Boomy Rooms and Upright Bass

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by almal, Nov 6, 2021.

  1. almal


    Aug 28, 2006
    Kansas City
    I play upright bass, often at private parties in big rooms and I struggle to hear myself. I've found some things that help and would love to hear how others deal with these situations.

    Here's the worst-case scenario: Checking my sound pre-gig goes great. I dial in my tone (currently through a Fender Rumble 100) and it sound's the way I like it. 15 minutes into the first set, a bunch of people show up and there's a low hum of talking. I can't hear the bass any more, so I turn up. I still can't hear myself. I over-play and exhaust my technique. By the third or fourth set, I'm miserable and still fighting my technique and musicality goes out the window.

    Here's what I've found that's helped me:
    EQ - turn up the highs and mids for clarity, turn down the lows, use a filter to take out under 40hz to 100hz (depending on the room) for clarity
    Preamp - I use a felix design as a highpass filter, EQ, and boost. The boost is especially handy on solos (people I play with actually like hearing me, go figure) and for quick extra volume if I want to physically give myself a break playing at a lower volume.
    Quick fret - this has been a game-changer. Using some type of lubricant on my strings, makes it much harder for me to play with tension. I play with more sensitivity and musically, as a result.
    Amp on a chair - I can hear myself better if the amp is raised up.
    Moving the right distance from the amp - this depends on the room. Sometimes five feet, or more makes a difference.

    I'm still struggling with this issue, but it's gone from the frustrating scenario above to mild frustration that I still can't hear myself with much clarity. Is there anything that's helped other upright bass players playing through amps in loud, boomy rooms?

    (and sorry if this is covered somewhere else - I couldn't find it...)
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  2. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California

    Always elevate a small amp. If possible, put it behind you, within ear height, pointing out to the audience, so both you and the audience hear it, plus any standing mics on stage will pick it up.

    Alternatively, if there's a separate FOH, split your signal with a splitter and send a pre amplifier feed to the FOH, and then use your amp as a personal monitor.

    Personally, for my piezos, I set my mounted pre-amp EQ flat but high so I have full EQ signals going to my amp and/or to FOH, where EQ can be more easily adjusted for the room. (My mounted mic has no pre-amp, it is a completely clean feed for whatever I send it to.)

    For an instrument as big and clumsy as a double bass, using wireless TX/RC units instead of cables is a wonderful freedom-of-movement providing addition.

    Note: Don't use string/fret lubricants with synthetic strings. Don't ask how I know this :rollno:.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2021
    Wasnex likes this.
  3. almal


    Aug 28, 2006
    Kansas City
    This is great! Thanks.
    So, are you saying that the elevated amp going into standing mics is a good thing? Does that muddy the sound or is it a nice addition?

    How do you judge your front of house sound if there isn’t an engineer?

  4. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Not in my experience; it just makes the DB louder. I would imagine there would be balancing issues if the DB amp is too loud, so some consideration needs to be made about what you really need to do to hear yourself play. Also consider that most standing mics on stage would be setup to not pick up a lot of background/stage noise, so this boosted DB sound would be limited naturally by the mic setup.

    I'd usually assume an FOH will include someone provided by venue management who is responsible to run it, otherwise I'd expect it to be turned off and we'd be dependent on our own sound system (which I have had happen). The point being a band can't do a good job of monitoring an FOH at the same time as they're playing on stage. IF we have to provide our own FOH (which we do have available), it comes with an extra fee for the system usage and for a sound tech that we pay the same as each of the band members. On the other hand, if there's an existing FOH and they want us to run it, we'll bring along and charge for the sound tech.

    We do also have a smaller 5-mic sound system for that includes powered speakers and a bass amp, all that we each can adjust within reach. Mostly for casual outdoor venues, I'll depend on staff members to tell us how things sound and then we'll adjust as needed.

    I'm not sure that answers your questions though, lemme know if not...
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2021
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  5. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Optimally mics should only pic up the sound they are intended for. I would suggest adjusting the placement of the amp and where you stand so the amp is not pointed straight at a mic that is intended for another instrument. However, the lows are omnidirectional, and the speaker will only develop pattern control as the frequency rises into the low mids.

    I prefer elevating my cab to about waist level and tilting it to aim the mids at my ears. Elevating the cab will reduce the lows and also put a notch in the low mids that is based on wavelength and the distance from the cab to the floor. You get cancellation for the frequency where the distance equals 1/4 wavelength.

    Aiming the cab at your head ensures your ears are in the dispersion pattern for the entire pass band of the cab. The idea is for you to hear the direct sound coming from the cab at a higher volume than the reflected sound that is bouncing around the room.

    You may or may not like this approach. Those who focus more on the lows tend to hate it. I like more of a dry, full-range sound, so I find it pretty much essential.

    You don't judge your front of house sound. If you are not being sent through the PA, someone goes out front and tells you what they think. Usually this is the band leader or music director. Adjusting your sound for the audience can go against what you want and need on stage.
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  6. lurk

    lurk Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2009
    I like to wear earplugs - the kind designed for musicians that try to attenuate all frequencies equally. This makes everything softer and for some reason this allows me to focus down on my sound better. Don't fall into the trap of overplaying and developing bad habits.
    fdeck likes this.
  7. BobDeRosa

    BobDeRosa Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 16, 2012
    Finger Lakes area of New York State
    Owner, Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camps
    Ron Carter elevates his amp to ear-level on a stand. Who's going to argue with Ron Carter?
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  8. almal


    Aug 28, 2006
    Kansas City
    I wanted to thank folks for your thoughts here. A few things I took away from this conversation helped me.

    1. Many of the settings that I play in are “sound on the fly” . No sound person, small PA, bring your own amp and dial in. In these settings, one just can’t expect things to be ideal. We can just do our best to heart ourselves, make sure band mates can hear us and pray the audience can too.
    2. Leaning the amp back helps a lot. It makes it more like a monitor and I can adjust my sound on the fly.
    3. Using my preamp as a boost pedal is great for solos. My band mates can HEAR what I’m playing so they’re much more impressed with it. And sometimes I leave the boost on when my hands start to get tired, playing at a lower volume (this cuts fatigue)
    4. (Dangerous statement) it’s ok to turn up the amp until you really hear yourself. If you can hear yourself, so can the band.
    5. It gets loud in rooms and it’s hard to hear the bass. Accept it, listen hard and stay relaxed.
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