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DB: The quietest instrument?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Davidoc, Dec 31, 2002.

  1. I've been noticing how quiet the DB is arco, and with pizz, how it's barely audible (well you can hear it playing alone, but with a group?)

    Is there any instrument that's quieter? I havn't found one.
  2. Well, it's not that it's totally inaudible; it's just that of all the instruments I've seen, (in my experience) it's the quietist, and one of the biggest. I just noticed the irony. :)

    And yes, you are right about my tone quality being a problem. I didn't list it in my profile because I don't own an upright; I use the school's.

    I just wanna see if it's just me, or you guys get them to sound louder than other acoustic instruments.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I think Ed is right - when I try to play Double Bass - I get nothing out of it, in terms of tone/volume.

    But I have stood a few feet away from great Jazz players getting huge tone and violume out of the thing. And the volume of a bass section from a professional orchestra can fill a large hall easily!
  4. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC

    I play doublebass most of the time. I know what you mean, the bass is relatively quiet compared to a trombone for instance, but sometimes I find that I can fill a room pretty easily. I think acoustics have a lot to do with it, as well as working on your sound and having a great bass. I just finished a 6 week theatre run where I played unamplified, and I really loved creating my own sound every night.

    You might want to get a teacher and see if he or she can help you get a bigger sound out of the bass. There is a lot to be said for efficient movement and good posture.

    We are so used to loud noise these days that acoustic instruments just don't seem to have much impact. I mean, the last time I saw a big feature movie, I could hardly stand all the booming 120Hz frequencies. Bang smash boom! Don't get me wrong, I like to play loud sometimes too, but noise pollution and high dB's are taking away the general population's sensitivity.

  5. It takes a while to develop a big tone -- there's more to it than just pulling the strings harder or pressing harder on the bow. And there are players who can draw a big sound out of even the crappiest basses.

    That said, certainly a drummer or a trumpet player will beat a bass in a battle of the decibels. But I've never met anyone whose goal is to be the loudest on their instrument (though I'm sure they're out there). But, hey, a bass will stomp all over an alto recorder on a good day!

    I'm with Ed in the department of lesser amplification. There is no greater pleasure than playing with musicians who use their ears and are sensitive to volume.
  6. MacDaddy


    Jan 26, 2002
    Provo, UT, USA
    I think out of all the stringed instruments the bass is the loudest. There's 15 other players in my group, all playing other instruments, yet you can always pick me out... hmmm...
  7. Thanks for the info!

    I guess it's mostly me. I guess I should work on getting a more solid tone, and then see if I'm more audible. I guess I'm not used to blending in, and I like to be loud.

    Oh, MacDaddy, It seems to me anyway, that it's the quietist of the strings---you can hear yourself because there's nothing else in your frequency spectrum.
  8. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York

  9. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    Davyo and Ed are both right. DB is one of the least loud instruments. The lower the frequency, the more work is required. This is obvious when reproducing sound electro-mechanically,but also holds true acoustically. Low notes have to move much more air between each wave. A rule of thumb:the larger the instrument, the less volume. Trombone vs trumpet? Bari sax vs alto? Bass drum vs snare? But for sure, there are tremendous variations between different plyers of the same axe. I've no doubt Ed gets a big sound, and that DavyO's sound will improve over time. But I think it's important to dig what we're dealing with, even if it hertz:p
  10. Sound Levels of Various Instruments, Orchestra, and Rock Concert (from Peck, 1997) :

    Instrument Noise Level (dB A)

    Violin 84-103

    Cello 84-92

    Bass 75-83

    Piccolo 95-112

    Flute 85-111

    Clarinet 92-103

    French Horn 90-106

    Oboe 80-94

    Trombone 85-114

    Club 110

    Orchestra 87-98

    Headphones 110

    Car Stereo 120

    Band 120

    Rock Concert 130

    I assume these are loudest typical range; it was not made clear in the article I took them from. Anyway, it does seem to bear out that we play a relatively quiet instrument.

    Worse, the human ear responds to actual loudness poorly at lower frequencies, so for "perceived" loudness we are further challenged. Have a look at this graph.

  11. Left out of all this is projection, as opposed to volume. I have seen the harp or violin cut through an ensemble with great clarity. It has nothing to do with decibels.
  12. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    "A" scale measurement- as in dBA- is weighted to compensate for the way the human ear falls off in sensitivity at high and low frequencies. The DB is actually putting out quite a lot of energy; it's our hearing that makes it seem so much weaker.

    "Projection" is kind of a subjective notion; it describes a perceived effect rather than some intrinsic property of the instrument. Low frequencies can mask higher frequencies because of the way the ear is constructed, but not vice versa, so high frequencies tend to stand out.

    Higher pitched instruments also stand out because slight tuning offsets become much more noticeable. The xylophone takes advantage of this and is tuned slightly sharp- A 442. This was demonstrated to me vividly in 1970 when I played a very exposed xylophone part in my high school orchestra and landed on the wrong note in Sainte-Saens' "Dance Macabre". This was a significant factor in directing me to the other end of the acoustic spectrum...
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm sure you're right on all this, but have read the above sentence several times and am still not sure what it is saying or if it corresponds with my experience - or even makes logical sense? ;)

    Surely if low frequencies can mask high ones, then that would mean high frequencies don't stand out, but are "masked" or covered up? :confused:
  14. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    IMHO, therein lies the answer. :)

    If you stand a few feet away from an acoustic band, the bass is not pecieved to be the loudest instrument. If you start walking away from the band the individual instruments will become less and less audible as the distance increases.

    The very last instrument that becomes completely inaudible will be the bass.

    That, logically, says that the DB is the loudest instrument in the band.

    comparing absolute sound level to percieved sound level is like adding apples etc.

    It has to do with the reason an electric guitar through a 25 watt amp can drown out a bass played through a 5 or 6 hundred watt amp.

    Ever notice that when a car with a high powered sound system comes into hearing range, the first thing you hear is the bass thumping? As it gets closer and closer you begin to hear more and more of the guitars, cymbals etc.

    The DB is much louder than it is percieved to be. Let the bass player stop playing in the middle of the song and see how fast the whole bottom falls out.

    The REAL question should be: if a tree falls in..... :)

  15. To finish up, if you're on a break and a tree falls on your bass, does it make as much noise as a waiter dropping a tray full of drinks?

    There's one other aspect of bass sound, especially walking lines behind a group, and that is the visceral perception, the gut feeling when the group is playing and you just walk in the door, and you can feel the bass rather than hear it, all the way out to the check room. I live for that sound.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I know what you mean - there is nothing like hearing a really solid DB player at a staight ahead Jazz gig - incredibly exciting at very fast tempos as well.

    I think the downside of this, is that all this contributes to the "disapointment" you get with some bass solos - so all that momentum, groove, swing etc, suddenly stops! :(
  17. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    When drums stop, run for your lives!
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Actually, in Jazz gigs, drummers "lay out" quite often and it doesn't have the same effect of losing momentum - so quite often you will get a point where it is bass and sax for example and it still sounds pretty good.
  19. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Duh. Right, what was I thinking? ;-) And I'm not even hung over from New Year's. Mea culpa.

    Right. Low frequency osunds can indeed mask high frequencies. I should have said "HOWEVER... high frequencies can stand out because... etc."
  20. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm voting for Triangle as quietest instrument.