1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Digital Bass with Transpose Feature?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Farkenzi, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. Farkenzi


    Jan 10, 2005

    I am a keyboard and sax player who doubles on bass guitar and upright bass. I have several digital keyboards (Kurzweill, Korg, Roland, etc.) The digital keyboards have a "transpose" button -- a VERY handy device which allows the user to press a button and play a tune in the key it's written but have it sound in any other key. (I'm sure you are familiar with that). This comes in VERY handy at jazz gigs when a vocalist is present who likes to sing the tune "a fifth down" or whatever, and sometimes even when a horn sits in and he wants to play in the concert/written key so everyone else has to transpose.

    Is there a "digital bass guitar" equivalent -- a bass guitar with, in essence, a "transpose" button? It would solve the following problem, which comes up a LOT at the gigs I get. I am playing bass guitar in a jazz trio (piano, bass and drums). We are playing out of one or another fakebooks. Then, a vocalist wants to sing a song, in a different key from what's in the fakebook. The pianist -- no problem, he just hits the transpose button, plays the tune in the written key, and it sounds in the vocalist's key. The drummer -- no problem -- he doesn't care what key it's in. But here I am, the bass guitar player, and I have to "sight transpose" the chord chart in my head (I'm not proficient at that) because I don't have a transpose button on my bass guitar or on my effects pedal.

    Has someone made something that addresses this, so, as the bass guitar player, all I need to do is the equivalent of hitting a transpose button in order to play in the written key but have it sound in a different key?
  2. xparis001

    xparis001 Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    Providence, RI
    Senior Product Manager, Akai Professional
    you can use a midi bass. you'd need an external sound module to send it to, however.
  3. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    The difference is, unlike with a keyboard, any "transpose" operation on a bass would require some sort of digital analysis of the note being played, etc. etc. It typically results in either a delay or an odd "processed" tone, to my ears. I haven't played a MIDI bass, but I have played the V-Bass, and while it tracked flawlessly in other regards, transposing the pitch up or down a few notes did *not* sound good.

    On the other hand, guitarists transpose all the time using a very simple gizmo: the capo. Have you thought about trying that?

  4. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    Well I hate to stir up the dust but what about learning to play in any key? As a keyboard player you must be able to do that, oh wait that's right the transpose key. :)

    I think the capo thing is about the only way to cheat on stringed instruments, and I always give g*itar players crap when they use a capo in the bands I play with.

    For all the effort to "cheat" you could have spent a few hours and learned to play universally in any key, a progression works the same in any key, some are more convienient than others. :)

    Sorry for the rant.
  5. What about retuning your bass to the desired key? This would allow you to play with the same positions on the fret/fingerboard, and you would not have to deal with costly devices.
  6. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Knowing theory / understanding the chord relationships is what helps one do without costly devices.
  7. You might want to look into the Line6 Variax technology. The guitar versions do a very good job on transpose. I've used the "open tuning" feature and the response was as close to perfect as I could ask. Since the Variax performs DSP on each string individually it does a great job at this sort of thing.
  8. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006

    Transposing is no big deal on a bass. The intervals are all the same anyway. It isn't like a piano where you have to finger it differently.
  9. arbarnhart


    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    Because of the black and white keys being laid out for CMaj/Amin, transposing is much harder on the keyboard. I am pretty much a beginner on the bass (I have some years on other fretted instruments) but I play blues. A blues player that can't transpose pretty freely is like a fish that can't swim, so I tend to learn everything root relative and then I can move it around, but I am generally dealing with patterns (notes) within patterns (chords) and not memorizing a score. Retuning (possibly requiring restringing) works if you are doing a lot transposed all the same, but if it is a bunch of songs transposed different amounts I think you have to learn to deal with it.
  10. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    The transpose function would be completelly useless on a string instrument.
    Opposite to keyboard, all scales have the same shape and patterns regardless of the key. Just slide up or down on the neck and you're done.
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I knew before I opened this that this was posted by a keyboard player!:p

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.