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Basses ruining bands....

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Greywoulf, Aug 14, 2003.

  1. This is going to sound funny coming from a bass player, but IMO the current trend toward super-loud bass (that's probably being carried over from reggae and rap) is ruining the live sound of too many good bands today...
    Example: In my area there’s an excellent band called Mission Dance, and I’ve heard them often at different live venues. They generally perform with 7 or 8 musicians plus a singer, but when they’re all playing together on stage they might as well be a trio! When it comes time for individual solos, then you can hear a good keyboard player, some good sax, trumpet, and bone guys, and oh look, there’s a percussionist in there and jeez she’s pretty damn good too…
    But put them all together playing, and what’a ya get? BASS +++++10. Guitar +++8. Drum set ++7. Rest of band, -0. (The singer’s okay in the mix tho).

    Now I like this band, they have a good groove and I especially like how they have the bass player out front and center with the lead guitarist. But when I see the percussionist wailing away on her congas, the horn guys blowing, the piano guy hitting it, and all I can hear is BASS, guitar, and drums, I can’t help thinking, what a waste! And how much better would their groove sound if we could hear ALL of the players contributing to it…

    (I know I’m asking for trouble with this one, right?) d];>]}

    Greywoulf ;)
  2. I'm not a member of that band, nor do I know any of the members, so that's ticklish...

    But I did once, anyway. Said, hey man, the bass is way too loud; can't hear anyone else... He just looked at me as if I was stupid. Some of these sound guys think there's no such thing as a too-loud bass, (or a too-loud anything,) and if you complain it's because you're a wuss or don't know anything about music or you're just not with it or something...

    I know for sure even I could change their mix and make that band sound twice as good as it does now, and I know diddily squat about sound stuff. Only I do know you're supposed to hear ALL the musicians, else why should they even bother being in the band?

    Heard another band tonight. A big, good one, The Jazz Lobsters. Big jazz band, and you could hear everyone; horns, keys, guitar, drummer, bass, and some excellent singers! I thought, now THAT's what a good band mix is supposed to sound like! They were so tight they were an absolute delight, even if you don't dig that kind of music...
    Greywoulf :)
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    It's not necessarily just down to the sound man and it's very much to do with the player(s).

    So - you talk about a Jazz band and I think good Jazz musicians are very conscious of listening to others, playing with them and leaving space for the other musicians!!

    So - I often hear Jazz fans complain about Bass guitar and that its sustain and sound, tends to fill up all the available space so you can't hear what else is going on - in a way which doesn't happen with Double Bass - which has short sustain and inhabits its own sonic space, without cluttering up the 'mid-range' that BGs tend to live in.

    So - there is some truth in this and it is what rock bands discovered in the mid-60s and what lead to the birth of the "power trio" - so, if you turn up the bass it fills in all the gaps and so your guitar, bass drums trio doesn't sound empty without the guitar overdubs on the records - it sounds very full!

    But all of this is up to the player! So as a BG player you can listen to what is going on - you can leave space and play less, you can change your sound, by doing things like muting the strings, for example.

    So - if you are listening an are aware that somebody else is taking a solo that isn't being heard - then you could try palm muting to get shorter sustain, so your sound doesn't fill up all the gaps. Or you could just try playing shorter notes with percussive ghost notes for example.

    But basically its about listening and being aware - so in Jazz this is very much part of the culture - in improvised music you have to listen to what is going on and it is part of the way you learn. Whereas in other types of music I have played, it is very much - learn your part and plough on regardless, turn up and tune out!! But it doesn't have to be that way!
  4. fastplant


    Sep 26, 2002
    Personally, I'd rather hear too much bass than not enough. But I have a question, is it too much low end on the bass, or too much volume on the bass? I can understand how too much volume on the bass would sound bad. But I really like to hear the low end on the bass eccentuated [sp?] a bit. It really adds to the groove if it's a good bassist.
  5. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    My suggestion, explain it to one of the members of the band on a break.

    Several months ago, I was told by a friend that my electric upright bass sounded muddy as hell out front and had no definition. Strange, as it sounded GREAT onstage. Soundman said it sounded great, and I inquired with other musician friends when they came out, and everyone said muddy with no definition. So, at a soundcheck I have the guitarist play a bit on it to check it out myself. Sure enough, it sounded bad.

    A better quality DI and a bit of working with the soundman, and he know gets my tone. I'd never have known there was a problem if ONE GUY wouldn't have stepped up to me and said something to start the inquiry. He may not jump on your comments immediately, but it will at least plant the seed.
  6. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Sounds like a combination of crappy FOH engineer and different taste in sound.
  7. So very true; it sure doesn't...!! In fact the Jazz Lobsters, the big jazz band I was raving about (where you could hear everyone in the mix), their bass player was playing a BG, not a DB...

    I teach beginning hand drummers at drum circles and classes and one of the first things I tell them is that in order to play West African music well you have to LISTEN! Your ears are as important as your hands, and if all you can hear is your own drum you sure as hell ain't doing it right!
    IMO the spaces one leaves, the silences, are every bit as important to creating good cooperative musicianship within a band as is the sound one makes!
  8. buzzbass

    buzzbass Shoo Shoo Retarded Flu !

    Apr 23, 2003
    Mission Dance (which grew out of Bystander) are an NJ institution. Much like Yasgur's Farm or the Nerds. They do what they do, the same way they've been doing it, for years. They've built there own little niche and nobody will be able to tell them different. I personally think they're tired and stale. I have dealings with them @ the Cabin and can say that your not going to change anything. They've built their own little kingdom, and screw anyone who disagrees. I'm not denying the talent, it's their collective attitude that makes them suck.
  9. Sorry to change the topic like this but, since there's a couple people here from NJ, I'd like to ask a question.

    Is there a good Bass teacher in Monmouth County, NJ? I've been looking for a Bass teacher but so far it's been a little iffy. Some pointers would be very welcome.

    Thanks in advance!

  10. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    Yeah its a bass thats ruining the band;) Its the bass DRUM. 95% of the shows I've seen the bass drum is twice as load as any other instrument. I'm not sure why these sound people need to have a thunderous bass drum sound, but they all seem to do it. I haven't heard a properly mixed band in some time and its truly a shame.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well that's another reason why Jazz bands tends to sound better overall - as Jazz drummers only use the bass drum sparingly and will often only play one cymbal or hi-hat for long periods - just to give the music space.
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    My first thought was "sound man"

    I've done many gigs where the sound man doenst know sh!t from shovel.
    i saw the blockheads recently at a festival and the bass was way too loud. i was wearing my ER25's and it was still too loud. the bass was complteley OVER the mix, it annoyed me because "whatshisname" is a great player, he doesnt need to be too loud!

    personaloly, i think in those situations it's mostly the soundman's problem.
    i like my bass to be clearly audible when it's appropriate, i like to control the dynamic with my fingers. ideally i want to hear everthing on stage through good mopnitoring (how often does that not happen!!) and i want the approximate same mix out front - so i can control the sound myself.

    Bruce said:
    two things:

    it's not JUST good JAZZ musicians who listen to the other players and leave space. good musicians (or just ones that care about the music!) do that period.

    ...jazz fans complaining about bass guitar!! :meh:

    i get annoyed with DB because you cant hear a players solo clearly because of the poor sustain and lack of midrange that I love from my magnetic p/ups!

    my point is that its personal preference, those guys are listening to jazz to hear the traditional lead instruments play the head, solo, whaddeva... nowadays with "new" technology etc, drums are clear as a whistle, bass can actually be heard! - and they're complaining!!!
    they should enjoy the fact that they can hear so much more detail!

    i mean who knew mingus was any good if they werent in the first few rows - all you'd have heard is a few thumping sounds.. "harmony, i thought he was playing one note over and over" :D
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well - I used to go to big rock concerts a lot and think it was the sound engineer that made or broke the sound, but having listened to a lot more Jazz now, I can hear how it is a question of playing with other people and leaving space.

    The trouble is that in most rock bands, the bass and bass drum do fill up a large part of the audio spectrum and the band tends to rely on the conistent bass drum for its momentum - whereas Jazz or Latin music doesn't and has more space.

    I now think that the best sound at any gigs I have been to, is where it is as close to entirely acoustic as possible - so the best sound is a big international class orchestra like the Berlin Philharmonic - I'm going to see them play the Rite of Spring conducted by Simon Rattle at the end of the month!! :)

    So, the sound is sublime, rich, dynamic - and no sound man to get in the way. If a 120 piece orchestra leaves space - the slightest touch of a harp or pluck of a solo violin can be heard - with no amplification whatsoever!!
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    This is not entirely true - I have heard all-acoustic Jazz groups with no amplification and the sound is fantastic - incredibly clear!

    At Jazz Summerschool I have got to hear many DB tutors playing unamped and the sound is very different - 3-dimensional and fuller, richer - not just coming from a speaker "over there" - but coming from everywhere!

    So at my local Jazz club - most DBers use amps out of habit - but rather than clarifying the sound it tends to muffle it - more of the note fundamental is heard, but all the little sounds that go to make up the rich acoustic sound are drowned out!

    So - occasionally there have been bass players who used no amplification and relied on their technique to project the sound and what a difference - so much clearer and fuller sound!

    I also saw a Jazz quartet where the power went off and they carried on - the club broke out the candles and it sounded great! :)

    So - the effect you are talking about is a consequence of poor recording technology in the 40s 50s and 60s - but I would like to bet that if you had seen Mingus, live in a small club his bass sound would have been awesome and would have projected brilliantly, without an amp!
  15. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I have left a few shows where the bass and bass drum were mixed so loud and deep that it was making me and other people physically ill, including the bar staff. I could feel my internal organs bouncing around. The sound guy must have been deaf. Most people seemed to like it that way though, perhaps they had had more to drink, I've read somewhere that alcohol decreases your sensitivity to loud noise.
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I agree about the kick drum thing. I find MOST drummers play the kick too much! Many seem to think that they have to put a kick beat on every bass note which i just find bizarre!

    I would also tend to agree about the acoustic sound - i mean that's the most natural thing isnt it... you're hearing the raw vibrations of the strings and reeds, the resonance of the horns etc etc

    No electronic devices in the way... but you gotta be in a good venue for the sound to carry properly i guess

    Whereas rock aint natural... but it shhhure is goood!!!
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    yes, good point about the recording technology, very true.
    also, yes, the strongest sound from a db is that "thump" - but i know from trying to play mine there is more than that going on - and there's so much you can (try to) do with it tone wise... sooo dificult :rolleyes:

    maybe the fact that we listen to mixed, mastered, re-mastered music all the time through left and right means that when we hear live music it takes time and experience to adjust to the real sound of a band... maybe that's the thing?
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well my view is that we treat mixed andmatered music as the "norm" and as such, as ordinary! Whereas, the sound of a big live band with lots of textures - horns, percussion etc. is extraordinary and exciting!

    So - of course what I am thinking about are concert situations where I am playing with the big Latin band - like last weekend.

    So - quite often, recorded music is being played before we go on and I often think oh **** - that sounds so much better than us - so much tighter and better-played, people are going to really notice how bad we are in comparison! :(

    But every gig without fail - as soon as we start playing, people sit up an take notice - or rather they get up and start dancing! :) So - with the highly-professional and polished recording playing - people are chatting, drinking and milling around. But as soon as we come on stage their attention is on the band and they are moving - dancing or tapping their feet etc.

    I often ask people in the audience what it was like and they say "great sound" , fantastic etc. And I ask about mistakes we made - didn't you hear those bum notes and missed entries - but no - nobody notices stuff like that - they are caught up in the excitement of a live band sound.

    My feeling is it is exactly the un-polished and un-produced nature of the sound which excites people - as long as they can dance and tap their feet they are happy and dont hear the horn sections mistakes or slight bum notes.
  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I think the visual has a lot to do with it too.. they can actually see fingers on strings, sticks on skins.... they can see you playing and making the sounds yourself, and getting into it.

    Some freinds of mine who came to one of my gigs, a couple - he is into everything, she is not really a music lover.
    i had a horrible feeling she'd despise it - not that it really mattered, but i didnt want her to have bad time, you know..
    anwyay she really enjoyed it - she said that seeing people make the music there in front of her was exciting because she didnt know what would happen next (she wasnt alone there ;) ) and just found it amazing to watch.

    the recorded sound may be tighter, better balanced, mistake free etc.. but it's not got the energy of the moment I guess. It doesnt make you feel alive in the same way as great live music.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Differnet types of bands though - with ours people do tend to focus on our singer - but a lot of people just get into the dancing and are looking at their partners/friends and not the stage!

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