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Electric Bass rigs for Bluegrass Players???

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DanCash, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. DanCash


    Jan 17, 2013
    Hello all,

    Firstly apologies if I've posted in the wrong part of the forum. I expect a mod will move this if it is.

    Anywho I was curious if anyone here had experience playing electric bass for Bluegrass and specifically what equipment set ups they use.

    I have no history of playing music and only recently started to learn the bass as my room mate, a Bluegrass musician, has encouraged me to do so.

    We have a pretty large and talented BG community here but very few of the bassists play electric. Obviously the double/upright bass is the traditional instrument of choice. Unfortunately, they're painfully expensive.

    Several of the bass players recommended it'd be better for me to learn on an electric with frets as I'm starting from scratch with no concept of music theory and such.

    A few weeks into learning I can definitely see their point and I'm glad I picked it up.

    Right now I'm playing on a used P-bass I found on the ol' c-list running through a used Peavey Max126. A local bassist recommended placing rubber deadening in the bridge. I do have to admit it does give it a more upright tone, for sure.

    I'd be very curious to hear about equipment set ups talented guys use for bluegrass or even folk style music.

    Once again sorry if this is in the wrong forum!

    Thanks guys!
  2. I love folk, roots, and bluegrass! I don't gig but jam whenever I can. Since I don't have a upright I use a mustang bass with flats and my Fender Bassman 20. It is a low wattage tube amp. But I am really looking into getting a Kala Ubass. Upright tone! Small package! Fits the acoustic look! Still would use my Bassman with it.
  3. Well, a P-Bass is a great place to start for any style of music. Take a look at tapewound strings- they'll get you close to an upright bass sound. Really low-tension, easy to play, smooth, etc. They're fantastic!


    The owner of Bass Strings Online is a TalkBass member (SLaPiNFuNK). Really helpful guy, great prices and awesome service.
  4. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings
    I think the best-sounding bass guitar for Bluegrass is the Mustang, that short scale gets a tubbier sound that works well. They sound good for old-school country, too. Nick Forster played a short scale bass with Hot Rize, he has the quintessential Bluegrass bass guitar tone, to me. A deadened P-Bass will work too, or course. Use what you've got, when you're ready to move on, get an acoustic bass. If you're jamming where there is no place to plug an amp in, you're out of luck with a bass guitar.
  5. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Captain Chaos likes this.
  6. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    I like a more "acoustic" tone for Bluegrass and folk, and find it easier to get with a relatively flat-response system. Powered PA speaker, Bose L1, AudioKinesis Thunderchild cab, that sort of thing.

    Thomastik Jazz flats are nice. A couple of the strings in my current set have a little internal buzz in them, that sounds like the mwah from a fretless. Helps to create the impression of an upright.

    As you've already discovered, a foam met helps, too, although I prefer to use hand muting. That way, I can "turn it off" at will, when I want a longer, sustaining note...
  7. Staredge


    Aug 7, 2010
    Germantown, MD
    A Hofner violin bass might be something to consider. I've heard that with the right strings they give a fairly good impersonation of upright tone. Maybe an ABG? I love bluegrass.....wouldn't mind playing it myself, but can't see myself learning/owning a doghouse.
  8. Yeah that's the ubass. Sound great in the mix!
  9. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    It really does. Personally, I don't think anything sounds like an upright other than an upright. The ubass is just super deep and thumpy. It's has it's own sound and it seems to work great with bluegrass.
  10. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003

    Fretless P-Bass / TIJF344 flats.

    Plenty of thump, to grow any grass. :D
  11. Kala Ubass, Thundergut strings, Korg Pandora PX5D >> Roland Micro Cube RX. Höfner is also a good suggestion.

    Be aware @ some venues no electric instruments are allowed although this seems to be less of an issue than a decade ago.
  12. Is that you in the video?
  13. edwinhurwitz

    edwinhurwitz Supporting Member

    May 13, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    Endorsing Artist: DR Strings, SMS, D-TAR
    My '67 Guild Starfire with Thomastik flats works pretty well. I would recommend a small but hifi rig, so maybe one of the micro heads with a fEARful 12/6 cabinet.
  14. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Noo. I have an extraordinarily boring job and watch a whole lot of YouTube.
  15. Lol
  16. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Just buy one already fuzzy beard. You've been roaming TB gathering ubass info and asking opinions. Yours is the only one that matters. Worst case scenario you can always return it.
  17. for a lot of electrified folk work including bluegrass I use a fretless P with flats going into an EVM-15B loaded cab and either a GK400RB or a blackface Fender Showman amp.

    What you have will do just fine, I agree with the suggestions for trying tapewounds and using a piece of foam under the strings by the bridge.

    Keep in mind in the BritFolk world from the 60s and 70s their electric bass guitarists favored a more mid/treble sound and used picks (eg Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Fotheringay, etc).

    Really, any amp will do, thankfully you don't need a lot of power. Not sure about that model of Peavey but if you're on a budget I definitely like their combo amps like the TNT130s and such. Heavy, but you'll get the right tone for BG and folk out of it.
  18. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    It depends on how much you want to try and make the electric less 'electric-like' in that setting. John Cowan (of Newgrass Revival fame) famously played a Fender Jazz Bass through pretty much a regular rig for many years... I think he may have used flats as well, but not all the time. The biggest thing is to not let it be too 'twangy'. Bright electric bass in bluegrass is definitely a no-no.

    I play in a 'bluegrass fusion' or 'newgrass' band here in Western NC and typically use the same setup I use on any other gig - Lakland 44-01 or 44-02 with nickel rounds into my Eden/SWR rig (no tweeters allowed!). This is mainly because we play a LOT of other styles intertwined with bluegrass and it made sense to go with electric so I can change tones as needed. I occasionally play my 5-string fretless as well... whatever the setlist demands or how I'm feeling. I don't see fretless being absolutely necessary though.

    Also, technique matters. I like to palm-mute a lot for the straighter bluegrass numbers, and then I can open it up more for other tunes. You may also like to play a little closer to the neck to get a warmer sound.

    Personally, my favorite sound for electric bass in bluegrass/Americana is a punchy split-coil humbucker with flatwounds. It's thick but dark and gives the music an extra presence and punch.

    Trust me, being in North Carolina, there are plenty of folks who would turn their nose and their neighbor's nose up at you for showing up to play 'bluegrass' with an electric, or even associating anything remotely 'bluegrass' with an electric bass, but thankfully our fanbase and the music community has been very accepting and are receptive to what we do. It helps that there are a number of other electric bassists doing the bluegrass or bluegrass-tinged thing around here as well.
  19. kellyrojo


    Feb 16, 2011
    South Carolina
    Great advice here. You can use that pbass forever for bluegrass in lieu of an upright. The ubass Is a great alternative but you're a new player so turn the tone down on that p and rok it
  20. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    My late departed luthier (and great friend) Gary Emmons used to swear by a Guild Asbory that he played with Bluegrass oldtimers. They would scowl, he said, but he'd tell them "stop listening with your eyes" and of course it emulated a Kay upright pretty well!