dynamic control on multistring basses

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Stewmc5222, Oct 14, 2001.

  1. as someone about to pick up the 8-string super-contrabass (or is that sub-contrabass?), I was wondering a few things. I've heard that it takes a bit of practice getting used to the highest strings, both in terms of reproducing them with the same authority as the regular strings and simply hearing them as bass. I was wondering how much time it took some of you to make those adjustments. also, and this is mostly why I'm posting, how far down can you slap and still get clarity or definition in the notes?
  2. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago

    You going F# to F? Or B to Bb? Who's makin' it?

    IME (on a mere 7 tuned BEADGCF), the higher strings simply do not "thump" like the low ones. I think of my basses as almost two separate instruments -- a low groover connected to a tenor-range soloist. A single-necked doubleneck, if you will. The simple fact is that I can't get *BASS* out of the high strings, so I don't bother to try. Face it -- I don't care if you're playing cello, string bass, or sousaphone -- you can PRODUCE notes in and above the middle C range, but they are simply NOT functioning as bass. If you really want/need to, you could try plucking up by the fingerboard for a rounder tone. (Someone will doubtless correct me, but I have not heard of flatwound high C and F strings.) In fact, this is one reason Jeff Berlin gives for sticking to 4 -- "Those skinny little strings just don't sound like BASS." So to answer your question, it's not a technique issue, really -- I just don't think it's EVER gonna happen. You want real bass, you move down.

    On a related topic: To get those high notes to be heard without using a compressor ( :mad: :eek: ), I recommend adjusing the pickup height screws so the high end of the pickup is closer to the strings. I was amazed at how well this simple trick worked (and disgusted with myself for not having thought of it some years earlier :rolleyes: ).
  3. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    BTW -- fretted or fretless? You'll get an even thinner sound on frets up there.
  4. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    When you play fretless in the upper registers of a 7 string tuned BEADGCF it still sounds like a bass - a fretless piccolo bass - quite a unique sound really, but something that cannot be mistaken for anything else. I agree though when you play with frets up there it sounds more like a guitar.
  5. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Well said. I played melody on a tune on fretless at a recent gig, and several people in the audience asked just what instrument that WAS that played that tune.

    In any event, I stand by my previous statement that in this register, I certainly wasn't functioning as the root or foundation of the chord. When you're up there dancing with the violas and English horns, you are not playing "bass" (function) even though you are playing "a bass" (instrument).
  6. the new bass is a Conklin custom shop Sidewinder tuned in 4ths from a low F# to a high F natural. it's a fretted instrument with a 25 fret neck, so that the highest non-harmonic note is also an F#.

    actually I wasn't trying to find out how to get the high notes to sound like bass, but to see how much work it took you to get the same or similar presence out of those notes as on the rest of your instrument, so that it doesn't sound like a guitarist just walked in to jam.

    also, my intention when I ordered the bass to begin with was really only to use the higher register for chordal work and in orchestrating new material. okay, and to occasionally aggravate guitarists. but I wanted to have the diversity and timbral options.

    I hope that clarified things some....
  7. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Regarding volume balance, do the pickup-tilting trick or compress.

    Regarding tone, on a fretted instrument played with a pick, the higher notes simply DO approach a guitar-like tone. The best way to keep them distinguished is roll off the treble considerably and play fingerstyle. Maybe switch to the neck pickup if you're going to spend considerable time up there. Boost mids, then, to keep the ultra-low stuff out of the real mud zone.

    I think perhaps the real point we've been missing here is that the objective is to make MUSIC, and if you have something interesting to say, methinks the timbre of the device is of secondary importance. You can find plenty here who'll say this lovely instrument you're playing isn't really a bass anyway. (I put up with similar $#!+ in my band.) My advice, then, is: just PLAY -- and don't worry about allegiances to one instrument or another. :cool:
  8. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, for me, i went from 4 to 7, and it took me about ~1 year to completely adjust, but i also didn't go back to 4 - i stayed on 7 exclusively.

    i find that the adjustment period is shortest when one just dives in, not trying to split time between 4 and 7 or 8, but just play the extended range instrument all the time. after all, there isn't anything that can be done on a 4 that can't be done on a 7 or 8, ime.

    as for the dynamic of the higher strings, i mostly take their tonality due to their smaller size into account when composing a part - many of my parts i play pretty much the same way as i would on a 4 string, since i want to maintain the tonal characteristics of the higher notes by playing up the neck, as opposed to on the thinner strings. on the other hand, the higher strings work really well when comping out chords, since their thinner tone and character helps them to not be overpowering.

    so, i use the tonal differences of the strings to help me explore different tonalities that would be unavailable on a jr.-sized electric bass ;) .

    as for slapping, i slap on all the strings, including the low F#. whatever works, just experiment.
  9. thanks and thanks again, guys! for the record, I'm a six-stringer at present (have been for about 14 years now) and I couldn't play with a pick to save my life. well, maybe ifI HAD to save my life...

    seriously, though, I appreciate the sage advice. I look forward to what else may come this way.

    take care and stay well,

  10. Aren't all basses multistring? - just kiddin'

    All have made good points.
    I thought I would throw a couple in for consideration.

    1) Perhaps a bi-amp rig with a carefully selected crossover frequency would facilitate more control on the high strings. You could then run a compressor on just the high frequencies while not muting the attack on the low strings.

    2) Maybe a high cut filter would let you produce the fundemantals of the high strings while taming the upper harmonics that make it sound guitar-ish. An EQ may do this well enough. You would have to try it and see.

    3) A graphic or parametric EQ with a boost in the 200-300 range or so may give you a more bass-like sound on the high strings.

    BTW - what amp and speakers do you plan to run it through?
  11. actually, to prepare for the 8's arrival (and until I can aford something like BagEnd gear), I'm using a biamped rig. I want a better preamp, but I have a Peaveey Bassist linking a pair of SWR Workingman's 300 heads. the high frequencies are running through a Workingman's 2X10 and a 1X15. the lows are moving through a Big Ben 1X18. since the bass isn't in my hot little hands yet, I'm not really worrying about compression or the high cut filter. I like that EQ idea, though...
  12. You might try playing a standard 6 string (non-bass) guitar as you would a bass (fingerstyle) on the lower 4 strings or so and experiment with making that sound as bass-like as possible. It might give you some clues before the 8 string arrives.
  13. truly an unusual suggestion. I would never have thought to pick up a (shuddering) guitar. but it's an interesting proposition. if you pardon the pun, I'll keep you posted,

  14. Stew,

    I just realized you were in New Orleans. I'm a Louisanaian (is that a word) by birth. I lived in Gretna for a while.

    When I start playing bass, I had no bass and no money. I learned on my brothers 6-string. I'm not comparing what you're doing now with what I was doing then, but some interesting things may come out of it.

  15. actually Martin, I have family from TX, too, and I lived there myself for a while. I was just there on tour in August. I'm not sure how much comparison can be made without hearing both of us playing, but that is interesting. what kind of axe are you using?

  16. I'm a 4-stringer. Right now I'm playing an old Peavey T-40. I have a short-scale Fender Musicmaster that I use sometimes. I also play (but don't own) a Yamaha (don't know the model). I've got my eye on a Carvin 5-string.

    I have played bass with 5 or 6 different groups in the past. Right now I'm playing with our church orchestra and the youth praise band (although I don't qualify as a youth).
  17. I've had some great experiences with Peavey basses. the first one I played was a T-40, sometime back in the 80s. since then I've come to appreciate their solid workmanship and I dig the people in Meridian. I use one, a Milestone III, to teach my 4 string students. a while ago I was thinking about the Cirrus fretless 6, but I decided to go for the 8 instead. ironically, my first bass was a short scale Fender, a Bullet.

    does anyone have any other advice for the monster sub-contrabass?