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Doubling Keys on Corporate Gigs: To Do or Not To Do?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jfh2424, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. Hi guys, I have another corporate event coming up where the band who hired me is playing Lady Gaga and such things. Included are Funky Town, you know, things with keyboard bass. Lots of it.

    I learn these parts and usually ask the leader or the keyboard player if they want me to play these lines, emphasis some parts of them or what? To me, it usually sounds bad when the keys and I play them together, even if everything is super tight. Yet that is often what is requested. I think any doubling of low parts usually is simply not very pleasing from a listening perspective.

    So is it me or does doubling the keys usually sound bad? How do you guys deal with this? When it's particularly bad, I'll just turn down my bass and smile along...but there must be a better way.


  2. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    My situation might be a bit different than yours (big 'ol funk band, playing everything from Avg. White Band and Bill Withers to the Bar-Kays), but I double a lot of lines with my keyboard player (see "Holy Ghost" - BarKays, "Bustin' Out On Funk" - Rick James, and "Up For The Downstroke" - Parliament). If they're not doubled 'exactly', there's definitely a LOT of interplay, with the keys absolutely hitting with me on the "one". Holy Ghost, while a recognizable slappity-sounding bassline, comes across as CRAZY thin if the keyboard player doesn't hit the root with me and a phat-sounding synth patch on the 'one'.

    For Lady Gaga-type stuff, it may be worthwhile to fiddle specifically with your tone. If the keyboard player has a full-sounding synth-tone, you may find it more pleasing to roll OFF your bass, and UP your mid/treble to emphasize some of the sonic space the keyboard can't duplicate.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'd learn the keyboard parts on the bass and then be prepared to adapt on the fly if the keyboard player plays them. Most keyboard players don't, though...otherwise why would they hire you? ;)
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Actually, come to think of it, what would be so bad about doubling it? If you're both tight I don't see a problem. Most keyboard bass parts aren't brain surgery.
  5. Yep, that's what I do as I stated above. I learn them and see what is required on the gig. The keys that play in these bands usually learn the parts because they are played on keys and if they don't, they won't get hired again.

    I (and people like me) generally get hired on these gigs because there will be a lot of songs where there is no keyboard bass but rather, bass guitar. So they need people like me.

    Well, as I stated in the thread opening, I find it simply doesn't sound good to double these lines 100% because, well, there is no bass guitar on the original and it sounds weird (to my ears) when I am asked to play them. In Gaga stuff, for instance, the main groove is often the keyboard bass stuff, but it sure sounds to me like it is playing by itself. Plus, to me, keyboard bass and bass guitar have really different sounds. Mix them and you have something new. Plus, because our instrument is stringed and the keys are not, it brings a different texture in the line to my ears.

    Yep, we are usually tight and no, it isn't brain surgery, I agree. It is some of the easiest stuff to do. It's really a question of sound. I was wondering how other bassists deal with this. I suspect that people just double it and away they go. I've certainly done that. No one complains but still, it's not ideal in my view. You can double a guitar but bass? It just sounds funny to me.

    That's interesting, I hadn't thought of lowering the bass and really highlighting with the mids and treble. At least we would not both be dead on the same tone. Common sense stuff, I just haven't tried it but I will on the next gig.

    By the way, Sleeplessknight, did you use to own a blueburst L2000 fretless? I seem to remember this from a previous board.

    Thanks to both of you, I appreciate input. Anyone else have any thoughts?

  6. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I just learn the part. If the keys plays it, too, and it doesn't sound good, it ain't my fault. Actually, I tell them keys guys that anything below middle C is mine (someone on here said that awhile back).
  7. Talk it out with the Band Leader and the keyboardist. Also, it might be good for you to check out how these groups perform their hits live. Often things are quite different than studio versions Eg. Lady Gaga often performs her hits with just acoustic piano and voice. Other times, she has a "rock band " sound. Based on the questions you're asking, you'll probably do just fine.
  8. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I think it can sound great if it's done well. I love the sound of doubling up bass with keys, or with bass trombone, or baritone sax. I use doubled up bass lines in my arrangements fairly often. What's so bad about really fattening up the low end?

  9. cycler


    Oct 6, 2010
    I have the same arrangement 3 times a month and maybe double with the keyboard player on a dozen songs- most of which are actually a midi track, some of them were recorded this way, other times I wish he wouldn't but it's his band. It rarely sounds good.
  10. Yup. I have had the same experience. Just rarely sounds good. To my ears, at least.

    I did the gig last night. Lo and behold, spoke to the keyboard player and he said for me to do the keyboard bass parts alone, so that's what went down. Sounded good to me. No complaints, so I guess everyone was happy. Personally, I like playing those parts, contrary to other people. It is a different kind of groove. That big pulsating bass...pretty cool. Fortunately, I am very comfortable with my tone, because you could sure hear the bass.

    I'll have to wait for the next band to see about doubling the keys but with a different eq, as someone suggested. That is a very good idea. I'll use that next time I'm told to double.

    I also like the idea of checking out what these bands have done live. I am not a dance music fan, what little I have seen of these kind of guys live uses a lot of sequences, even big names like Madonna or whatever. That turns me off. But if some of them do a more "rock" or "instrument oriented" shows, it would be cool to see. Thanks for the heads up.

    I also liked the idea of saying everything below middle C belongs to me. That's kind of how my live standard jazz playing goes: pianists and keys generally stay out of the bass end and respect the bassist, in my experience. But this dance stuff is another kind of thing all together.

    I guess, as most of you are suggesting, the idea is to communicate, work it out and adapt. As always, the person paying has the last word so...we'll see.

    If anyone else has any experiences or comments, don't hesitate. Thanks!

  11. Had another gig like this with another band. Two keyboards this time. Interestingly, neither one wanted to do the keyboard bass parts, so I did them.

    I've kinda adopted a different attitude. I brought my MXR Octaver and MXR Enveloppe filter and did the bass part with some wicked effects. I did't try to sonically reproduce what the keyboard bass did on record, but my bass part certainly isn't as dry as it once was.

    It sounded pretty good if I say so myself. I think the secret is to not do this too often because, man, it is attention grabbing. I imagine it can get annoying.

    Take care!

  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Play whatever the leader asks you to.

    I agree doubling with the keys is usually awful, it only works if the two players are real tight, seldom the case in a pickup situation, eh?
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Analog octaver = instant faux synth. Add a little envelope and/or overdrive to it and it can sound super synthy.
  14. Tight isn't really an issue. This is about the easiest thing I do. Probably the same thing with the keyboard player, too. It is really, really simple. It's more that sonically, doubling a percussive instrument (keys) with a string instrument (bass) doesn't sound good to me.

    I haven't tried it with overdrive yet. But octaver with filter is really cool. It's really a whole other role for me.

  15. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    If you are a hired hand for a pick up gig, you just gotta go with it. Your own suggestion of turning down a bit and playing along is probably the best. For some reason, a lot of keys players just love to throw down on some bass. And when you ask them not to play some lines they get offended. If that's what you're dealing with, be the pro that it sounds like you are and deal with it. If the guy is laid back, then try to work out some lines that he lays back on the bass, but give him a couple to rattle the windows with too. In a pick up situation, you are just trying to fit in where you can and do a job. But you already know that.

    The short version is if the guy is not a jerk, work something out. If he is, then fit in where you can and go home with a check.
  16. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Sometimes I use palm muting and plucking with my thumb and index finger on a 5 or 6 string to emulate the "ultra low" synth sound and double the keys. It works for the most part.
  17. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not tried it but I could see that working and you wouldn't even have to plug in a box ;)
  18. topo morto

    topo morto

    Mar 22, 2010
    Two basses playing the same line doesn't always sound fatter - if the waveforms are out of phase, they can cancel each other out. Better if you can play a different 'part' of the sound - E.g. the keys do the real sub bass, and the guitar bass does a more slappy/poppy line an octave up (just one example)...

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