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Double bass volume

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Hi all

    context: I have had a suspicion for a while that my DB just doesn't seem to project the same volume as I think it should. It is a fully carved bass, and I've had it for a while now, without any appreciative volume change, over time, in arco or pizz. when played regularly (at least 1 hour/day).

    I had a fellow bass player play it yesterday, expressing the same thoughts. The tone itself is great. I am currently using Kaplan strings, not that old (maybe 1 year of moderate playing).
    When this person measured the sound, using an app on his phone, from my DB, it was noticeably lower in decibel compared to his own.

    Question: is there a way that I can compare a sound wave (recorded on any current software eg Audacity) of my DB against one that any of you have, as a comparison? For example if I sent a recording of an open G and E strings, as a sound wave?
    Is there a "minimum" acceptable volume in general for DB instruments that can be somewhat quantified / examined visually?
    Is there an app that you recommend I could use and what reading would be expected?
    Short of taking it to a luthier, is there anything the collective audience here may be able to recommend as a way to establish whether there are any issues with the sound in the first place? Sound post has been checked not that long ago too, btw.
    If we take arco out of the picture, I assume pizzicato also an indication of volume?

    Of course I am not discounting the fact that no 2 DBasses are alike and therefore the sound I am currently getting may well be the best I am ever likely to get.

    Thanks for reading thru all of this!

    Regards to all
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Evah Pirazzi Mediums made my bass louder than with any other string. Have you listened to your bass from out in the room? That's good to do. It may be louder than you think. If you haven't been in for a setup in a while, you probably should take it in if you know a good luthier.

    Arco and pizz are obviously two different animals. Some basses are equal under both techniques, others aren't. Are you strictly classical?

    Basically, if you are unhappy with your bass' volume, you probably should start looking for a louder instrument if tweaks to yours don't work. I don't know if it would be worth doing major surgery, like regraduation, when the result isn't assured.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
    Hans Gruber, james condino and Wasnex like this.
  3. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    There is no way to compare the loudness of two sources without using the same signal chain, with same settings, for each source. If you can get two basses in the same room, same microphone, same distance, same player, same strings, you can come close. Recording into a DAW and comparing the sound-wave amplitudes will tell.

    Furthermore, no two basses have identical timbres, so you may find that one produces more sound in one frequency range but not in another. My two basses have quite different voices and therefore seem to need different strings and different playing approaches. The bass will tell you what it needs; the difficult thing is understanding what it's telling you.

    Kaplans are good strings for orchestral playing (not really a great pizz string), and they can "tame" a bright-voiced bass to a degree. But that characteristic is IMHO inherently correlated with "not as loud." And perhaps your strings are not optimally loading the bass's top - some basses want more, some less.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  4. All the D'Addario strings I've ever tried die pretty fast. I would look at getting a set up and different strings. Spiros are the go to for projection.
    They can do a lot with a set up, it shouldn't cost more that a couple hundred.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    From @Andy Mopley's other posts, I surmise that he's primarily an orchestral player. Although you're right about Spirocore projection, and some accomplished orchestral players use them, they may not be the best choice for him.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  6. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Perhaps a simpler way of measuring your basses volume is to have a couple of friends meet and play their basses while you use a DB Meter, which does exactly what you want. It listens and provides a measurement of the volume at its location. Don't move the meter and have the bassists play their instrument from the same location in the same room at the same time of day and you should have a good comparison. You might want to have the different players play each other's instrument in case technique is the culprit. Swap bows too. I would expect a professional recording engineer to have a DB meter in their kit so you might be able to borrow one, but you can get a free app for your phone that will work pretty well. I use Decibel X Pro on my Android phone but I expect there's something for Apple too.
    I think the first thing I'd want to rule out is that it's the bass, not the player.
  7. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Are you sure it is the bass and not the player? :thumbsup:
  8. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    There's always that possibility, James...but as the bass was played also by a different player, it (hopefully!!) rules that out!!!
    james condino likes this.
  9. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Thanks Tom. I had read the previous threads but I couldn't find a post that addressed what you have, that is an app that may provide some sort of measurement. I'll download and post a sound wave, understanding all that you and others have kindly provided as valuable input to the thread.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  10. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Agree, AGC, it is not a choice I am qualified to make just yet! Thanks
  11. I would research what really powerful orchestra players use, maybe what the Germans like.
  12. Nohrellas


    May 11, 2016
    I remember Božo Paradžik mentioning that, in his opinion, modern steel strings have too much tension and that they "choke" most instruments. He said to loosen the G string until it's completely slack and then try playing on the E A D strings to see how the instrument responds. If the instrument opens up and is louder then the tension was probably too high and a switch to lower tension strings could help. Seems like that is something you could easily try out before spending 200 bucks on a new set of strings.
    On the other hand, if your bass is overbuilt then higher tension, heavy steel strings might be necessary to actually get the most volume out of it.
    And besides that, maybe the soundpost isn't set properly and doesn't transfer the vibrations between the top and back as efficiently as it could.
    Those are the first few things that come to mind and at least loosening the G string to see how it responds is quick and free.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020
  13. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Analyzing the sound wave would be a cool experiment, but if you're just interested in more volume, skip that step and buy new strings. The thing about volume and bass (particularly carved bass that resonate well on the fundamental) is that the instrument receiving the sound wave (the human ear) barely perceives any volume from the fundamental frequency being played. Its really those upper mid frequencies in the overtones that where we perceive the volume. All this to say, a slightly brighter string will be perceived as much louder.

    I played Spiros and tuned-down solo strings in orchestra, because I wanted to be loud. That might not be the tone you want or what the section needs, but it might be worth experimenting with other strings and setups.
  14. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    That's interesting, I hadn't heard that, but tuned down solo string always sounded loudest on my g,d, and a.
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