electric bass for big-band jazz?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by darwin-bass, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    What do you big band jazz players recommend. No, I'm not going to play an upright or and EUB.

    Fretless Jazz bass?
    Fretted P-bass with flatwounds?
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Unless you're good with a fretless I'd definitely steer clear of one. Honestly, any kind of electric bass can work in a big band setting. It just depends on what's comfortable and most adaptable to your playing style and that of the band's.
  3. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Your playing style will do more for fitting an electric bass into the song than
    the type of neck (fretted or fretless).

    When I don't have my upright out, and I am trying to work out a song, I use
    my jazz bass and kill the sustain by damping the notes as I play them. You could
    also use foam damping. For example, I can get a better sound for bluegrass on a
    J bass than some actual upright basses I have heard. Way too much sustain.
  4. nostatic


    Jun 18, 2004
    Lompoc, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Depending on the arrangements, the bass doesn't matter. It is your approach that counts. Anything you can play in tune and in time will work. I did big band gigs with a fretted jazz bass, a defretted Ibanez, and an EB Sterling.
  5. pbass888

    pbass888 Up the Irons! Westham United FC

    Jul 8, 2009
    I've done big bands.. It is the approach for sure. Dizzy had a nice electric bassist in the United Nations orchestra and its on you tube. Also check out some buddy rich big band with an electric bassist also on the tube.
  6. pbass888

    pbass888 Up the Irons! Westham United FC

    Jul 8, 2009
    I use my jazz bass in big bands and here in nyc I've seen Tom Kennedy kill it with the birdland big band and his fodera.
  7. I prefer the doghouse in a big band setting, but when i use electric i try to emulate the upright, in that i stuff foam under the strings near the bridge and roll the tone fully off to get that 'thud' attack on each note. I do this with fretted or fretless. You'll notice on all the old recordings of Glen Miller or Duke Ellington, most of the bass has no sustain, just a solid time keeping bump on each beat.
  8. Jazz bass sounds pretty good here
  9. T-34

    T-34 Wanna go headless? Supporting Member

    The bass I liked the most in big band setting was a Fender Precision with very well worn strings.
    Fretless can be nice too, but playing in tune while reading is exhausting. I find reading and playing an upright much more easy than reading and playing fretless electric, go figure...
  10. bh2


    Jun 16, 2008
    Oxford, UK
    Never played in a big band setting but used to play with jazz trios, quartets, duos... used an Aria SB1000 fretless which was super.

    Played with a stage orchestra (musicals) and used a fretted jazz bass.

    If you can try out in your setting I'd recommend both, of course you can't play both at the same time, that would be silly.

    A fretted P or J should just about get any job, bit you may find you like the freedom. especially in a jazz setting, that the fretless gives you.
  11. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    Lots of great advice here. Thanks TB.

    My summary is pretty simple.

    1. Kill the sustain
    2. Kill the treble
    3. Play the right notes at the right time.
    4. Fretless is nice to have if you can play it in tune while reading (I cannot).

    With that approach, P or J or any other bass will work.

    Interesting side-note. One of the band's current bassist is a music teacher / sax player / guitar player. He reads well but plays a borrowed Dean fretless and is often not in tune. He plays bass only when they don't have anyone else.
  12. T-34

    T-34 Wanna go headless? Supporting Member

    I don't know what makes upright+reading easier to me than fretless+reading, probably vertical position of the neck? Or maybe the bigger scale too makes the position errors more forgiving and easier to control... dunno...
  13. inthebassclef

    inthebassclef Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2012
    P or J bass will work. I used to play in a big band and when I was not playing upright which was often because I was just learning at that point, I played a squier affinity p bass. It was cheap but got the job done. The big thing is not so much the bass you use but as everyone else has stated your approach to it. And if you use a passive bass just roll down the tone.
  14. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Go with a fretted P-bass with flatwounds...............and don't forget to mute the strings with some kind of foam stuffed in between the strings and the body down by the bridge saddles.

    It'll work great in a big band jazz band.
  15. Wallace320

    Wallace320 Commercial User

    Mar 19, 2012
    Milan, Italy
    The only version available is the 34" 3TS basswood body with maple fingerboard and a lone Fender "widerange" neck humbucker.

    It's a bit on the heavy side, even if basswood, but its neck humbucker with tone rolled off, roars like nothing else in its price range and its Vintage stringthru bridge can accomodate foam muters and work fine with flatwounds

  16. Fretted P Bass with nickel rounds or flats I think would fit well. I played in the Jazz Ensemble in College (Marshall University) with an Alembic with steel rounds. I mean you could use anything.

    BUT I wouldn't use the fretless personally. It of course depends on the stuff your playing. I think you could get away with more of a gnarly tone on Stan Kenton stuff as opposed to stuff from 10 to 20 years earlier. Just roll the treble off on whatever you use.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I agree. It doesn't really matter that much. Obviously its better not to show up with a BC Rich Warlock ;) I would probably lean towards an Active Jazz. Fretless or Fretted is up to you and your ability to play in tune. If you get a chance listen to the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Stars to hear a really terrific electric player(John Lee) playing in more of a big band style.
  18. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    I'd vote fretted P-bass w. flatwounds. I actually think electric bass sounds great in a big band setting - despite the fact that I myself am primarily an upright player, I think people get too hung up on the upright, and that it probably has more to do with looks and tradition than sound. In a big band setting, you're going to be mixed in with lots of other instruments, and a nice fretted instrument sure is easier to mix in and keep in tune with everyone else.

    Have fun!
    Tim the pocket likes this.
  19. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Amen a hundred times over. I've played in big bands for 40 years, all on electric. These days I'm all fretless, but fretted works great. If you can't swing, it doesn't matter what instrument you have.

    And (IMHO) killing the sustain or treble is not really necessary... assuming your normal electric bass tone is not like Chris Squire. Full sounding, clear, in tune.. that gets the job done. It's amazing to me how many big band arrangers don't voice the root of the chord clearly in the wind instruments. And you can forget hearing root position chords from the keyboard or guitar. Having the bass nail down the progression is a wonderful addition to many standard arrangements.

    The only real 'electric bass' mistake to make is playing too loud. Balance with the rhythm section, very important.
  20. T-34

    T-34 Wanna go headless? Supporting Member

    I agree, it allows to focus on more important stuff: music. And not spend too much effort on technique.

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