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Back Dampening/Sound Loss

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by anonymous12251111, Oct 1, 2008.

  1. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Hi all, I just purchased a flat-back bass. I've always played with part my my knee touching the back of the bass and it's never really been a problem in terms of volume loss or sound dampening. On my new bass the sound loss is quite drastic. I'm not a tall bass player so my teacher and I have worked hard to find a comfortable posture for me to play in (rotating the bass a little bit inwards helps when sitting.)

    So the question is....Does anyone know of any sort of device that clamps onto the C bouts of the bass that can stop dampening. I've heard that some bassists get someone to carve them a long piece of wood that clamps onto the back of the bass easily (with rubber attatchments)...That way you can put your knee on the device and have nothing actually touching the back of the bass...Does anyone know what might work?

    A Danish bassist recommended the "play on air" viola shoulder rest, but I have no idea how a Viola shoulder rest could ever be long enough to clamp onto the back of a double bass.

  2. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Stand up and play when it matters. That'll be $50. :) Seriously, my bass sounds like another instrument when I sit, so I stand if sound really matters. All I need is one more thing to carry around. I'm sure you could fashion some sort of device, but it's most likely to take up space and move the bass further away from you.
  3. Stan Haskins

    Stan Haskins

    Nov 17, 2005
    NY and Miami
    Those play on air rests might be the right idea - they're little inflatable pillows, if I'm not mistaken. I think they button on to the tailpiece holder though, which just wouldn't work for us. If you have violin corners you might be able to get away with holding something on with a rubber band.

    It's something worth looking into - I always sit now - the bass is noticeably muted by my knee, too.
  4. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
  5. nottalkative


    Apr 9, 2005
    I had never thought it as an issue until I saw this.

    This looks exactly what you need.
  6. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    wow...that's really heavy duty! I might try and find something a bit smaller or make something myself. With my bass, any contact with the knee, even if it's minute will still drastically dampen the sound, so I need to create or purchase some sort of device.
  7. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Maybe I'm missing something here, but I don't see much difference between one's knee touching the back of the bass and an attachment that looks to weigh several pounds being clamped across the back between the C bouts.
  8. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I used to have a bass with a whisper thin flat back (2-3mm thick). I noticed a major difference when I put my knee on it. It was like I took $10 000 of the price tag of the instrument. Plus, my leg would get sore from holding up the bass

    I used Joel Quarrington's trick of putting my left foot on a foot stool and only have the instep of the left foot touching the instrument. This is a good solution. Since your are in Montreal, you'll notice that 1/2 the players in the MSO bass section does some kind of variation of this.

    After a while, I found dragging around a foot stool and a stool was cumbersome. I found a classical guitar footstool to be too delicate to hold my weight and the bass.

    Now, I don't carry a stool. I put my foot on a upper left corner of a chair then let the corner of the lower bout rest on the instep of my left foot. I've found that all chairs are the same height. There are always a few extra chairs around whatever hall I'm playing; that way I don't have to drag one around with me. Plus, I have a convenient spot to put rosin, cloth, clocks, coffee cup, pencils, etc. right beside me (and so does my stand partner).

    When I'm playing with Orchestra London, the symphony chair's rung is conveniently at the same height as the rung on my stool. I put my left foot half on the stool rung and half on the chair rung. The bass' bout corner rests on the padded edge of the chair.

    This way the bass is free to resonate and I don't have to exert physical force to hold up the bass and I can concentrate on playing. Before - when I stood or used a regular stool, holding the bass up with my knee - by the time the 4th movement of a symphony came around, I'd be praying for the music to end so I could be out of my misery. This is not a good way to enjoy the orchestral experience!

    Oh yeah, use a padded stool. Your butt will thank you! http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=452295&page=2 (see comment #33)
  9. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nothing is touching the back of the instrument with that attatchment, therefore allowing the back to freely vibrate. Your knee/leg can dampen the bass up to 35 percent depending on instrument.
  10. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Thanks for the information Bryan, I'm actually in Toronto not Montreal. I'm either doing my Masters in Montreal or Boston or New York, so we'll have to see...I'd love to get some lessons from Joel...
  11. The viola Play on Air cushion could be held in place by the sort of wide elastic used in our braces if there were plastic covered flat hooks on each end to hook over the edges of the back in the "dees." This should turn the bass in more to the right and bring the G string closer to the bow arm and shoulder. Would this be pushing the bass further away?

    The "holy cushion" would be soft on the kneecap. Any hard strip could concentrate weight on only part of the kneecap and just about cripple you after a while?

    I have half-made a support from clear Perspex, heat bent to the swelled shape of the bass back and with slotted holes at each end. I plan to carve wooden blocks that hook over the edge of the back and attach to the Perspex using thumb screws. This device would be light, flexible and almost invisible from the audience. It would only take a few seconds to fit and the clearance from the back could be easily adjusted at each end or by more bending. An arched shape would add strength.

    A critical issue here is always to maintain good posture. Even though I am not tall (5' 7") I like to half sit with both feet on the floor and my pelvis level. If the thighs angle down at about 45 degrees you can maintain the right curvature in the lower back. Depending on the size and shape of the bass this can give me problems with supporting the bass hands-free. Hooking the left heel over the stool rung pushes the left knee further out but often can twist the posture. I was hoping my device above might help me. Seeing this thread has rekindled my curiosity.

    Thanks, Calvin.

  12. foilracer

    foilracer Supporting Member

    Oct 12, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    could it be many community groups use "exaggerated" volumes and never play pp or p?....It seems my bass is rarely
    loud at rehearsal but in the practice studio is just fine.
    In this thread we talk volume but do we need more?

    Comments? Opinions? Thanks
  13. CT DB

    CT DB

    Apr 27, 2007
    Fairfield Cty, CT
    It seems to me that in an orchestra, the basses have to play a little louder to supply a good foundation for the rest of the group. Unfortunately, without care, it can cause a chain reaction as the cellos play louder and the violas, then the violins, making the basses have to play even louder to compensate.
    My conductor talks about his octave rule, in which instruments playing an octave above another should play softer to allow the lower instrument to be heard. I, of course, take this as license to play louder in general.
  14. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    Calvin, perhaps you could make or buy a couple of extra long spool clamps and position them such that your knee only touches the rod(s) of the clamp? Light weight, easy to make and customize...
  15. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Oh, I solved the problem. I had to adapt my posture a bit and my Violone teacher helped me with it. Since my bass has very wide lower bouts I was able to hook the right lower bout inwards with my right shin. so that torqued the bass inwards and my left leg (which is flat on the gound) isn't touching the bass at all.

    works amazingly

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