"Birdland" -harmonic volume.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by XavierG, Oct 4, 2001.

  1. Ok, so a friend has asked me if I'd play bass for him. He plays trombone and has a gig in a weeks time. Apparently, his bassist can't handle "Birdland" (Weather Report version) so he wants me to stand in for that, and 2 other tunes. Here's my problem - the intro bass riff, you know, the harmonic part - I don't have a problem playing it, but I do have a volume problem where my harmonics are much softer (volume-wise) than the non-harmonic parts. No matter how hard I try, I can't play it louder. Is it me, or is it my bass, or is that normal? Any ideas?
  2. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    It's normal as far as I'm concerned, Xavier. There are a couple of ways you could compensate for it, though. (You've probably thought of most or all of them already.) One is to use a compressor. Another is to turn the amp up higher, so the harmonics pop out better, and then play less hard on the non-harmonic stuff. Another is to crank up the highs in the EQ, though this might alter your overall tone more than you want. Another is to use some kind of clean boost pedal (or maybe just the volume pot!) to increase the volume just for the harmonic part.
  3. I thought of cranking the volume up, but the transition from harmonics to the non-harmonic part is so quick, I won't have time to bring the volume down without a glitch. Maybe some kind of volume pedal or stomper.

    Edit later - Oh, sorry Richard. I jumped the gun on you. I see that you did suggest the latter. I have to learn to read through the entire post before I reply. Thanks for your input. I will go that route and hope it works.

  4. re. technique, I find that using my thumb to locate the harmonic node point and my index finger to pick the note gets a louder volume than index finger to locate the node and middle finger to pick the note.
  5. MTR - I don't have a problem getting the harmonics out. But it doesn't matter where I pluck, or where I rest my thumb, I can't get the volume right. I can crank up the amp and the harmonics sound great, but then I go to the G (1st non-harmonic note) and I practically blow my speaker.
  6. distortion brings out harmonics well...but it's not appropriate here- a compressor as Richard suggests would be worth trying- even volume without changing the tone (much).
  7. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    How about soloing the bridge pickup? On my bass (Roscoe Beck V), there's a noticeable difference in harmonics volume between the two pickups. Maybe it's time to invest in a volume pedal.
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...how 'bout if the band plays piano/pianissimo during the intro? Then when the verse busts in...BAM!
  9. Christopher - I am using the bridge pup by itself (on a MIM Jazz). I borrowed a friends MIA Jazz this afternoon to see if that made a diference. Same problem. This friend tells me he can get me a stomp box which allows you to preset 4 different volume levels and select any one of them via foot switches. I forgot what it's called (I was so excited that there was a solution to my problem that I wasn't paying attention). Anyway, it's about $65 Canadian, so it's well worth it (I think).

    Jim - I actually suggested to my friend that his horn section play the intro. He said that one of the main reasons he wants me to stand in for his bass player is because I can play the harmonics.

    Thanks to all of you for your advise.
  10. A compresser and a little reverb would help that. Otherwise the part needs to be played harder. I noticed that on 'live' Weather Report recordings that part is much quieter (or even doubled) than the original recording which is heavily compressed.
  11. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Borrowing a compressor would definitely be the cheapest and best sounding option. After you're through the intro, you can always turn the compression off (and adjust volume as necessary).
  12. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    One of the bands I'm currently in plays Birdland ala the live Weather Report version from 8:30. I have always had the same problem you are describing with the harmonics in the intro. The way I've dealt with the issue is to actually use the EQ footswitch for my SM-900... the only time I've ever had a need for it. :) I use one EQ setting for the intro bit that has the high mids and treble turned up, hence louder harmonics. I switch back to my normal EQ setting for the rest of the tune.

    As mentioned before, the transition from the intro to the next section of the tune is way too fast for any pickup switching, volume adjusting on the bass/amp, etc.. you really need a stomp box of some sort or a volume pedal to make the adjustment fast enough.

    BTW - check out Weather Report's live version, it's way hipper than the original Heavy Weather version.
  13. Got my volume control stomper and it does the job. I can have 4 separate volume settings and cleanly switch from one to the other via foot-switches. The volume box is not a brand name. It is made by a local electrician (friend of a friend) and, although I was told it would cost me $65(Can.), the electrician gave it to me for free (on the condition that I provide him with feedback on the product). Ain't I lucky?
  14. I've found if I curl my fingers and use the nails to pluck, false harmonics really jump in volume and clarity.
  15. BigBohn


    Sep 29, 2001
    WPB, Florida
    i know 1 great solution. new strings. you need round core roundwound strings, preferably stainless steel. the more tension, the louder the harmonic. i know it works because i had floppy strings before i restringed with my DR Hi beams for 5 string, and they are chirpin real loud now, and last a long time to, if i might add.

    FYI I also got a Monster Bass cable with it, and the cable seemed to make the harmonics stand out louder than my previous Dimarzio cable.