept maybe guts will be bright to start with, and will darken to a greater or lesser degree over a week or two.

    It's not clear whether you are playing pizz or arco, and that would make a difference in the way you set up the bass. If you're playing arco, you mightn't like the spiros as they are not known for great arco response. They'll brighten things up though! If you're playing pizz, and are new to DB, then I think as your technique improves (both hands) you'll get a better, snappier tone. And spiros and a lighter tailpiece would probably help.
  11. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    Helio hybrids are a lot darker with less impact than Spiros. They can be a bit thumpy, too. Whoever told you that Helios are brighter is wrong. The Helio hybrids are in my opinion the crummiest sounding of the Helio line. Not as good for jazz or orchestra. That being said, some basses sound good with them. There are no absolutes.
  12. +1 Thumpy Pizz, Scratchy Arco. I think I gave them away after 4 months.
  13. Dennis Kong

    Dennis Kong Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    San Mateo CA
    Try the Vikes or Velvet Blues.
    I use the Velvet Blues on my 40's Juzek.
    used to Obigattos and they were pretty dark.
    The Velvet Blues are buzzy, light gauge and lot brighter.
    and you'd probably have raise your action a bit.
    Only $160 or so.
    They ' re not that great for bowing.

    Change your tail piece to Walnut. I have a Pecanic Walnut
    one. He suggested that wood - it's lighter and and does not
    absorp the sound as much as Ebony.
    also change your tail wire to to Pecanic nylon chord too.
    It make bass string action less stiff and less dull.
    I use that too.
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Spiro orchs are the standard. Try it first and then go from there. Of course you would have to play them in for a month or more before you can really tell it's what you want.
  15. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I too have an older German bass that needs more brightness. I tried Spirocores and they sounded about as bright as regular orchestra stings on my bass. For fun I tried Helicore Pizzicato and they were much brighter for me. I put a Jazzer G string on and don't really hear any difference. When it's time to replace strings I'll probably go with Helicore Pizzicato again.
  16. Welcome...
    I would suggest the sound post adjustment first.
    Throwing $$ at the problem via new strings can be VERY expensive.
    Good luck.
  17. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007

    Hey orbit2021, you wouldn't know Brandon from Nebraska, would you?;)

    Anywayz......you say you have been primarily an electric bassist, and that you want to transfer your expertise with the sound of electric bass to the acoustic bass.

    It doesn't work that way, these are two different instruments in the bass instrument. family that include the kick drum and the sousaphone as well. I suspect that you know this very well.;)

    So I'd suggest spending more time listening to acoustic bass to familiarize yourself with the instrument. You need to have more experience with the sound before you can banter here over the subtle nuances of tone.

    Sounds like you have a great instrument there, many bassists are searching for a bass like yours.......they WANT a dark sound.
  18. kurtsnyder


    Oct 31, 2006
    The similarities are uncanny! Makes you wonder... :rolleyes:
  19. As Paul and others have suggested, I also would suggest a soundpost adjustment before spending a lot of money on new strings. Generally, moving the soundpost closer to the bridge, 'up' the belly, should result in brighter sound. If it gets too close or even directly beneath the foot of the bridge, the tone will become harsh and overtones will suffer, so as a general rule keep it at least 1/2 the soundpost diameter 'South' of the bridge. Moving further away, down the belly, should darken the tone and make for a richer overtone palette... but again within reason. It's unusual for a bass to have decent projection beyond about 25mm South of the bridge back, but I have met with the odd exception a little further and sounding great. Depends so much on the individual bass with all its many complex, unique dimensions and wood characteristics.

    And of course moving the post is rarely so simple as just moving it. The tension of the fit must be just right, and the fit itself against belly and back changes angles constantly depending on position relative to the arching. It is unlikely that your post will fit well if moved more than a few millimetres, without some reshaping of the ends, and possibly fitting a new post which better matches the new position.
  20. orbit2021


    Mar 12, 2009
    Spokane, WA
    I don't know anyone from Nebraska, sorry. But I get the feeling I'm being compared to someone whom the last poster and others feel is a nuisance or something? Yay for unproductive posting :p

    Anyways, thanks to all who are posting good suggestions.

    I think that I would like to try some strings geared towards pizzicato since I'm not going to be doing much arco, beyond simple practice here and there. Sounds like spiros are the consensus?

    I have been noticing that the more I've played the last few days, the less of an issue the whole thing seems to me. Honing my technique could be a big part of what I desired, but in truth I'm not looking for more than say a 3% difference in tone. Really just want to add a smidgen of treble.

    Also to the poster that said the heli hybrids were thumpy, I also feel that is the case, which is another reason I want to try different strings

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